Into Battle…Great Coaching Leadership

by Michael Riggs, M.Ed.

Some come in bright red packages with flamboyant bows. Others are very low key, almost blending in to the background. At times they are solid as a marble block while other times require they morph into a soft shoulder. Many have big ears and some have strong hands, and quite a few have big mouths. Most are readily visible, yet others prefer to avoid the limelight. But, all share two things in common – they have devoted followers and they know how to execute. Who are they? Great coaching leaders.

Great coaches are, first and foremost, great leaders. Whether they lead their team into battle on the court, field, pool, or mat, great coaches have the ability to lead.

But, what is great coaching leadership?

The first criterion is that a leader must have followers. Many coaches believe that they can force their players, and staff, to listen up and do what they are told. While this may produce results, those results are usually short-lived. The coach that desires to stand the test of time and produce winning teams over the long haul realizes that coercion is no match for cohesion. Great coaches are able to form a group that wants to follow, not one that has to follow.

The second criterion is that a great coach must have a solid coaching philosophy founded on dignity, ethics, and fairness. Core values are often lost in our “win now or hit he road” culture. These principles are the foundation of a house that will withstand storm and tumult. Moreover, these values will be a magnet for players and staff that are committed to doing things the right way. The right way stands a much better chance of weathering the inevitable ups and downs of the coach’s life.

The third criterion is knowledge and authenticity. Quite simply, a great coach must know what he is talking about and be “real” in all that he is and does. Players and staff, alike, can sift through fluff and bravado quickly. It is difficult to get them to follow a phony into a battle. It isn’t hard to imagine a coach, atop his horse with sword in hand, charging at the enemy, only to look over his shoulder to find… no one following.

The last, and certainly not least, criterion is a passionate desire to win. Excluding coaching young athletes, the desire to prepare and battle to win is paramount. A great coaching leader oozes desire to end the contest with more points than his opponent. Winning makes all of the sacrifice and hard work worth it. Winning is fundamental to human nature. Winning is fun!

Great coaching leaders aren’t necessarily geniuses. However, they are smart enough to know that finding the team’s potential is the product of forethought, planning, and executing a system. And that doesn’t happen on its own… it requires a great leader.

S² Tip

If you want your players and staff to follow you into battle, develop yourself into a credible leader worth following.

In Another’s Words…

Leadership is getting players to believe in you. Players will see right through a phony.”
— Larry Bird

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