I recently listened to Jeremy Boone’s Coach Your Best podcast.  It’s one of the best podcasts out there for coaches and you need to subscribe to it if you are a coach.  In a recent episode he had author, Sam Walker, on the show who researched the impact of leadership on dynastic teams for his new book, The Captain’s Class.  Here’s 5 interesting takeaways:

  1. The most impactful captains are not necessarily the best players because great leadership on a sport’s team has very little to do with talent.  This was totally surprising for me!  He pointed out that perhaps we need to look for captains and develop leadership amongst those who are the least likely to come to our minds as leaders.  Because as Walker states, leadership characteristics require two things…
  2. Those two things are: 1) how they interact with others and 2) what their motivations are.  The all-time great captains interact well with the teammates and command respect and their motivations are always aimed at the team.
  3. Great captains partner with coaches.  They serve as intermediaries between the coach and the rest of the team.  They often times will butt heads with the coach but they always maintain a partnership.  Walker points out the example of Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich who bicker “like an old married couple” but it’s always within the realm of what’s best for the team–two passionate competitors looking to make the team better.
  4. The best captains stand on principle and will push-back on certain issues.  As a coach this was a huge eye-opener!  Walker expands on this as he states there are two kinds of conflict:  1)  personal conflict based on not liking somebody and, 2) task conflict which is based on how to perform better.  Personal conflict is always toxic and task conflict is actually a good thing where the athlete is doing the coach “a service.”  This reminds me when I was in college and I remember one of our top players getting into it with our coach over our relay system.  I was surprised to see the player verbally engage the coach on that level and as a somebody who always kept my mouth shut with authority it struck me as odd.  But now I get it!  That player was engaged in task conflict.  Regardless of whether or not it was the best way to go about having that conversation, as coaches perhaps we should view those situations differently.  This athlete was looking to make the team better.  That’s not a terrible thing.  As coaches that gives us the opportunity to lay aside ego and make sure our team knows that while we possess standards we are all in it together to reach our goal of making the team the best we can.
  5. A captain possessing autonomy is crucial to success.  Walker points out that in all the case studies of the dynasties there was a central leader who was difficult at times to work with but who had autonomy to lead as needed.  Developing autonomy and empowering my athletes will be one area of major focus next season with me.  Here’s a few things I’m planning on refining next season:
    1. Pitch Calling — work a lot with our catchers on how to call good games and work to hand the reins over to them.
    2. Pick Plays — we are going to simplify our pick system and allow the shortstop and maybe catcher to call more of those but to do so in a much quicker way than most teams do.
    3. Green Lights — work to simplify the mathematics and strategies behind base stealing and then give many more green lights to our baserunners.
    4. Practice Plans — partner with our players to gather more feedback for drills and practice plans.

I appreciate Sam Walker’s thought and as always big thanks to Jeremy Boone for his work in helping us coaches.  I can’t wait to put this stuff to use and further develop this area of our programs.