Politics and Basketball
Election season is in full swing. It’s hard to turn on the TV without hearing another speech or seeing primary results. While this is not a political commentary, I will share that haven’t been exactly moved to action by anything I’ve heard from any of the candidates. There have not been words, speeches, or advertisements that have gotten my political blood flowing. Meanwhile, my favorite month of the year has started. That love for March has a little to do with spring and reading month, but at the root of it all is the NCAA basketball tournament known as “March Madness.” As soon as I hear that CBS theme music or “One Shining Moment,” I know that one of my favorite events is just around the corner.One of those I just want to turn off and the other I can’t wait to turn on. As I thought about why that is, there is clearly a direct tie back to my beliefs in leadership. During the last few months, numerous leaders of political parties have failed to motivate me in any way. But, during the NCAA basketball tournament, you hear so many stories of coaches and players who give amazing pregame speeches or employ magnificent motivational strategies. There in lies my disdain with one and infatuation with the other.
There are several traits that I believe made me a successful basketball coach over 15 years that I’ve carried over into my role as a building principal. While it takes many traits to be a successful coach, I believe the ability to inspire, motivate, and energize are among those most important. I first learned the importance of those as a 22 year old assistant coach for Dave Schlump in Cedar Springs. I began to learn that to energize others, you have to have energy yourself. You have to exude that passion for your job, profession, field, or your sport. Your players need to see it and feel it. As the picture to the right shows, Dave coaches with 100% passion at all times. He never takes a possession off, in practices or in games. His intensity picks players up when they are really down or matches their positivity when things are going well. His players know that he loves the game, the job, and coaching them. That rubs off on them and their ability to play with energy and passion. As Dave moved on to the collegiate level and I took over the head coaching job, I realized I couldn’t be be exactly like him. I had to become my own coach, putting my own twist on how to motivate, inspire, and energize my players. Having coached Austin Thornton, I was fortunate enough to get to meet Coach Izzo, go to a few practices and games, and even pick his brain on an occasion or two. I have never been around someone who knows how to motivate individual players. It all starts with his relationship and how well he gets to know them. From there, he can tell who needs a pat on the back, an earful, or support from a teammate. It is amazing how he can make the right moves, at the right time, with the individual or team, to maximize their effort and energy in a given moment.
Connections to the Principal’s Role
All of those things have had a large impact on my transition into the role of an educational leader. I want students to be able to hear, feel, and see my love for education. I want to model that for them in my words and actions. One of my goals this year is for all teachers to leave staff meetings more energized, inspired, and motivated when they walked in the door. I need to be able to take the pulse of the staff and then figure out what words, videos, or stories may inspire them to continue the great work they are doing. Most importantly is the desire to find out what individual staff member needs and provide exactly that, so they can be there best. Inspiring, motivating, and energizing. Truly important characteristics, of any leader, in any leadership position. Maybe I’ll stumble upon it somewhere during this political season, but I can guarantee you it will be everywhere starting 15 days from now in “March Madness!”