Boys to Men

019Occasionally, moments pass that renew my hope in the world of men, that there are signs of evolution a midst a myriad of stories that would suggest otherwise.  It has been disturbing to watch the NFL implode with story after story of violence and disregard for behavior necessary for a civilized society to thrive.  I pay special attention because my youngest son plays football, and wants to continue to play in college.  Frankly, I’ve had mixed feelings about participation in a sport that allows, and to some extent has promoted the kind of thuggery that has recently been highlighted.

Then, something happened that calmed my fears and inspired hope that not all football players need go down the same road.  This past week my son’s team mate lost his mother to a brave fight with cancer.  It is horrible to lose a mother so young.  But survival can be eased by a simple grand gesture.  The night of the weekly team dinner that the parents provide for the team, they came dressed in their team jerseys and before the meal cheered for their team mate, and all went together along with coaches to support their friend at the wake in his time of great need.

A wake is uncomfortable for everyone, but even more so for tough football players.   The fact that they all banded together…close to thirty guys, and entered the funeral home together, quietly and with grace to show their support was, as one physician who was present stated, “the most beautiful gesture”.  Words are not always necessary, a quiet, loving presence speaks volumes.  The NFL could learn a thing or two from these men.

Translating Leadership

Captains talkSummer seems to be waning before it’s even began, and with the fall comes football, at least at my house anyway.  My son is a senior this year, and while this mama anticipates being an empty-nester with bated breath, (I love my kids, but crazy town is exhausting) I think there are still a few things I can teach him.  His passion is football, and he was voted Captain this year.  In conversations that are usually preceded with eyes rolling and this phrase: “Mom, I know…”  I stopped him dead in his tracks and said “This time you don’t!”  Both of us were surprised at my knee-jerk response.  After all these years, though, I do know a thing or two about leadership.

Leadership is more than looking cool, or having the younger players look up to you.  It is more than just words or approval from your peers or a patch on your letter jacket.  Leadership is taking all that got you to this point and putting it into practice.  Being a true leader isn’t surrounding yourself with sycophants and ego-strokers that will only maintain a false success for yourself.  Being a true leader is making a commitment to take your whole team to a place of success and not just yourself.  It is translating your idea of a good leader and putting it into action…it is where the real work begins.

Translating leadership means taking all the crap that jealous naysayers deal out and rendering it null and void by proving them wrong day in and day out by a commitment to excellence, surpassing expectations, sacrificing your own needs for the benefit of the whole and being a beacon of hope in the face of extreme challenge.  It means taking every failure and turning it into a means for future excellence.

Translating leadership means showing your team mates that you know how to take a coaches vision and put it into practice.  It means that you will work tirelessly to help your team mates understand these goals and become the cohesive unit that stands as one force against your opponents.  It is your job to see that your team mates see themselves as essential parts of “we” and not “me”.  It means that you work to create such a tight cohesive unit that virtually everyone will want to be a part of your team.

Translating leadership means allowing people around you to help create the environment necessary for success.  It means understanding that you are not an island, you can’t do everything on your own.  There are countless individuals out there who are more than willing to be part of helping your team be the best that it can be.  Be an example of gratitude, show appreciation, recognize the little things that help bring you to success. From cheerleaders, parents, the student body and staff, to even the water boys, every part is important.

Most importantly, translating leadership means helping your team mates discover their own greatness.  Lack of self esteem or belief in themselves will be your worst enemy.  Be vigilant in building them up and you will move mountains.  Celebrate along the way, but focus on what it takes to reach the top.  Take all this to heart and what ever the result you will be a the leader your team needs.