Friday, August 26, 2011

Privilege vs. Entitlement - video link

If you are involved in college sport, especially in the United States, please take a moment to view the video linked below.  If you find it helpful, share it with your players.  It does a good job of addressing the culture of entitlement which is so prevalent in sport today. 

2011 Saluki Football Team Building - C-H-A-M-P-S

Tomorrow I will complete this season’s team building process with Saluki Football at Southern Illinois University. That will be session number seven of seven. They began with the first meeting of the team on August 6 and continued every couple of days throughout the pre-season practices. We met most often in the team’s locker room, but a couple of times in other settings. The locker room is best because it’s where the players feel most “at home” and the seating is very flexible for gathering small groups for discussion.

I’d like to share this season’s team building outline and you may use it as is, modify it to suit your team or ignore it. Earlier in the summer I shared this outline with a few other sport chaplains on other campuses around the USA and they reported good results.

I pray that this process of building community in your team, based on learning who each other are (identity), beginning to trust each other and then making commitments to each other, plus building the culture of the team by helping them to embrace a shared set of values, help you build a championship team.
Session 1 –

Introduction to C-H-A-M-P-S and Team Building Process

• Community = Identity + Trust + Commitment

• Culture – Driven by Shared Values

Character and Courage – Group Discussions

• Tell us something about the most courageous football player you’ve ever known. Who is he and what did he do that looked courageous?

• How do players demonstrate genuine courage in this sport?

• What word would you use to describe the character of the 2010 Saluki Football team? Why that word?

• What is the word you’d like to be emblematic of the 2011 Saluki Football team’s character? How will that description be earned?

• What have been some critical factors to the shaping of your personal character?

• What do you see as your role in shaping the team’s character?

Saluki Football Coaches –

Each coach has a group of players with him from the opposite side of the ball to interview him and to share his answers with the team at large.

• Coach; tell us where you grew up, a little about your family, what position you coach at SIU and how many years you’ve been coaching.

• Tell us about one highlight from your career in football, either as a player or as a coach.

• Tell us about someone from your life that has been a consistent model of either courage, character or both.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Game-Day Music

To what are the players listening on their iPods? What is going on inside those headphones and ear buds? Is there a purpose to the music players listen to prior to competition? How do they choose their favorite game-day music? I went searching for answers to these questions and more in a recent poll of university athletes from a variety of sports. The results and some observations follow.

One football player told me, “I listen to really chill music; mainly acoustic guitar and someone singing. I also a little gospel/Christian. I use it to keep me mellow and not let my emotions get out of control. It does a good job helping me focus my mind.”

A softball player said, “Listening to music on game day is a way to get pumped or just get in game mode, it all depends on the person. We normally listen to rap in the locker room because overall that's what everyone likes. Personally, I like to listen to some alternative with a little bit of oldies mixed in there to mellow me out. I think that relaxing before a game is important because once the first pitch is thrown, it's all business plus the adrenaline is running until the last and final out. Music makes a huge difference because silence makes things awkward, but with music playing while getting ready for a game or while working out is a way to stay motivated and focused.”

One swimmer sent this reply, “I've gone to mainly Christian rap or Christian rock. I usually have to have something with a quicker beat, because sometimes the song affects stroke tempo in a race. But definitely always Jesus music! It helps me focus on Him in a time I'd normally not be giving Him a second thought. Doing that has radically changed racing for me, handling pressure for sure, but especially in how I handle the outcome.”

Another swimmer told me, “Early on race days I listen to rock or other up beat music to help my emotions get geared up and motivated. As the time for my race approaches, I switch to mellow, instrumental or worship music to help my mind relax. The change in musical styles helps my mood change and to be mentally well prepared to race.”

Now some observations: Music is a remarkable tool and a powerful vehicle for shaping one’s mental and emotional state. It can help energize as well as relax. It can motivate and assist contemplation. It can be helpful or harmful, depending upon how applied and what music is chosen.

I have seen some players who listen to music that is powerful, frenetic and violent in lyric and style. They often also play that way. That is often less than helpful to their performances as they play on the edge of rage. This results in penalties, trash talking and out of control competition. Other players are so mellowed out by their music that they seem to sleep walk through the early stages of the game. They appear to be under-stimulated.

If you have opportunity to help players choose their game-day music, suggest music that motivates them to be their best, that speaks to their hearts and stimulates their desire to honor Christ by how they compete. I hope they can join our young swimmer who said, “It (music) helps me focus on Him (Jesus) in a time I'd normally not be giving Him a second thought. Doing that has radically changed racing for me, handling pressure for sure, but especially in how I handle the outcome.”

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Limited Leadership

For the last couple of months I’ve been pondering why it seems that most of today’s leaders in sport, especially those on the court, pitch, floor or field, have such limited leadership ability. I have heard numerous coaches decry the dearth of leadership among their players of both genders and at almost every level of sport. As I have observed the players of my acquaintance and heard from other coaches and team chaplains, I think I have arrived at a conclusion. Most of this generation’s leaders would prefer to be popular with their teammates than to lead them effectively. That preference limits their leadership in some very important ways.

In John Maxwell’s book, “Developing the Leader Within You,” he calls this “Leading by Permission” and assigns it position #2 on a 1-5 scale of ascending levels of leadership. The low number for this level of leadership is indicative of its weakness. Level 2 leaders can lead those who like them or are willing to go along with a likeable personality. Their popularity allows them to carry their teammates along until conflict, discord or substandard performance arrive and their leadership weakness is suddenly exposed. If one’s leadership is built upon popularity, he will stop short of challenging his teammate to give greater effort. She will balk when leadership calls for her to correct destructive or divisive attitudes or speech. He will defer the “calling out” of another player for his selfish play or foolish off-court behavior to the coaching staff rather than assertively calling everyone to a higher standard.

Coaches, Chaplains, Character Coaches and Sport Mentors can assist in this process. In order to do this well, we need to be Level 4 or Level 5 leaders. Maxwell’s Level 4 is: Leading by Developing People and Level 5 is : Leading by Personhood. Leading at Level 4 takes guts and Level 5 takes time. If we’ll invest in, challenge and develop team leaders, we can help them press through the tyranny of popularity and on into leadership which cares enough about the team and each teammate to seek the best from each one and the team’s best, even if it costs him popularity. It is better to be respected than universally liked. Popularity will wane over time, but respect is much more durable. If we stay engaged with emerging and developing leaders long enough, we become Level 5 leaders and powerfully impact all those around us just by showing up. That is particularly true if we will purposely seek out and help develop leaders within the team.

As we communicate and model Christ-honoring, dynamic leadership with our teams, we will help the younger ones move past Level 2 and its weakness. We can help them lead through their productivity (Level 3) and on to Levels 4 and 5. One need only read the Gospels, The Acts of the Apostles, the Proverbs or Old Testament historical books with his leadership cap on to see that godly leadership often includes strong challenges, face to face reproof, public rebuke and even physical confrontation. Each of those are hardly in keeping with maintaining one’s popularity. Such is the cost of leadership. It should not be entered into naively. Let’s call this generation’s leaders to shake off their shackles of popularity and move onto dynamic leadership which takes the risk to raise everyone’s performance and the team’s sense of unity.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sport Camps and Camps Culture

Having just finished another summer season of Sports Camps, I have been reflecting on Sport Culture, Camps Culture and those things within them which seem complimentary and others which seem counter-productive. These comments may step on some traditional camp toes, but here they come.

Determine your target audience for the camp and program directly to them, without apology or regret. If your camp is aimed at impacting mostly recreational, novice and even spectator oriented campers, make sure it’s fun and not overly competitive or demanding upon them athletically. However, if you intend to make an impact with serious, competitive, highly achieving athletes, be sure to program their direction. These two groups are widely different and one size will not fit all.

Think about who is in front of your campers. Is your camp’s main speaker someone the campers will respect? If it’s a sports camp with highly achieving players, this person had better be able to speak their language and to connect with their competitive mindset or little will be accomplished.

Think about who is leading your campers in small groups. In FCA language, Huddle Leaders. With recreationally minded campers, former athletes, recreational players and even charismatic non-players can lead effectively. For camps that aim higher on the competitive scale, be sure that your group leaders are at the same or higher level as your campers. Intramural boy will not have the same measure of respect with his campers as will a collegiate athlete and that will diminish the development of his group. We don’t have to like that, but it’s true. Do not, under any case, fail at this. These people have more face-to-face contact with the campers than anyone. They are the most important people in the camp process.

Think about how your camp uses music. What is its purpose? If it is to promote worship, then be sure those who lead it worship rather than perform. If they perform, the campers will become spectators and it’s a concert. If they worship, they will draw the campers into that experience and it will open their hearts in a dynamic way. Some of us have decided to not use music at all during camp. In doing so we’re seeking to help the campers see their sport experiences as a form of worship.

Think about how you program camp large group meetings. Are you simply replicating church services? Why? What are you trying to communicate? What best enables you to reach the hearts of your campers? It may be use of video rather than a song. It may be a discussion of today’s competition is more effective than a testimony. It could be that a few minutes of raw game film communicates better than a high profile player’s self-promoting talk. Is it better to encourage decisions and commitments being made in an altar call or in smaller groups with trusted teammates? Please think these things through rather than simply following the flow of camp culture.

Think about the use of skits, goofy costumes, cheers and such. Who is our audience? If these were drama camps it would make sense to do skits. I stopped doing skits in camps ten years ago as I found they communicated poorly, wasted my huddle leaders’ time in rehearsals and created more discord between them than harmony. What’s with the goofy costumes and cheers? If our target is spectators and recreational players, it may be fun. If our target is the more highly competitive player, they’re just annoyed and start the camp wondering, “Why am I here with these goofy losers?”

Here’s the bottom line – think critically about what you’re communicating with every facet of your camp. Who is our audience and how can we most effectively speak to their hearts in every moment of the day? When we find things in our schedule or methods which don’t fit, let’s have the courage to change them. They may run cross-grain with our organization’s camp culture, but the campers are worth it. Being faithful to communicate the truth of Christ’s love with the people of sport is worth the potential conflict.