Lead, Serve, Succeed


By Shaleek Blackburn

When you strip away the points on the scoreboard and get beyond the touchdowns, layups or goals, coaching and athletic leadership is all about serving others through positive and life- transforming experiences. “The best leaders consider one of their primary roles to be the development and success of others,” says Tom White, founder and director of the Master of Arts in Coaching and Athletic Administration program at Concordia University Irvine.

The measure of a true athletic leader is longevity that serves people in a variety of ways, particularly in interscholastic sports.

“If we’re teaching and leading educational athletics in the right way, it affects all aspects of life, as well as individual and team development,” White says. Coming in at a close second, says Dave Cowen, resident faculty and instructor of the MCAA program, are three basic tenets every athletic leader should possess: knowledge, motivation and empathy. With these characteristics in their everyday playbook, Cowen notes, coaches and athletic directors can develop an optimal environment where everyone learns, wins and grows.

“As a leader, you need to provide direction, you need to set goals by having a clear vision about what it is you want to accomplish in the future,” Cowen says. “Coaches need to create a psychological and social environment that’s conducive to success and achieving the team goals you’ve put together as a group.” Finally, the most important aspect in serving as leaders, asserts Cowen, is to motivate your players. “You have to inspire people to be more than the sum of their parts as individuals.” It goes back to the old saying, ‘One plus one equals three,’ he says. “The best way leaders can serve their players, their sports clubs and their communities, is to challenge people to serve a higher purpose, to be something beyond what they’re capable of being.” Finally, athletic leaders and coaches should be willing to give their time and talent not only to impact the team, but the larger community, says Cowen.

3 Tips For Serving In Leadership

Serve the Team

Offer a good example, take players under your wing, show them the ropes and don’t play favorites.

Serve the Community

Take a page out of the book “Uncommon” by Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy, suggests Cowen. Your reputation is the public perception of your integrity. Be genuine with everyone.

Don’t Be Self-Serving

Good leaders instill values by sharing their experience and philosophy on life, benefiting everyone.

Tags: coaching, leadership

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