Why coaching a 7 year old’s lacrosse team is a lot like being a CEO

Put me in Coach!

Why coaching a 7 year old lacrosse team is a lot like being a CEO.  Thoughts from the sidelines and corner office from Brad Stroh.

I have learned a lot by being a Founder and CEO of a few successful entrepreneurial start-ups.  I have also learned a lot by being a dad and a coach of a few basketball, football and lacrosse teams for little kids.

Coaching Kids

Kids High-Fiving

I’ve learned about myself.  I’ve learned about incentives and productivity.  I’ve learned about motivation.  I’ve learned about what Daniel Pink (author of “Drive”) calls the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.  I’ve also learned that leading a company isn’t all that dissimilar from leading a team of little kids.

Here are some thoughts that I’ll share.  I love learning and growing, and being questioned, so ping me or add your own below in the comments.

  • How much you enjoy the journey is directly correlated to how much your teammates will enjoy their own journey.  A leader is infectious, sometimes that’s good… sometimes that’s bad.  Be self-aware.
  • If the kids on your team want to win more than you do, you’re in good shape.  If the inverse is true, you’re in trouble.
  • You can create a complex reward system, but simple rewards based on immediate cause and effect typically work the best.  (e.g. Gatorade for everyone if you all sprint through the next drill.)
  • Yelling is not a great motivator.  You cannot beat-down someone into passion.
  • A team that passes the ball and works to pull together will usually beat a team with a few stars that don’t respect their own teammates.
  • There is nothing more inspiring than a team of kids pulling together, supporting each other and working hard.  There is nothing more annoying or frustrating than a team that does not trust their coach and who thinks everything you tell them is wrong.  Frequently the only difference between the two situations is YOU.

Coaching and Leading

  • A coach can get the kids ready and you can even call a play, but you cannot play the game for them.  You have to empower the kids to play their game.
  • If you change the rules or keep changing expectations, no one will trust you and consequently they won’t try their hardest.
  • The belief that success or failure is in their own control is very powerful for a kid or teammate.
  • Don’t try to coach mad, and never try to give feedback or manage when you are mad.  Let it pass and then at a later moment when the kids are in a centered mood reflect together on what went wrong.
  • You have to let them fail in little bites from time to time.  It makes the whole team stronger.
  • A kid that feels special will act special.
  • Kids perform better at things that they are good at and have success with.  But – no one starts out being competent, so it’s a balance of introducing developmental challenges while balancing the mix of things that they are already adept at doing.  Too much of any one is stifling.
  • If the kids love you, and think that you care about them, they’re much more coachable.
  • As coach, don’t expect things to go as you had expected.  You’ll only be disappointed.
  • When things inevitably do go awry, it’s natural to be frustrated… but most of the time, you cannot show it.
  • As Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
  • You should try to put each kid in the best position for them; one that leverages their strengths and mitigates their weaknesses.  It’s best when they believe that it’s the best position as much as you do.  Don’t stick kids where they don’t want to be (especially the goalie).
  • Borrowing from John Wooden, giving five points of positive reinforcement for every one moment of criticism is a magical formula.
  • Couch negative feedback between two complements to ease the pain.
  • I don’t care how old you are… kids and people love having their birthday celebrated.

Bradford Stroh - Leading Kids and Companies

Bradford Stroh – Why leading kids is a lot like leading companies.

  • Even when it’s not, try to make it fun.
  • The bad apples consume 80% of your time.  The great kids don’t get their share of the coach’s attention.  Try to flip that mix.
  •  Success is not always easily definable.  Winning is short-term.  Growing, developing, getting better and having fun in the process is sometimes more important than what the scoreboard says.  Despite that, everyone’s happier when things go well.
  • Scold privately, and for kids it’s almost always best not to do it in the heat of the action.  Take them aside when they having a quiet moment and discuss what needs to improve.
  • Praise publicly.
  • Make each kid feel special.  Find something that they worked hard at, and point out that you noticed it.
  • At the end of the day, they just want to be loved and happy.  Create constructs to maximize those outcomes and you’ll be happier as the coach or CEO.
  •  In the rare moments when it all works out, it’s worth all of the headaches.
8 Responses to “Why coaching a 7 year old’s lacrosse team is a lot like being a CEO”
  1. Betsalel says:

    Insightful. You really covered the court. I would add a couple of comments from a different perspective, a member of the team:
    1. It isn’t about winning or losing, but how you play the game. That is especially true for kids and sports. But, it also goes for business. A team that is productive and happy – big winners.
    2. The team does look to the coach (or CEO) for inspiration. Especially during tough times.
    3. A leader who teaches and guides his team to work together, put out 100% and do their best, is surely going to have a winning team.
    4. The power of positive reinforcement – Wooden was a great coach. I would add a quote from another great coach, Red Auerbach who said, “It’s not what you tell your players that counts. It’s what they hear”.

    The kids are real fortunate to have you as a coach. Enjoy!

  2. LKS says:

    I like the concept of it’s not what you do or say, but how you make them feel that they will remember.

  3. tammi says:

    Very true –>”A team that passes the ball and works to pull together will usually beat a team with a few stars that don’t respect their own teammates.”

  4. Ray says:

    Brad, really enjoy your insights especially regarding the mix of praise and criticism. You may enjoy the book Whale Done by Ken Blanchard. It is all about response to positive reinforcement.

  5. Taneka Survant says:

    CEO as Coach is an excellent write-up. I am going to take more time looking into this subject.

  6. Puma Pas says:

    Very good.Thanks

  7. Scott Dennis says:

    Just read this again. All are fantastic points and very true. Having coached youth soccer for over 10 years now, I love the correlations you make to being a leader in business.

  8. Brad says:

    Here’s a really nice addition from US Lax (thanks Doug for sharing), titled: 13 Qualities the Best Lacrosse Coaches Have in Common

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