College and professional sports teams are under tremendous
pressure to win. Ultimately, it is the only thing that matters. Winning coaches make extraordinary salaries. Losing coaches get fired. Teams are deploying every available tool to gain an edge. Deep statistical analysis, psychological profiles, detailed diet and fitness regimens are routinely used to gain even the slightest advantage. High profile sports have gotten virtually everything measurable out of the physical abilities of players.
With players’ physical abilities maxed out, some teams are consciously and publicly embracing the power of something less measurable: Building Relationships. The concept of “team” is evolving as organizations pay closer attention to the individual, unique needs of the modern day ballplayer.
The Culture Of Winning Is Being Influenced By Relationships.
New York Yankees skipper, Joe Girardi, was recently fired at the conclusion of his team’s season. It should be noted that Girardi’s team overachieved during the regular season and was one game away from playing in baseball’s World Series. Under traditional metrics, he would have been praised and offered a new contract with a significant raise. If pro sports are all about winning, why did he lose his job? His general manager stated that Girardi failed to “engage, communicate and connect with playing personnel.”
After an extensive search for a new manager, the Yankees hired Aaron Boone. Owner Hal Steinbrenner described Boone in a press release: “From all accounts, he is a polished communicator who possesses the ability to cultivate and grow relationships.”
Garvin Alston is the Minnesota Twins new pitching coach. Although the pitching staff underperformed in the 2017 season, the Twins are another pro team that overachieved during last baseball season. It is not a surprise that the Twins looked for a new pitching coach but Alston is untested at the major league coaching level. Why did the Twins entrust the pitching staff of an already winning team to him?
According to Derek Falvey, Twins’ Chief Baseball Officer, Garvey is “one who had a deep understanding of pitching development, can build exceptional relationships, build our culture and someone who would really grow with us moving forward.”
PJ Fleck is experiencing an up and down first year as University of Minnesota head football coach. In 2016, he was one of the most sought after college football coaches after winning big at Western Michigan. He brought his “Row The Boat” philosophy to Minneapolis by focusing on building a culture first. “Connection,” Fleck says, “That’s how I define culture. It’s connecting people.”
Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors coach, describes two legendary basketball coaches, Greg Popovich (current) and Phil Jackson (retired), like this: “They were not the typical ‘rah, rah’ type of coaches to inspire a team. They were all about making connections, getting to know each player as an individual.”
High profile sports teams may not all be shifting to more relationship-based decision-making. But some are. It’s an emerging trend across the public and private sector.
As a school leader, I came to work every day with the philosophy that my job was much more about serving people than managing things. This required a relentless attention to building relationships with all community members. There is no doubt it made us a stronger, more effective educational team.
7 Quick Tips For Leaders provides common sense strategies for building relationships as an education leader.
And, if you are working with your school on mindfulness education, you’re also in good company. Multiple National Football League teams have successfully adopted mindfulness training with their players and coaches.