Thursday, May 8, 2008

Another Leadership Post: Player Relations


It's the night before I head down to Toronto for my first tournament of the summer. Injury to my non throwing hand aside (I hope it's just a bad sprain), It should be a great weekend getting to know new teammates and seeing old friends who are now 'enemies'.

A lot of teams have new players. One of the things I learned through my masters (school, not the division) and through life experience is that handling the relationship between yourself and those you lead on the field is a delicate process.

Why is it delicate? Simply because:

  • You're going to want to fix everything now.
  • You're going to have to figure each teammate out. Skills and mind.
  • Setting a good precedent early in the season paves the way for a great season, a mediocre season, or a terrible "Let's burn the jerseys cause we suck and I hate you guys" season
  • You're going to see your teammates a lot in the season. You have to maintain your credibility and build trust that you're competent and looking out for the team. You have to ensure buy in and accountability. It isn't easy.
  • You're leading a bunch of volunteers. You're getting them to eat dirt, sweat, and dedicate their summer for free. In fact, you're making them pay for the privilege.
  • Any leader has a shelf life. Players can only listen and understand so much at once, and they only listen to one voice for so long.
Okay, the task is daunting. How do you make these players better and come back next year?

  • Properly assess your team now and have the right goals and plans for the summer. Stick to the goals and plans, changing only if your estimates are way off. Don't let early season success fool you and lead you to false hope and disappointments.
  • If you're a leader, act like it. Be credible, communicate well and often, have vision, use your charisma if you got it, and be damn passionate/good at what you do.
  • Realize that there is a difference between constructive criticism and contempt comments. "What the F^ck was that?" doesn't tell someone what they need to do. Get away from telling people what they are doing wrong, and focus of what they need to do. If you tell people what they are not supposed to do.. that's what they are thinking when they go back out there.
  • Conversely, don't be overly positive. You're maybe winning a few short term brownie points, but you're making it known that you lie. Serious athletes don't need/want that.
  • DO NOT PICK ON THE WEAKER PLAYERS AND CATER TO THE BETTER ONES. I see this way too much. I see this a lot, and it's such a poor sign about someone's character.
That's the end of my rant. Personally, I'm loving my season thus far, and have a lot of good leaders to work with/for. However, I know there are new leaders out there that need advice, and I hope they read this.


n said...

"Players can only listen and understand so much at once, and they only listen to one voice for so long."
That reminds me of a moment at '06 Nationals for GT. We were down by 2 or so late in the game to Firebird. Andrew Smolak calls timeout. We're expecting the full rant. Instead, we get "Captains only prepare so many speeches for a tournament. I cannot f***ing believe that I have to use one for the first game..." That was it - we cracked up, tension eased, we won.

Sport Management Steven said...

Awesome post.

Sometimes the less said, the better.