I have been thinking about this post for a while and finally just need to sit down to write it. My community lost a really great track coach in a car accident in August. He was one of those people that was so full of life, it’s hard to believe that he was gone. I knew he had an impact on the kids that he coached but didn’t realize the depth of it until I attended his funeral and memorial. One thing about attending funerals that even in sadness you can reflect on the person’s life. Lance had so many characteristics that I wish I had.
Coaching youth sports and managing a staff go hand in hand. We have all had that amazing boss that inspired and motivated us and the bosses that tore us down. Here are a few that I have heard about over the years. (that I hope anyone reading this doesn’t identify withJ). I will neither confirm nor deny if you think I am referring to you…
1. The Hard-Ass: I learned a TON from my hard ass boss. And… once I proved myself, the micromanagement went away. He ended up being a great guy.
2. The entrepreneur: The “Peter Pan” that life is fun and you have no direction. Granted, this boss had some amazing ideas but he really didn’t know how to execute. Luckily, he was smart enough to surround himself with people who did and grew his company to $80M its hey day
3. The insecure emotional abuser: Need I say more?
4. The “Star”: The spot light had to always shine on this person. I was told that this person took an established department and pretty much decimated it in a matter of 2 years because this person wanted all of the glory. This person always wanted the spotlight on themselves and in order to do that took any “fame” away from their staff.
So what can we learn from Lance’s life so that we become Coaches that really have a POSTIVE impact on people. Trust me… at his funeral no one mentioned the money he made or the projects he completed. We didn’t even talk about his own track career. What we talked about was the impact that he had on so many people. Here are my tips:
1. Get to Know your people. I mean really get to know them. I would see tweets between Lance and his athletes and you could tell he really knew them. I personally was probably a blip on his radar screen but when I would see him at the local gas station or “out and about”, he knew everything about my kid including her split times and her PR’s. His mind was like a machine. I know it’s tough to not cross the line between friends but being thoughtful isn’t crossing the line. Do you wish them Happy Birthday? Do anything special for them? Ask about their family? Support them if there is a need- new baby? Aging parents?
2. Challenge them. My daughter LOVES the mile(I know.. she isn’t right in the head). He wanted her to try steeple chase(Does he know how injury prone my daughter named GRACE is… Does he realize that she will trip over the obstacle and land face first in the water). As her mother I would lean towards “no”. He was pretty passionate about it. He and another coach also wanted her to become a heptathlete.. Really? A Thrower? 5’6/110 lbs and a thrower?
3. See and develop the potential. Great coaches have the ability to see talent and skill that no one else can and really develop it. Just like the example above, he must have seen something in her to think that she could be good at the Steeple Chase.
4. Be Encouraging. Obviously in a politically charged corporate situation you have to be cautious of this. but what if your staff wants to learn something new? What if they have a great project idea? How can you help them. I recall going to my track coach in high school . As the “poor kid” I had to decide between getting a job so I wouldn’t be riding the bus when I was a senior, or continuing to do track and other sports. When I went to my coach and asked her for advise she literally shrugged her shoulders and (in not so many words) said she could care less. Had this conversation gone differently my life might have been different. My dad told me just last year “You should have stuck with track, you probably could have done well at State”. Really? You tell me this when I’m 45 vs. 15???
5. Be firm but fun. Every single one of us- parents and athletes had immense respect for this man. I recall a time that he told my younger daughter (Kindergarten at the time) to go run another lap. She looked at him in her sassy way and said “Are you kidding me” . The biggest consequence that she suffered was his disapproval. I can assure you that it never happened again. No one really goofed off at practice because they loved and respected him so much. Is that what your department is like? Does your staff have fun? Or do they dread coming to work?
End of year performance reviews are right around the corner for many people. I would encourage you to review yourself and really think about what kind of manager you are. I know I have a lot to learn from Lance Lenard. Rest in Peace Lance and thank you for everything that you did.