Old Fashioned Leadership Builds Timeless Virtues

targetLast week, I had the chance to speak to three hundred athletes on the campus of Greenville College. Greenville is a small, private Christian college in the town of Greenville, Illinois, population 7,000.

What I loved most about the coaches and players at this school is that while they compete to win games, they are about something far bigger than W’s on a field or a court. Their scorecard is a bit larger than most teams. The athletic department is attempting to build men and women with character, leadership and the kind of virtues that make for great citizens once they graduate. I know, I know…this sounds so cliché. Isn’t every college program trying to do this?

Nope. For some, the only scorecard that counts is next Saturday’s.

May I give you an example of what good leadership looks like for student athletes? The Greenville College basketball team is led by Coach George Barber.

In order to cultivate responsibility:

1. When a player is called for a foul, they must raise their hand high for all to see, and for the scorekeepers to note without a referee running over to confirm. (We all did this when I played basketball in school, but we got away from it, thinking it wasn’t cool or might humiliate a player).

2. When the ball goes out of bounds or play is stopped, the player closest to the ball runs it over and hands it to the referee. This reinforces service and humility, as well as respect for authority. This is also a lost art today, as players seem to think it’s always someone else’s job to do that sort of thing.

3. Following games, the entire team gathers on the court for “Afterglow.” Family and fans can gather as well. In this brief gathering, players do “put ups” which are short comments of encouragement or affirmation, for what teammates did that night during the game. This reinforces big-picture vision among the players. Following the “put ups” players can introduce out-of-town family members.

4. Finally, after each game and Afterglow, players lock arms and sing the school alma mater as a team. While they don’t claim to be a choir, this reinforces team spirit and camaraderie for everyone. It reinforces unity before heading to the showers, even if the team lost the game.

Whether you’re a coach, teacher, youth worker or some other leader, the patterns you reinforce send messages to your students. Do you reinforce the big picture with your leadership style? Or…is it just about next week’s game?


Old Fashioned Leadership Builds Timeless Virtues