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How Leaders are Developed on a High School Track Team


Have you ever wondered what the day in a life of coach looks like? It is so much more than telling young men to run faster or jump higher. I am the Head Coach of a Boys Track team in Southern Orange County and what most people never see is how the coaching staff is striving to use our influence in a positive way so the men coming out of this program can become future influential leaders. As you can imagine there is a lot that goes into this.

Our Mission Statement Reads:

"We are creating one of the most exciting and magnetic Track and Field programs in Southern California while building character and discipline into each athlete with leaders who coach with an exceptionally researched approach to training and leadership."

Below you will find out how we see this mission statement come to fruition. It is important to note that I can only speak of my own personal experiences and not that of other coaches. I hope that some of the items in this post can serve as a spring board for others to emulate. I have been blessed with great mentors that have helped me in this journey. This post will serve as a narrative for the things we actually do, not theorized ideas of what we hope to do one day.

Daily

Team Meetings every day before practice. Every event group together. During these meetings we focus on 3 things:

1. Our own Attitudes. We have the power to control this.

2. How we will choose to view outside forces we cannot control. For example - the weather. I asked every day, "How is the weather outside?" And the team responds in perfect harmony, "Perfect!"

3. The Team. We have a common goal and we will do it all together. We take ownership of our individual efforts and push others through our encouragement and examples to be their best for the team.  

Mentoring. There is a lot of downtime during training. In these “rest periods” it is a great time to talk about creating measurable goals, sustainable motivation, vision, and give athlete words of encouragement. It is also easy to find time to talk about life. Teenagers always have a million questions and if you are a coach that has garnished a high level of trust with the athletes, they will ask for advice and counsel.  Click here for Video on how we do this. 

Weekly

Monday morning 6:00am Captains meetings. If a teenager is willing to get up at 6:00am on a Monday to go through leadership training they deserve to serve as a captain. These seniors learn about the types of leadership, serving in leading, commitment, common mental mistakes, values, purpose, and then each captain will take a week to teach the group about leading. 

Leadership disciplines. Some examples include effective visualization and goal setting. Athletes will take part weekly on visualizing their best performance. How to win the mental game before the actual competition. I have had athletes in their uniform the day before the meet close their eyes and go through the race in real time with a stop watch next to their ear. After visualizing their race (in their minds eye) the stop watch will read their goal. It is sometimes downright eerie how close they come to that mark the next day during the real competition (on a couple occasions the exact time within a 100th).

Social media presence. Give them a place to engage further with the community outside of practice. Instagram, YouTube, Flickr, our app, website, and even team texting with Remind.com.

Click here to Download the App                                        Click Here to Look at the Website

Coaches learning how to lead. Weekly I have one on one conversations with the coaches. I ask questions on how I can serve them and get them the resources necessary to be most effective. Some of the leadership trainings come in the way of short articles at CoachAyers.com

Some examples of posts from the past: Click the links below to Read

- How to Communicate with this Generation

- How to Become a Master Coach

- How to Motivate this Generation

- The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Leading Millennials 

Specific Events

Senior Send off. At the end of the season, and after a team banquet, the seniors are invited (along with their families) to take part in a very formal banquet as a way to send them off into the world to be a leader. We have drinks, deserts, Hors d'oeuvre, and a message from me as what it means to be a “Real Man and Leader.” This is a special time. 

Senior Day. Before competitions begin we have a senior day dedicated to training the seniors to lead the team. We will spend the day walking through Common Mental Mistakes (links below) how to set effective goals, and have time to ask deep meaningful questions about navigating through life. 

Common Mental Mistake #1: Practice only your strengths

Common Mental Mistake #2: A Leader who has no Definite Goals

Common Mental Mistake #3: Afraid of Failure

Common Mental Mistake #4: Productivity without Results

Common Mental Mistake #5: Negative Self Talk  

Mental Mistake Solution #1: Practice Positive Thinking

Mental Mistake Solution #2: Think and Speak in Vivid Emotional Terms

Mental Mistake Solution #3: Stop Choking!

Mental Mistake Solution #4: Strategic Visualization to Improve Performance 

Future Mentoring

Colleges. I have made it a point to have an athlete that goes to a college to write me a simple word doc about the school. This will be for future athletes that are trying to apply to the school they want to attend. Best places to eat, dorms to live in, off campus life, best classes, etc.  (Click here for UCLA example)

Typically after the first semester after high school students come home for Christmas break. This is when I will have coffee or lunch with a number of them upon request and go over their Ideal week (a time management tool) and talk about challenges they are facing.

Conclusion

A Coach is a very honorable and valuable position in someone’s life. I still call my coaches as "Coach" rather than by their first name. Influence is not a seasonal thing, rather over a life time. The words coaches use and the guidance they may give should never be taken lightly.

What do you do in your context to develop leaders?  

Do you have a mission/purpose statement that you lead by?

What values do you care most about?

How do these values and purpose come to fruition daily, weekly?