Leading vs Bullying - even toddlers know the difference!

I’ve been struggling with motivation and inspiration for this blog the last couple of weeks. As I think I’ve mentioned before, my wife and I are in the throes of parenting, and our twin 7 month olds are draining us.

However, its times like this I’m glad I keep a few articles open on my phone. And one caught my eye as a great piece on leadership with young kids.

A study from the University of Illinois finds that “21-month-old infants can distinguish between respect-based power asserted by a leader and fear-based power wielded by a bully.” Essentially, even before reaching their second birthday, this research says that humans already know they only need to follow a bully with them around, but leaders are to be obeyed even when not around.

What a powerful notion.

Many adults pride themselves on being able to assess a person’s personality, but in this instance, it appears it is an innate human characteristic to follow authentic leadership and dismiss coercive or abusive power.

What does this mean for coaches? Well it seems obvious doesn’t it, at least to me it does.

To me, a sign of a great coach is one whose team can still execute without much coming out of their mouth, and especially if the team executes when the coach misses a game for whatever reason. How would this be possible?

Well, there would be the need to develop a system appropriate for the team, craft practice sessions around development of the core components, and tweak as required. As leadership guru Jim Collins puts it, get the right people on the right seats on the bus, then figure out where to drive it. But that is the technical side of coaching. (There is more to this quote about selecting the right people first, but I am assuming this is youth sport without selection.  If you are selecting your players, then Collins states you need to get the right people on and the wrong people off the bus before deciding where to go)

Another common phrase – you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

You could be the greatest technical coach in the history of your sport, but if you do not know how to deliver your message, no one will listen.  And in this instance, if you try and bully your point across, not only will your players not listen, they outright will go against what you have said when you are not around

This is where the leadership side comes into play.  A coach needs to spend time developing personal relationships with their players. They need to make a point of developing trust, of breaking down any communication barriers between members of the team. They need to give effective personalized feedback tailored to each player to maximize growth (check out the 5 Love Languages for advice on personalizing feedback).

Most important to me when coaching youth, you must make it your absolute #1 priority to develop each child to the best of your ability – as an athlete, a player, a mover, and as a human being. If you do not know where to start in becoming an effective leader, start here. Start by caring. Start by loving. Start by viewing your players as people. Ask them about their day at school. Ask what they like to do beside the sport you are coaching. Be their friend, someone they can trust.  The rest all grows from this.

Side note - Kids love to move.

Standing watching my 5 year old daughter’s soccer session at an indoor facility, I enjoy looking around and observing

Most kids have at least one guardian stick around. Most of these adults sit down and either watch the practice, or take out their phone, laptop, or other electronic of choice and read, work, play games, etc

Some of these adults bring their other kids. Some are no more than 18 months, others must have been 9 or older. How many of them are sitting - none. They are running, playing tag, hopping, singing, or climbing on mom or dad. They are constantly moving. It’s a shame as we grow up we stop moving, and it almost becomes awkward to move while other adults sit around.

We should all strive to be more like kids.

Happy Holidays from For the Love of the Game!

I love writing. It is a great release for me. But I love my family more, meaning this will be it for blog posts for 2018. Thank you for taking the time to read and grow with us and me. We at FTLOTG and Paradigm Sports are excited as we look to 2019 and beyond, and the slow but positive changes we are seeing in the youth sports landscape.

Regardless of if you celebrate something or not over the coming weeks, I hope you can take some time out to be with family or other people you love. Slow down for a day, have a treat or two, and reflect on whatever is great in your life.

Happy Holidays, and see you in 2019!


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