That was a question I was asked this week by an athletic director. “If you were me, how would you structure the leadership and character development for your athletic program?”
Having spent the last 8 years working directly with high schools and colleges helping implement their leadership and character programs, it’s a fair question to ask.
Here are the 4-things I would do:
1 Establish a Dynamic Leadership Council
I would lead a weekly or bi-monthly leadership council with the key influencers throughout the athletic program. I would make the group a highly sought-after group, with a handful of perks and filled with dynamic leadership development. During the year, we’d periodically add more individuals to the group and make the group the “place to be” among the student-athletes. This would also allow me the opportunity to directly impact the student-athlete and develop the relationships which is something most ADs want to do (why they got into this profession to begin with) but often aren’t able to do as a result of their position.
2 Emphasize Program-Wide Leadership Development
I’d have a program-wide leadership kickoff day professionally facilitated at the beginning of each season so all athletes from all teams would get the opportunity to experience leadership development. Let’s say I had 50 student-athletes in my leadership council and there were 500 total student-athletes in my program, which means only 10% are experiencing leadership development. The other 90% are being ignored. That’s not right nor is it healthy. Everyone plays the role of “a” leader, even if they aren’t “the” leader, so everyone needs to experience leadership development. These kickoff days would communicate a clear and loud message to all athletic participants that leadership and character are a priority in our program.
3 Invest in Coach’s Leadership & Professional Development
Leadership and professional development would be a regular offering for my coaches. As the famous Billy Graham once said, “A coach will impact more kids in a year than the average person will in a lifetime.” Recognizing that reality and the subsequent opportunity it provides us, I would want our coaches to be the best of the best when it comes to leading our student-athletes.
4 Implement Ongoing Leadership Programs for Teams
Lastly, I would STRONGLY encourage all my coaches to lead, delegate to someone, or hire someone to facilitate an ongoing leadership program through the season for your team. We are never given leaders we develop them. We are never given special teams we have to build them. Therefore it’s essential leadership development continues throughout the season, giving your players the “reps” to grow as leaders, in turn helping elevate the team. Cultures are best transformed when everyone is playing a part, so engaging the whole team in ongoing development together as a team will prove to be a game-changer.
Now, there are certainly resources required to make this happen which I’d be very intentional about. I would add as much as I could to my budget request, fundraise and work with boosters, look to sponsors to cover the costs, apply for grants, and/or collect from a combination of all four areas. Finding the funds would be a priority.
Then you’d have to find the right content partner and facilitators. I wouldn’t suggest relying solely on what I call a “Google Curriculum” where you simply search for random pieces of leadership content the night before your session and hope that’ll suffice. It may for a moment but it won’t sustain. Find a partner like Lead ‘Em Up 🙂 who has substantial content, rich in nature, designed to engage, and that steadily builds week after week.
If I was an athletic director, this this would be my approach to leadership & character development in my program.
Have fun and #LeadEmUp