I’ve written on the value of athletics on this blog before. As a coach, you certainly have an understanding of why athletics is important in the life of a young person. I’ve been a college , high school and even a elementary coach. Today, however, I am undertaking a whole new reality. I have volunteered to start a PeeWee (5-7 year old) wrestling program for our team. It’s got me thinking deeper about coaching than I have for years. Mostly about how I can communicate a dynamic sport like wrestling to such young children. But also about the fact that we talk about the lessons that we have learned through athletics but so often we fail to really uncover the reality behind this cliche in our daily interaction with student-athletes- whether they are youth, high school or even professional athletes. We assume that they just “get it”. We assume that they understand the life lessons that they are learning. Maybe they do. Or maybe they eventually will. But it is likely that they don’t understand these lessons today. If they did, you would begin to shape their lives in the present in a profound way.
Here are three ways for you to consciously teach life lessons through sport on a regular basis with your team.
- Anecdotes- Olympic Gold Medalist Kendall Cross recommended a book to me called “Application: If your athletes fail or even get embarrassed, how can you teach your athletes that failure is part of success? You can talk about Michael Jordan being cut from his high school basketball team or about how Sylvester Stallone failed spectacularly over and over and over before finally getting his foot in the door as an actor. Failure is a part of success. Make sure that your athletes understand this.
- Modeling- Demonstrate to your athletes the life lessons that you have learned through sport. It may have taken years for them to set-in but they are there. They may feel like they’ve’ always been there, but they’ve not. You worked for them. You earned them. Show your athletes how these lessons look in real life.
- Application: It has been said that the best form of leadership is to serve. Take on one of the lowly jobs that is relegated to the freshman as your own periodically. Mop the mats, carry the ball bag, clean up the water cups. And talk to your athletes about the value of serving each other.
- Application: You want your athletes to be respectful… respectful to teammates, opponents and their parents. Require that they volunteer to do one chore this evening after practice when they get home. How will the parents of your athletes feel about you when their son or daughter comes home and says “Coach said I have to help help you tonight. Can I take out the trash, mom?”
Want to learn a proven framework for developing your team leaders? Join me as I host a webinar with one of the world’s leading experts on sports leadership. Register now.