This is the proven method to develop your core standards and unify your players, coaches and program as one cohesive unit.
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“Build your team a feeling of oneness, of dependence on one another, and of strength to be derived by unity.”
– Vince Lombardi
In 2013, I went from a small, rural school in South Dakota to one of the largest schools in our state. Having a team focused on unity and on the same standards was easier in a small school because we had every one of our students in class. We could speak every day, and I had a good feel on the vibe of the athletes. At Washington High School, I did not have that luxury, and it was hard to see and talk with my athletes daily. I whole-heartedly believe that leadership is a contact sport and that teams and leaders need to see and interact daily. The problem we faced in this new community was getting to know our players and the players getting to know us. We needed to come up with a method so we could work on developing our core standards and unify our Warriors as a cohesive unit.
Starting the Leadership Council
Starting the leadership council was a big task. It had to be real. It had to reflect both the athletes and me authentically. It had to be about giving our athletes a voice, and for them to build the team they wanted it to be. I wanted to give ownership to them, and I wanted to get to know them on a personal level. I began by speaking to one of my mentors, Lew Johnston. Lew gave me ideas on how he was running his senior leadership council. Then I researched Tom Osborne’s Unity Council during his time as head coach at Nebraska. I began reading leadership books from John Wooden, Jeff Janssen, John Gordon, Tim and Brian Knight, and many more. From this research, I trusted my heart and built the council with the sole purpose to help build a more accountable and focused team, just like the Lombardi quote.
The Makeup of the Leadership Council
Our Leadership Council meets every two weeks in the off-season. It originally started off with just seniors from the team but has since evolved to include elected members from each class. We meet before school for about 45 minutes. This past year, it included coaches from our basketball and volleyball teams because they wanted to learn how we were building our team. The purpose of this council is to help build the culture of the team. My job is to start and direct conversations. I spend most of my time taking notes and listening to their needs, wants, and concerns. We see true leaders step up and voice their thoughts. This creates an open dialogue, and it is fun to listen to the guys. This council makes a lot of decisions regarding the direction of the team, including which summer camps we will be attending to handling behavior issues. Before each meeting, I send out an agenda with a thought or idea to discuss, but we want it to be fluid. After each meeting, I send out notes of our discussions.
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- How Coach Stadem gave ownership to his players in projecting the core values of the program.
- The responsibilities he gives his leadership council to hold other players accountable in adhering to the core values.
- The Leadership Council’s role in handling discipline matters in the program.
- The individual and team off-season goal progression that Coach Stadem and his staff uses to drive the core values of the program.
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The Leadership Council has really tightened us up as a team. We feel the team has become more focused on our core values and goals. We know our expectations and understand we all are held accountable to our core values. We honestly feel that this Council has separated us from other teams. We have seen our teams fight through tough times and handle it with maturity. The team feels they have a voice in how we do things. I believe in the Tom Osborne quote, “The greatest human need is that of being heard." We all want to be heard. It is part of collaborating with others and building something bigger than ourselves. We all provide input to the building of the team and that brings a sense of belonging, which happens to be one of our pillars of the Circle of Courage. The Lombardi quote, “Build your team a feeling of oneness, of dependence on one another, and of strength to be deprived by unity” is the direction we are moving toward Washington.
Team building is a never-ending process. Each year brings new ideas and challenges. If we work together, we can accomplish anything. I want to thank X&O Labs for the opportunity to share about our Leadership Council. If you have ideas about improving our team-building process, please reach out and share them with me.
Meet Coach Chad Stadem: Coach Stadem has just completed his 17th year as a head coach, 20th overall, and 7th at Washington. He has a career record of 125-53 with a total of 5 state championships. He has been a head coach at 3 different schools and has won a state championship at each of those schools. Between 2015 through 2018 Washington had a 35-game win streak and has won 3 out of 4 State Championships in their class. Sioux Falls Washington holds the NFHS National Record of 42 State Championships.