To say that my son is NOT a morning person is an understatement. He is every bit a snarky and surly teenager. Catch him after an exhilarating soccer match, and that’s a different story. He’s played soccer in every group setting from Hot Shots in preschool to Junior Varsity now as an 8th grade student. The bulk of his travel is now over, while the next two weeks are comprised of mostly home games. While clocking hundreds of miles over a two month time frame is something that most parents willingly relinquish at the end of the season, I must admit that I am feeling rather sad to see this time end. Discourse between parent and child during the teen years is precious. Our conversations typically surround evaluating the game, venue and skill level and performance of the opposing team. Discussion invariably transitions to thoughts about philosophy, books or presentations that we’ve heard. I have a captive audience and he is locked into the car with no way to escape. Our last away game conversation surrounded “The 3 R’s and Coach Davis, of whom we have great fondness, to that of a revisit to an earlier discussion about the idea of talent and outliers.
My son’s experience as a player on an “Elite” travel team during the fall of 2013 was by far the most difficult one he experienced. The dissonant leadership style of his coach fueled poor sportsmanship on the part of his teammates. This team resembled an autoimmune disorder that attacked itself during times of difficulty and stress. In earlier team situations, my son would admonish me to “hurry up!” as we raced to practice. He could never be late and always wanted to enter the pitch before the other players arrived. His anticipation for a strenuous workout transitioned to one of apathy. He was a young man who lost his best friend, “futbol!” As a mother, my heart sank. Enter Coach Davis.
Summer break is an opportunity for a player to spread his wings and to embrace new ideas and coaching practices outside of his typical routine. A new philosophy is the scaffolding which allows a player to reach greater heights, while providing me with the necessary tools to encourage their player. John Davis, of ETM Academy in Charlottesville, Virginia was the saving grace that I needed for each drive to soccer practice and each long haul to a game during this difficult season. When confronted with a difficult experience, a grueling match, referees that one would swear slept through training and dissonant leadership, I would work through a scenario involving, “What would Coach Davis say?”
The “3 R’s: Refocus, Reform and Refine” became that phrase that began and concluded many a long soccer event. (My apologies to John if I have transposed theses ideas.) The idea that a player may refocus-change the way that he views a situation and opponent or a call, to reform-try a new approach and then refine it-work it until it occurs with little or no effort is empowering! When players internalize positive self-talk it facilitates systemic change. The performance of an individual player as well as that of an entire team may be transformed.
Coach Shaka Smart’s recent visit to our Learning in Groups in Teams Class on April 14 , provides multiple layers of thinking about being a member of a team and team leadership. He referenced the writing of psychologist Carol Dweck and her work, “Mindset,” which my son and I consider often when struggling to keep up an outlook about one’s ability.
The “5 Core Values” uphold standards for participation that transcend athletic teams to be useful for teams in any setting.
1. AppreciationWhat is the relationship between appreciation and entitlement? You may win today, but you must fight for your culture everyday. If the team leader doesn’t emphasize appreciation then the team may lean toward entitlement. Quotes from coaches that Smart considers as he leads his young men:
“We’re entitled to nothing and grateful for everything.” Jack Clark, Head Rugby Coach, University of California
“We’re in a daily battle for the hearts and minds of our players.” Oliver Purnell, Hear Basketball Coach, DePaul University
Learning in Groups and Teams Take-Away- You can not be highly appreciative and down on yourself. An interesting way to consider how to work with players who are self-deprecating. If a player or member of a group focuses negative energy he is not able to consider the benefits of the opportunity.
2. EnthusiasmBeing a member of the team is something you “get” to do vs. something that you “got” to do. It’s a daily choice to be at practice/to be on the team. This fact alone should empower a player to be all that he is capable of being.
Learning in Groups and Teams Take-Away- How can good leaders encourage enthusiasm and avoid confusing the daily choice with the necessity of survival? (needing a job vs. wanting a stimulating career)
3. Competitiveness-players need to push each other to be better. Competition should not be situational, meaning just on the court. Be competitive all around. A leader should promote it among players and encourage them to be competitive in each aspect of his life.
Learning in Groups and Teams Take-Away- I was so impressed with the kind manner in which Coach Smart spoke of the academic tutor. He showed high regard for education, and a respect for each member of his coaching and learning staff.
4. Unselfishness- the needs and values of the team need to come before a member’s personal agenda. Players must commit to something greater than themselves. When students are selected to be a member of the team they must “get over” themselves.
Learning in Groups and Teams Take-Away- Find a side interest or means to take care of the need for self. In order to be successful as a unit, one must be in the team not just on the team.
5. Accountability-Team members must be taught how to be accountable, to be responsible for themselves and for the team.
Learning in Groups and Teams Take-Away-Accountability must be learned, and at times, it’s must be in context.
The ease with which Coach Smart spoke of his work, his team and his philosophy, evidences that he embodies the values that characterize his team. When faced with a potentially deprecating remark about one of his players, he exhibited diplomacy. His understanding of the social and emotional development of his players indicates that he knows his audience well. He referenced the work of Carole Dweck, Mindset, as a part of his foundation for learning. The ability to operate within the context of a “growth mindset” and not a “fixed mindset” is the medium from which one can either succeed or fail in life. This coach is well-educated, well read and engages theory with strategy to produce results. In otherwords, his “espoused theory” and theory in action mirror each other.
Learning in Groups and Teams Take-Away- I would suggest that groups begin by reading and incorporating the research presented in Carol Dweck’s “Mindset” Do you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? You might be surprised by what you discover and how it navigates your work and relationships. Try this: Test your mind
Daniel Coyle’s “The Talent Code” explores the secret to becoming good at anything. Talent isn’t born he explains, it’s grown. In an earlier post from the spring 2013, I considered the implications for his ideas.
Finally, consider Malcolm Gladstone’s “Outliers.” His writing is insightful and asks the reader to disband beliefs about intelligence and perceived intelligence. I have found that each of these books gave me ideas to consider that impact my thoughts and ideas about learning. I use the concepts explored by each writer in both my personal and professional life and most importantly, in my role as a parent.
If the author Robert Fulghum were to revise his ideas about “All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten, I would imagine that children could remember Coach Davis’ “3 R’s” Coach Smart’s 5 Core Values. When presented in the simplest of terms, children can blossom into adults who embody the skills necessary to be effective team members. Coach Shaka Smart and the core value of appreciation is now a new source of strength for me as a parent and for my son as a team player. In our discussions, we revisit these ideas and layer them with new experiences.
How do you maintain a balance in your work and personal life?