Lessons in Communication Failure
I’m all in when it comes to the value of team sports.
I grew up playing soccer at a highly competitive level. My experience on the pitch taught me values related to leadership, sportsmanship, peer interaction, communication, and overcoming adversity and disappointment.
For the past 20 years I have played pick-up basketball three times a week to maintain physical health and well-being, and as a more productive outlet for my competitive issues. I’m a productive CEO and, more important, better husband and father because of my accomplishments (and mistakes) on the court.
I’ve had two experiences this year related to team sports which have soiled my enthusiasm. The first involves a friendly acquaintance whose son plays basketball for a big time division I college program.
During his freshman year, his son played an average of 25 minutes a game with solid output in scoring, rebounding and assists. In his sophomore year he barely made it onto the court…ever.
I asked if his son had spoken with the coach to learn what he needed to get back into the playing rotation. His father explained to me the coach prefers not to speak directly with his players, rather leaving that chore up to assistants.
My own son is a third grader and a decent soccer player. This year he joined a travel team that is affiliated with prominent club in the area. (I will not mention the name because he is still a member of the team.)
The club’s directors instruct the coaches to have little (if any) interaction with the parents. Their rationale is they want to dissuade the parents from attempting to coach from the sideline or interfere with decisions related to playing time.
While there is logic to this thinking, I still find it shocking. These are 9-year-olds who are at a maturity level that require engagement and participation from their parents.
Regardless of the level of competition, a coach is in a leadership position and has a responsibility to communicate with a set of key audiences (players, parents, sponsors, etc.). Failure to do creates an environment ripe for failure.
I always try to keep the absolute need for communication in mind when working with my colleagues at Strategic Communications Group (Strategic). Honest dialogue is the bedrock of a productive relationship.
UPDATE: I just came across this letter from now former Minnesota Gopher’s football player AJ Barker. It reinforces the contention in my blog about the importance of clear and honest communication in any organization.