Are you counting down the days to the start of the NHL season? I am! I think my favorite team, the Washington Capitals, are going to have an outstanding season. No, really! Well, I always think that, but from what I have seen and heard so far, this year they seem to have one extra special item in their toolbox. Not any particular super player, although they did make several significant acquisitions in the off-season that should really make a difference. No, it is their new coach. Barry Trotz, a veteran coach who is an undeniable leader. There are coaches who coach, and there are coaches who lead. The noticeable difference goes far beyond skills and drills. When players are inspired by their coach's philosophy, when they internalize and make his vision their own, that is the result of quality transformational leadership. The team is empowered and can take their collective skills to a higher level. Here is how he is doing it so far:
1. Coach Trotz is meticulous, detailed and highly organized. His every move is calculated and deliberate. From start whistle to finish, everything is done according to plan. When this is communicated to the players, there is trust. No surprises. He tells them what they will be doing and when, and that is what happens.
2. He has assembled a team of coaches and staff who he trusts to work at a high level, who buy in to his vision and own it. These individuals are at the top of their respective areas. Mitch Korn, for example, is a guru of goalies. His style and original training props (mini-pucks, white pucks, a curtain of hanging strips and more) simultaneously raise eyebrows and inspire motivation to perform among the players. The consistency among the coaching staff in their approaches to training and play is necessary to maintain credibility and trust of the players within this system.
3. Coach Trotz has a clear vision and philosophy. He communicates this to his players verbally and by example. He communicates his expectations for the team and expresses confidence that the players can meet and exceed these expectations. His belief becomes their belief.
4. Coach Trotz nurtures the team atmosphere, the "we're in this together" feeling. He personally invited select players to form a leadership group. The group members are players who can lead by example on and off the ice, who can help teammates manage their emotions so they don't get in the way. They can ensure everyone plays as a team. If there are issues, players are encouraged to speak to the leadership group, which acts as a middleman between players and coaches. Leaders were paired as mentors with rookies at training camp, even assigned locker stalls next to one another to further drive the point home that they are all one, all part of a greater whole. Everyone matters.
What these things have done is to break down barriers common in teams--veteran vs. rookie, superstar vs. fourth-liner, management vs. player. It has produced an atmosphere in which they have not just a team, but a band of brothers. The players want to play with and for each other. They have each others' backs and support each other. They fight for each other. Now out on the ice, whether they're a first- or fourth-liner, it's personal. And they're all in.
You will probably notice players reiterating these points in their interviews with the media. That shows how deeply Coach Trotz's message runs. Through repetition, example and trust, he encourages the players to make his vision their own. The players will exude more confidence, feel respected and feel like they belong to something great. They will make decisions based on the greater good of the team. This is the mark of true leadership. And it is what is going to make this season unlike any other the Capitals have had. I like what I've seen so far of Coach Trotz. I can't wait to see how it plays out!
"...sometime, when the team is up against it -- and the
We all love the poignant, heartfelt, go-get-'em speeches coaches give when the going is tough. How's this one from University of Kansas football coach Charlie Weis, when recruiting players to his less-than-stellar Jayhawks program?
"Have you looked at that pile of crap out there? Have you taken a look at that? So if you don't think you can play here, where do you think you can play?...You've seen it, right? Unfortunately, so have I."
Not exactly Braveheart leading his men into battle. Would you follow this guy anywhere? A coach should be a leader, a champion of his team. Even a team whose record is 1-11. We are intelligent people. We know it takes a lot of individual effort put together to make a team what it is. The indisputable leader (and ultimately responsible party) is the coach. Under the best of circumstances, it's an easy job. The best players, the best staff, and you have an epic season. But anything can happen. Storm clouds can appear and the picnic is rained out. But the leader cannot be a reflection of the weather. He or she must be a constant, driving force. When it's sunny, he is enjoying the rays. When it rains, she doesn't pack it in, she brings an umbrella.
For Coach Weis to denigrate his team this way, he is effectively separating himself from them, when in actuality, he is the head of this creature. Without him, the body crumbles. Where will the team find its direction? How can Weis expect to receive the respect of his players when he cannot show any?
To me, Coach Weis has done less to show the ineptitude of his team, and more to show his own disloyalty and dysfunction as a leader.
"Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there."
Personal Best Sports
The sports world is filled with stories of perseverance, failure and success, personal struggles and public triumph. Each story provides insight into the mental side of sport and activity.