Leading Blog






12.08.15

5 Leadership Lessons: Players First

5 Leadership Lessons
Players First is a biographical leadership guide from the University of Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari. Although geared towards coaching and college basketball, the lessons and approaches are easily applicable to any other leadership situation.

His Players First philosophy is summed up this way: “I coach for the names on the backs of the jerseys—not just the front. My players. They are sent to me by their fathers, their mothers, their grandmothers, their aunts—whoever in this world raised them and loves them. Others look at their NBA bodies and consider them lucky. Future millionaires, just stopping through before they cash in. That’s not what I see. They’re kids, some of them as young as seventeen years old. They all need me in a different way.
Players First
Some want my affection, others my approval. It’s a burden to be responsible for other people’s children, sometimes a heavy burden.”

From this mindset comes this key point that any leader could ask. “If I’m struggling with a player, it’s where I ask myself: How would I want my own son treated?

These ideas are worth considering in your own leadership situation:

1 There’s not a coach time and a not-coach time. I’m always their coach. If I just walk away, or I look too busy or preoccupied, they don’t know, as a seventeen-year-old or eighteen-year-old, what that means. They wonder, Why did he do that? I don’t want them to think for a moment that I don’t care about them. I don’t want them to have a second’s worth of doubt.

2 The art of coaching at this level is about convincing great athletes to change. First we have to get them to accept what they’re not good at. My assistant coaches and I use the word “surrender.” Surrender to our instruction. Surrender to physical conditioning. If you’re delusional and see yourself one way while the rest of the world see something else, let it go. Believe what we’re telling you. Some player will say, “You just don’t understand my game.” But we do. Believe me, we get it. We’re just not liking it.

You have to be strong willed. You can’t have a mental picture of yourself that’s not accurate.

3 The best players I’ve coached have a demeanor about them that never moves. They have a calmness. You can’t read the score on their faces. They’ll get emotional, they’ll play with fire, but their demeanor will never be one of rage or anger. Physiology-wise, rage and anger are related to fear. Hook a guy up to wires and look at his brain, and that’s what you’ll find. [W]hen you play with a sense of rage, you don’t respond well to being challenged. [When the game is turning against you], you have no calm inner core to bring you back.

4 Part of coaching is acting. It’s true of any kind of leadership, whether you’re a CEO, an army general, or a father. Part of the job is that you don’t reveal your apprehensions. I don’t ever go into games thinking we’re going to lose, but of course I get anxious.

Along the same lines is this note sent to a player:

Alex, work hard to improve your body language. Body language is a facial expression, slouching, dropping your head, how you sand, how you sit, how you speak. Begin today. God created you as a winner and he has big plans for you. Work with him. Be the best. When you feel like you want to drop your head, lift it up. When you feel like slouching your body, stand up straight. When you want to frown or have a sour face, smile. When you feel like complaining, encourage someone else. When someone corrects you, thank God because they care.

5 We can’t have kids whose main thing is that they want respect. I respected you enough to give you a place in a heck of a basketball program and put you with other kids I think you’re going to love. You need to be able to give respect. I look for how kids act in front of the people raising them. If they disrespect their mothers or fathers or grandmothers, that’s it. I’m no longer interested.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:58 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership



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