Myth #4: “Honestly, I don’t even know where to start & I am afraid I’ll do more harm than good. ”

The fear is real. You are judged and evaluated on wins and losses. Statistics matter in this profession and you are always looking for quantitative evidence that what you are doing is working, but the stat column for effective leadership development can be difficult to find.

Odds are you played the sport you are now coaching. You’ve taken courses on how to coach, you’ve read books, and you’ve studied the game for years, if not for decades. You know what you are talking about, but when it comes to leadership development you may feel out of your element. You may not be sure how to measure the effectiveness of leadership and if you can’t measure it how do you know it is working? On top of all that, you may not be sure where to start.

I’d like to suggest that you start right here. I want to give you some tangible ways to introduce leadership development into your program. While there are some programs that can afford to retain a consultant to do this full-time that isn’t the case for the majority of coaches and it certainly wasn’t the case at any of the schools where I worked. I had to find ways within a limited budget and without additional staff members to integrate leadership development into my programs.

One simple way to get started is to select a book that your team will read. Here are the steps I took with my teams:

Select a book: Over the years I used a variety of books with my players. A few examples are Tuesdays with MorrieThe Energy Bus, and The Hard Hat. My complete reading list can also be found here. I am a part of the Amazon Associates Program so you can order any of the books on my reading list directly from my website at no additional cost to you.

Assign the timeframe to read the book: Since I coached a fall sport I had my players read a book over the summer. There is no right or wrong time to do this. You know the demands of your sport and you can decide what works best for your players.

Provide a worksheet: I always gave my team a worksheet to complete with about five questions. This gave them a way to get their thoughts on paper and centered the team around some key thoughts/questions. I liked to collect their worksheets before we met as a group so I could learn about their thoughts in advance of our group discussion. I also knew those with a preference towards introversion would be less likely to speak up in the group discussion, so reading their worksheets allowed me to understand what they were thinking too. This was also a good opportunity for me to add some notes to their worksheet and even ask players to stop by the office so we could talk in more detail about their insights. When we met for our group discussion I returned their worksheets to them so they could use them during our group discussion.

Have a group discussion: The idea of reading a book is not to force our beliefs on our players but rather to create space where they can share their own insights with each other. During the group discussion, it is important to say that no one is required to share but that you invite all perspectives to the table. In a healthy group discussion, you will hear different opinions and players will be learning from each other. I usually limited the group discussion to an hour but the length of the discussion will depend on the size of your team and how much they enjoy talking.

Continue the conversation: It is important that you continue the conversation. Look for ways to bring up their insights at later times. For example, one of my teams that read The Energy Bus really latched onto the idea of Energy Vampires. After a rough loss (a game we all expected to win) we had some Energy Vampires in the locker room. Instead of talking about “bad attitudes” we came back to their insights about Energy Vampires and we were able to refocus the team by using that book as a springboard to addressing locker room issues.

There was a time in your career when the learning curve was steep but you figured it out. You can figure this out too. The key here is to get your players thinking about and talking about leadership and when that happens only good things will come from it. It’s game time, let’s go.

If you need advice on other books or if you’d like the questions I’ve used on my worksheets please reach out. I’d be glad to help you get started.