7 Ways an Athletic Director Needs to Infect Coaches with CONTAGIOUS BELIEF

Dabo Swinney once quipped, ‘I don’t think I am an overachiever, but I know I am an over believer.’ Coach K noted in Leading with the Heart the most important thing he does is convince his players he believes in them. My dissertation investigated what athletic directors can do to increase the efficacy (belief) of their varsity head coaches. Belief matters. I do not have a medical degree, but I assure you belief is contagious.

There are actions that an athletic director can take to spread the virus of belief around their department. Here are a few of them.

SAY, ‘I BELIEVE IN YOU’ – Dr. Jimmy Scroggins, the lead pastor of the Family Church network in south Florida, once told me a leader can sometimes speak things into existence if they talk about it enough. Jimmy doesn’t believe in ‘name it and claim it’ theology, but he does value the power of saying things out loud. When was the last time you told your coaches and staff you believed in them?

SHOW UP IN A GOOD MOOD – My father has been a school leader for 47 years. He has always made the choice to show up to school each day in a good mood. Leaders are the weather and if they really believe in what they are doing why would they bring bad weather to their people? Belief is contagious when the leader chooses his mood wisely.

LIKE YOUR PEOPLE – Rita Pierson once heard a fellow teacher groan, ‘they don’t pay me to like kids.’ Rita famously responded, ‘kids don’t learn from teachers they don’t like’. You can watch Rita’s Ted Talk here. People are smart. They know when they are liked, tolerated, or disliked. A leader must confront toxic traits, ignore annoying traits, and focus on the redeeming traits of their people. In short, a leader can’t spread belief to people they don’t like.

REMIND PEOPLE ABOUT THE PURPOSE – The daily grind of athletics is relentless. There is a never ending flow of practices, fields to be lined, games, buses, meetings, and banquets. It can be easy for coaches and staff members to wonder if the minutia really matters. But, when day-to-day life is put in the context of purpose, it matters a lot. Patrick Lencioni calls leaders, CROs – chief reminding officers. And if a leader really believes in the purpose why wouldn’t they remind people of it all the time?

BE REALLY PREPARED – Bobby Knight was right when he said that everyone wants to win, but few want to prepare to win. The relentless preparation of an athletic director sends a message to coaches and staff that what is happening matters. You know what undermines belief in the purpose of an athletic department? An athletic director that doesn’t believe strongly enough to be prepared.

USE THEIR IDEAS – I coached varsity basketball for almost 20 years. I made it a habit to let my players choose the play in a game winning situation. Why wouldn’t I let them choose if I really believed in them? You will be surprised how good the ideas of your coaches and staff are and how contagious belief becomes if you use their ideas.

RECOGNIZE CONTRIBUTIONS SPECIFICALLY – Nehemiah is the Old Testament leader that successfully rallied the Jewish people to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem in just 52 days. Shortly after that, Nehemiah went to great lengths to write down the names and tasks of those that contributed. That is a small, potent leadership lesson for all of us. Belief is solidified in people when the leader recognizes their contributions specifically, by name and task.

We all just endured a global pandemic. Our society has never been more sensitive to things that are contagious. Is belief something you are spreading in your department?

Dr. Chris Hobbs is the Director of Institutional Advancement at Second Baptist School in Houston, Texas. He spent 16 years as an athletic administrator in Virginia, New Jersey, and Florida. Dr. Hobbs holds a masters’ degree in sport coaching from the United States Sports Academy and a CMAA from the NIAAA. In 2018, he was named a top 40 under 40 sport industry leader by Coach & AD magazine and in 2019 he was named the national athletic director of the year by Varsity Brands, BSN. You can follow him on Twitter @Dr_ChrisHobbs

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