Monday, March 14, 2011
Occasionally I am asked questions about the club environment. Most of those questions are about problems such as dealing with belligerent coaches or the blind eye that club administrators turn when a team is winning but deeper life lessons are not being taught.
Sometimes though, the question is about how can our club improve what we are doing? Here's one such question that came across my desk.
How would you help build and create a culture of excellence? E.g. training, uniforms, standards, expectations?
I think the culture begins with the leaders in the club. That will be the top administrators and coaches, and certainly having the full board of directors on board is a major plus; they must walk the talk, so to speak, when it comes to the club's mission statement and philosophy. The next most important group to get on track to create a culture of excellence is the parents. There is no doubt this is challenging and a never-ending aspect of the culture, but in the end it is the most important. The parents influence all others in the club; players, coaches and administrators – in that order.
Working with the parents regarding the sporting experience of children though is an area still largely ignored by clubs. Most still believe the priority for their efforts is player development. That once was the case, but not today. The reality is that the number one priority is education of the soccer parent. That education is not necessarily about the tactics of the game or the rules for the age group. It certainly isn't about how to raise children. No, it's about the environment at matches, the either positive or infamous ride home, the understanding of the long term goals of youth soccer participation and it's about the management of adult expectations of the return on investment. It is about being a supportive group for the youth soccer experience. Clearly the majority of parents fall into exactly that category as evidenced by the large numbers of young people playing the game all across our nation. The Parents section of the US Youth Soccer website has quality resources for clubs and parents: /parents/
. I encourage you to take advantage of the free materials and guidance there.
For a culture of excellence then to be understood and embraced by the club members the leaders must LEAD. Begin that endeavor by following these objectives of leadership. An interesting way to think about leadership in a succinct manner:
- Take accountability for results
- Create direction and focus
- Set the bar high
- High energy level
- Always willing to try new things
- Unleash energy and talent in operations
- Prioritize speed
Some of these elements become challenging when they are out of our direct control. For those that are in our control, we can embrace them as they help us make forward strides and have significant impacts.
I'll close with one of my favorite passages from a quality sports leader which is taught in the National Youth License coaching course.
"There are many people, particularly in sports who think that success and excellence are the same thing and they are not the same thing. Excellence is something that is lasting and dependable and largely within a person's control. In contrast, success is perishable and is often outside our control… If you strive for excellence, you will probably be successful eventually… People who put excellence in first place have the patience to end up with success… An additional burden for the victim of the success mentality is that he/she is threatened by success of others and resents real excellence. In contrast, the person fascinated by quality is excited when he/she sees it in others."
Joe Paterno – Penn State football coach – 1990