This is a blog for my colleagues who are engaged in ministry with people of sport. In particular it is for those of us who refer to our roles as “Sports Chaplain,” or "Character Coach."
Friday, March 2, 2018
THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS’ INDISPENSABLE ROLE
received this note earlier this week from a friend and colleague. It is quite
insightful. I hope it is of value to you and to those you serve.
Jack Easterby has a unique role on the New England Patriots
Football team. “His official title: Character Coach/Team Development, is as
surprising to see in an NFL front office as his role has become
indispensable for the longest-running dynasty in NFL history,”writesLorenzo
Reyes in the USA Today. Yes, you read that right, Jack is a Character
Coach for a professional football team. And, not just any team. One that
has won more Super Bowls in the last 15 years than any other team. Thus
far, New England is the only team to hire this position.
2013, as New England was seeking to respond well to the Aaron Hernandez
murder of Odin Lloyd. It was a tense time in the Patriot’s locker room. He
can’t just talk about the problems we have. We need to work toward
solutions.” So, how does he do that?
Players can talk to him about anything and everything (big
or small), and they do. He seeks out players before every game and tells
them he appreciates them, which makes things safe for them to seek him out.
He cultivates trust, which enables players to open up and to play at their
best. “We’ve been through some things recently—things that have gone on in
our country and things that have gone on in the league,” Easterbysaidof
the political climate and social activism in the NFL. “I just think that
love wins. Communication with others wins. Servanthood wins. That’s why
when we went through some of the stuff we went through earlier this year,
it was a conversation, not a judgment.”
2. He consistently seeks to add value to
If Jack thinks a player can be helped by a book or a video
or a scripture, he’ll drop it off at his locker. “Jack has been huge in my
life,” left tackle Nate Solder, who was treated for testicular cancer
in 2014 and whose son is currently being treated for a rare form of
Today. “He’s one of my close friends. I call him about everything. I
really, really appreciate his friendship.” He hosts parties and whiffle
ball games at his house, serves at players’ weddings and greets everyone.
“Around other teams, you have people like that, but from what I’ve seen,
they’re all pretenders,” defensive end Ricky Jean FrancoistoldUSA
Today. “Just because they want to be around football players and get
things. This guy here, every day, he walks up to us and feeds us
positivity. Every single day. This dude is not pretending.”
3. He builds leaders.
At times, he does more than encourage. He equips. And it’s
not just players he serves. “Sometimes it’s actually working with a guy who
wants to be a head coach and talking about leadership and growth,” Easterbysaid, before he paused, looked, and
pointed in the direction of defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who was
named head coach of the Detroit Lions after the Super Bowl. “It doesn’t
really matter who it is.” Jack knows that a leadership culture ultimately
makes everyone better. It’s like raising the tide. When the tide goes up
all the boats go up.
What We Can Learn as a Coach or Athletic Leader
You are likely not a Character Coach yourself. Perhaps you
need to hire one. Perhaps you’re like me and simply need to learn from one.
Based on this example, here are six changes I think will make us better at
leading today’s athletes.
1. Don’t think CONTROL, think CONNECT.
It is natural for coaches to seek control of the team or
practice. It’s the best way we know how to prepare for a game. But control
is a myth—especially among competitive players. I suggest you go deeper at
building relationships and trust with players. I have found if I will seek
connection with them, I’ll earn the right to influence.
2. Don’t think INFORM, think INTERPRET.
Today’s athletes don’t need adults to get information. They
have it on their portable device. They do need us, however, for
interpretation. We must help them interpret all they heard and saw.
Sometimes we’ll need to offer context to all the content they consume. If
we can help them process (more than access), we will be relevant.
3. Don’t think WHAT, think WHY.
Too often, we’re prone to communicate with athletes by
jumping right into “what” we want to say, forgetting we are competing with
thousands of other messages they receive daily. I have found if I will
begin with “why”—they can engage with almost any “how.” We must furnish the
“whys” behind the drills or disciplines to engage them.
4. Don’t think RULES, think EQUATIONS.
No athlete I know likes “rules.” They endure them. What if
we switched out the rules for equations—meaning we simply explain the
consequences and benefits to all of their decisions? And then, we let them
live with their decisions to learn. Life is full of equations, meaning the
ups and downs of choices. This is how they’ll grow.
5. Don’t just speak to their HEAD, speak
to their HEART.
Many coaches are “old school.” They’re used to just
addressing the head of their athletes, imposing or downloading plays or
strategies. And those are important. But if we’ll speak to the heart, maybe
even with an arm around their shoulder, we might be amazed at how this
accelerates all they need to learn in their head.
prepare athletes for excellence in sports and life?
Check out Habitudes®for