We Need Coaches (and Athletes) in Government

No matter which side of the political aisle you sit on, I think you might agree with me on what I am about to propose. And if it’s not exactly a proposal, it certainly is an observation and a wish.

Now, I’m not trying to persuade you one way or the other. For my entire teaching and coaching career, I have always maintained a middle-of-the-road philosophy as much as possible. While I certainly lean one way politically, I have always tried to keep that out of my discussions with my students and athletes and their parents. I have always felt that it is not my place to espouse my political leanings too much.

Oh, I’m sure through the years I have let out a comment about how I thought something was and how it should be, or I have touched on an issue from my perspective. But for the most part I have tried to stay away from doing that. My main reason was that I didn’t want to alienate any of my kids. I didn’t want them to like me or not like me based on my political leanings. I have always felt that is a good philosophy for teachers and coaches to adopt.

I have also tried to stay out of politics when it comes to writing these posts. That’s not why you’re here reading them or watching the videos. You’re here to check out some ideas on coaching and leadership.

Well, as I check out that last sentence, I can’t help but think, “If I’m writing about leadership, why can’t I write about our government’s leaders?”

Unfortunately, I usually follow up that question with, “What leaders? I don’t see a whole lot of leadership where we need leadership the most right now – our government.”

Tired of the Divide

Most of the country is tired of the whole political landscape that we find ourselves in. It feels like this is the most divisive time in our country’s history. I’ve been on the planet for almost 60 years, and I don’t ever remember feeling it so divided before. While there are certainly a lot of reasons why it feels this way and a lot of contributing factors to the way it is, we are at a crossroads.

Yet I wonder how many people actually view it that way. I believe a lot of people think, “Well, that’s just the way it is. If those ___________ (fill in the blank with Democrats/Liberals or Republicans/Conservatives) don’t pull their heads out of their butts, it’s just going to keep getting worse.”

We just watched our Congress go through an impeachment trial of our President. There were hundreds of hours of discussions, lectures, protestations, yelling, standing on soapboxes, and all kinds of posturing from both sides of the political aisle over the last few months. Yet through it all, it looks like only one person out 535 members of both houses of Congress decided to follow what he felt was right over what his side of the “team” felt was right. I imagine others on both sides voted based on what they thought was right, but more than anything, it felt like they were voting based on which side of the aisle they were on.

I put the word “team” in quotes there for a reason. For quite some time now, I have not felt like our government operates like a team. I don’t see the collaboration and putting aside one’s own agenda for the good of the team from any of them.

I don’t remember it being like that when I was younger. I’m sure they disagreed with one another. I’m sure they had spirited debates. But at the end of the day, I also felt like they rolled up their sleeves, tried to figure out how they could work together through discussion and compromise, and then came up with a solution.

It’s been a looooonnnnggggggg time since I have felt that way about our government, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

I don’t see anything that resembles a “team-first” attitude in our government. Well, actually, I guess I DO see it, but not in the way we need it. I see a “Republican Team-First Attitude” and a “Democrat Team-First Attitude” in a big way. But I don’t see an America Team-First Attitude from these people.

It’s like they have forgotten that we’re all on the same team. We’re all supposed to be working together to create the best team experience possible for ALL of us. Instead, each side seems more focused on what is best for them and for their side of the team.

Imagine if the teams you coach operated this way. Imagine if every time you instituted a new concept, a new play, a new drill, a new philosophy, or a new value to your team, half of the members of your team and your coaching staff said, “No way. We’re not doing that.”

You would never get anything done. You would never accomplish anything positive and meaningful. The people on your team who didn’t agree with you would become your opponents. Imagine trying to practice that way all week and then turn around on Friday or Saturday and trying to compete against a different opponent. You would never be successful, no matter how you define success. In fact, you probably couldn’t even agree on a definition of what true success is.

Yet this is exactly the way it is working in our government. Our “leaders” don’t want to work together and try to develop a game plan together to address the country’s problems. They want their side’s way and their way only. There is no such thing as a “team-spirit” apart from the one each party has with itself.

Bring in the Coaches and Athletes

It’s time for a change. We need coaches and athletes to take over our government. But not just coaches and athletes who are talented but not willing to work with another. We need the coaches and athletes who understand the importance of sacrificing for the good of the team. We need coaches and athletes who are willing to put in the work together to help their teammates succeed, even if they don’t always agree with their teammates on what is success.

We need a team-spirit of collaboration and cooperation that we have seen coaches creating on their teams and that athletes have been living by for years. We need people who understand that this is about something much bigger than themselves and much bigger than just what they want. We need coaches to make decisions and athletes to behave based on the team’s values, what they stand for, and what is best for the team, not what they think will keep them from getting fired from their coaching jobs or what they think will get them an athletic scholarship.

This is about what’s best for all of us. If that means I need to adapt my role and adapt my thoughts on how I behave for the good of the team, that’s what I will do.

Isn’t that what you try to create with your teams? Isn’t that what happens every day with teams in all sports all across the world? Don’t people with their own individual talents, thoughts, feelings, and desires come together and blend those talents, thoughts, feelings, and desires by working with one another toward achieving a common goal? Don’t we try to eliminate cliques from tearing apart the fabric of our teams? It’s time we start doing that in our government.

Some people might say, “Well, there are former coaches and athletes in government right now.” Sorry, but they either need to change and go back to behaving like coaches and athletes, or it’s time for them to leave. They have forfeited their roles as coaches and athletes by their actions over their time in government. They need to get back to developing a team-first attitude with EVERYBODY on the team, not just their friends. Because if they truly were going to draw upon their coach/athlete experience, we would have never gotten to this point.

So I ask you to join me in championing my new cause to bring about the kind of team experience we are all seeking with our teams for a much bigger team – America’s Team. (And no, I’m not talking about the Dallas Cowboys!)

Let’s make a push to get the best leaders, teachers, coaches, and athletes into positions where they can make a difference in our country. Let’s develop the kind of team-spirit America needs to pull itself out of the mess these people have created.

In preparation for my new cause, I’ve been working on some slogans, and I think I may have come up with a good one – “Make America a Team Again!”

What do you think? Could we use more coaches and athletes (or at least a better team-first attitude) in government ? Leave a comment below.

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