November 2011: For The Record


For The Record

This fall, I thrust myself back into the world of youth athletics, when I decided to coach cheerleading again after many years.

I was a lifer – I cheered from the time I was 7 years old, and loved it for myriad reasons. That’s why coaching the sport (yes, I said “sport”) always has been a privilege for me. The more I’ve done it, the more I’ve realized how important my role as a coach and a leader really is.

This year has been different for a couple of reasons. I am coaching 5- and 6-year-old girls. Having never coached children who were quite so young, I’ve learned to adjust to the nuances of this age. Practices are likely to be interrupted by the fascination of a grasshopper, potty breaks and boo boos of all sorts.

The other reason this year differed is that, for the first time, my child is on the squad. Macy is 5, and this is her first year cheering. I see the girls in a whole new way, because now, I’m a mom. When I coached in the past, I didn’t have that “insider” parent perspective. Watching the kids learn, grow and embrace cheerleading has been such a thrill for me – such a pleasure. And this year, “my girls” are not only the girls I am coaching, they’ve become my daughter’s friends. I love that.

In contrast to the differences that have come along with coaching a kindergarten squad, some things have not changed. I still am teaching my girls to take what they do seriously. Fun and discipline can go together. Commitment is crucial, and a lack of it affects the entire squad. Love the sport; respect the sport. Love each other; respect each other.

The icing on the cake is that my girls love me as much as I love them. Shy little girls who may have been difficult to coax out of their shells are greeting me now with bear hugs and enthusiasm. Hyper girls who needed to be reined in a little have become exemplary leaders. I have taught them not only to be cheerleaders, but to embrace the experience, show respect and understand commitment.

Think about your role as a leader – as a coach, of sorts – at the office and on the jobsite. Leaders don’t just hire and fire, and they don’t just sign paychecks. Do you build relationships with your employees? Do they respect you, your company, and the distinct roles they play as employees?

You are in the position to make a difference. Hopefully, you see that, and you make the most of your role as a leader in the lives of your employees. Model the attitude you expect. “Coach up” the employees in whom you see potential. And always lead by example. It really does matter.

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