My son plays on a 4th grade football team that recently played in the championship game. It was a heartbreaking loss in the final, but capped off a tremendous season.
As I reflected on this past season, I began to think of the coaches. My son had three coaches this season that poured their lives into him, not only to make him a better football player, but more importantly, to make him a better young man. As I thought about their approach, four thoughts came to mind that are great principles for leadership even in a corporate setting.
1. Push people toward greatness.
The coaches were not content to let the kids stay at the same level of play all season. Each coach, in their own way, drove each one of the boys toward being better. Too many leaders let their employees stay at the same level for many years. Great leaders are always pushing and encouraging people to be more tomorrow than they are today. Don’t be afraid of pushing someone forward, and don’t be negligent in your responsibility as a leader.
2. Teach principles.
Our coaches always were teaching the fundamentals of football. It doesn’t matter if you are a 4th grader or in the NFL, if you don’t follow the basic principles, you will not win. The same is true in life. Great leaders encourage their followers to do the basics well. Games are not won because of last minute “Hail Mary” passes. Games are won by blocking and tackling in the trenches. The same is true in great organizations.
3. Love them.
Fourth graders are fun to be around and easy to coach. But they also need to know they are loved. They need to know they are valuable and have inherent worth whether they are stars on the gridiron or have just fumbled the ball and lost the game. People need to know you care about them and love them for who they are as humans. Great leaders know the secret: If someone thinks you genuinely care about them, they will go the extra mile to make you succeed.
4. Remember, it’s just 4th grade football.
We were all disappointed when we lost the championship. But we also had to remember that in the end, it’s just 4th grade football. There will be more games to play, and life is more than athletic events. Our coaches were disappointed, but they taught the boys a valuable lesson: there are more important things in life. Great leaders keep perspective and know that the world is not about to end. They keep encouraging because there are more games to be played in life. The business deal that doesn’t go through is not the end of the world. There will be a new opportunity tomorrow.
Many lessons have come through the game of football. I am pleased that three coaches are teaching my son lessons that will last him far beyond his football career. What life lessons have you learned from coaches or from sports?