Written by Jim Stovall
There's no doubt about it, everyone wants to be on the winning team. Some of us have the idea that if our team is more talented than the other team, or if we're lucky enough or having a good day, we'll win. But is that true? Does winning just happen?
Not according to Coach Doug Wilkins. Forty-four years ago when he coached his first football season and lost, he realized he'd better come up with a way of winning, or else! What components are necessary for winning? In the last newsletter we discussed the foundation to winning: commitment. The second factor Coach came up with was leadership.
Imagine a flock of flying geese trying to migrate without a leader. The flock wouldn't have direction and wouldn't get very far, very fast. But put a leader in front of the flock, and what would you get? The flock would be much more likely to reach its destination! A football team — or any other group working together to reach a goal – is no different. Coach Wilkins realized that he was the one who needed to lead his motley team of teenage boys, and over the years defined this role.
For starters, Coach saw that as the leader he needed to create a vision for what he wanted to achieve. That vision of winning, not just hoping to win, was a focal point which his team members could rally around. Then he created a culture to make a 12 and 0 season happen. This consisted of believing in his players and instilling in them a sense of confidence, convincing them that they were able to win. Without that confidence, he found that it was easier for them not to try. To achieve this he might say something such as, "This is how I see you," and "This is what I see you doing." He gave them each journals in which they were to write down something that would bring them to a 12 and 0 season. They were to do this every day. Furthermore, Wilkins took an interest in his kids not only during practice and football season. He got to know them by talking with them, visiting them, and sending them notes. By showing care for each player, Wilkins conveyed that they were valuable and worth his time, and he set the foundation for being able to ask a lot of his kids.
Part of the purpose in getting to know his players was to groom seniors as leaders. Wilkins looked for seniors who were willing to make decisions, take responsibility for the team, and lead workouts. By doing this, these student leaders became examples to their peers. The kids took ownership of the team, and this improved motivation and the drive to win.
Another facet of leading the team was setting the pace. For Wilkins that meant excellence in all things, off the field as well as on. This included grades and being on time, along with respecting his instructions, each other, and the no drinking or drug policy he set for his players. As leader, Wilkins saw that a key component to winning meant endorsing and supporting the behaviors he wanted, rather than those he didn't want. Focusing on the negative stole energy away from the positive, instead of attracting the behaviors he desired.
By inspiring and creating direction for his players, Coach Wilkins shaped teams that won consistently over the course of his forty-four-year career. By following Wilkins' formula for winning, each of us can do more than hope to win. We can play all out – and win, too.