Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Leadership and coaching

Guest post by my son, Greg Cryns, who is a soccer coach and strength expert


by Greg W. C. Cryns

We were all sitting behind the bleachers during half time of the semi-final match at the premier youth soccer tournament, the Dallas Cup. After playing the entire half without getting a shot off, we were down 2-0 and very pessimistic about our chances of winning. We were being made to look foolish in front of a large crowd, we felt the pressure to make something happen or our dream of winning the tournament would be squandered away for the last time. When my coach, Bret Hall, stepped in front of us, he could immediately tell that we were scared, and new that it was negatively affecting our game. (Bret Hall is now the assistant coach of the US Women's National Team)

Before we could get a word in he snapped, “You think this is pressure? This isn’t pressure. Try having three kids and not know if you are going to be able to make enough money to feed them, or keep the house warm in January. That’s pressure!” Within a matter of minutes, all our fears of losing the game subsided and we began the 2nd half replacing our fear of losing with a new feeling, Inspiration to do the best we could.

He was never the best X and O’s coach, but he always new how to get the best out of us. He was a great motivator. He always had a way of connecting the game to a bigger picture and life lesson. He was knowledgeable, approachable, dependable, accountable, respectful, and truly cared about the lives and welfare of the players on the team. No matter the situation, it seemed there was a life lesson to be learned. He was a teacher that never stopped teaching. He was a great Leader!


My coach was very inspirational in his teachings. He wasn’t always talking, but when he did, people listened. It was agreed that he possessed a vast knowledge of the game, but that is not the reason why people listened. Every player on the team listened because we were aware of his total commitment and effort to the team’s welfare. He genuinely cared for us and it was apparent in his effort, performance, and enthusiasm. His enthusiasm was a product of the joy he received from helping us improve. However, it was also important for us to know that his enthusiasm was real. False enthusiasm is common in sports and I believe it is easily detected. We understood that his heart and soul were in the team 100 percent of the time. Being a dedicated leader can be most fulfilling in this respect because of the position and ability to change lives and make a difference.

A leader cannot be 100 percent “all in” until he puts the team’s welfare ahead of his own personal desires. This can be extremely difficult to accomplish for most leaders. Few people are willing to sacrifice personal time and family time for the sake of the team. The secret is in the ability to find a workable balance between freedom and discipline. I think it can take a very long time, even a lifetime for some leaders to find this balance. A coach, however, must remember what leadership is all about: helping others to achieve their own greatness by helping the organization to succeed. Leadership is not for the selfish or egotistical. Leaders must continuously be exploring for ways to improve themselves so that they may improve others.

Being a leader, you must be able to lead yourself before you lead others. A great leader must also walk down the same road in which he is leading the team. There is no more powerful tool for inspiration and leadership than personal example. The teacher must be able to communicate effectively with enthusiasm, and personal example can be the best form of communication. A leader can possess all the knowledge in the world, but his deeds are what count the most, much more than words.

A great coach will not copy other people’s philosophies and styles. Although a certain style might work for some, a great coach is concerned with making it work better. It is easy to be influenced by other leader’s accomplishments, but your own experiences are more valuable than anything you can read in an article. It can be a sign of strength to acknowledge honest differences in leadership, but coaches should never underestimate the value of their personal experiences. Great leaders must have enough faith in themselves to stay firm in their beliefs during times of adversity. Leaders should not hastily sell their old ways for new popularly accepted systems.

A great leader is able to paint a big picture connecting daily tasks with important life lessons. Daily practices become much more meaningful when the lesson transcends the sport. Great coaches set goals that are higher than the ones at hand. They are able to create a belief in their philosophy and project a vision of success that the team can embrace.

Leadership and coaching involves much more than just telling people what to do. It’s not about being tough, assertive, and dictatorial. Great leaders have a set of attributes that set them apart from average people. Character may be the most important attribute a leader can have. I am not just talking about having charismatic energy or a fun style of teaching. Great leaders do the right thing all the time. Great character is noticeable in a leader’s consistency, dependability, accountability, decisions, courage, discipline, and fairness. The most important aspect of character, however, is love and respect for themselves and others. I believe all these facets are fundamental for successful leadership.

Photo by Michael

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1 comment:

  1. Well said, Greg! I couldn't agree with you more!