By Justin “Coach Mac” MacDonald
This report is about creating an intentional plan to develop your key leaders - quarterbacks - in more than their athletic and cognitive domains, but also in the area of their character. The outcome of a character development plan is twofold - having a positive impact on these individuals and the next generation of young men. But the more practical benefit of focusing on character development is that our programs benefit from leaders we trust are more likely to make the right choices in split-second moments they have to impact the team’s season.
Leadership is the cause - everything else the effect.
Leadership in and of itself is not inherently positive or negative. Leadership is simply influencing. And I know you can think of some very influential leaders who were the bad guys.
What makes Leadership positive is the character, and character is shaped by values - what behaviors a person or people group value as good and useful.
So, as you look to develop the general leadership in your program, are you being deliberate about the key leader and future leaders of your program - your quarterbacks? And are you being deliberate about revealing, developing, and shaping the character and values of those quarterbacks in your offseason? And are you shaping your future Quarterback in his most formative years as an underclassmen years before he’s the varsity signal caller?
Football can probably be boiled down to one thing: trust.
As a coach, nowhere is that trust more important than with your leaders and specifically your quarterbacks. You trust him to make good game time decisions in your system. You trust him to represent your program well in school and in the media. You trust him to make good off-field decisions with how he behaves and how he treats others. Ultimately, you trust him in one key thing: to make the best possible choice in all scenarios.
That’s a tall order for us all because we are dealing with a bunch of humans who are inherently flawed, ourselves included. But being flawed doesn’t mean we expect or allow those we lead to make poor, selfish choices that jeopardize the team mission. Forgive, coach, teach, redeem, absolutely, but this is not about being reactive, it’s about being proactive.
Ever had a player let you or the team down at the worst possible time in a game or a season? Poor choice. Pulled himself out of the game. Got himself ejected. Acted cowardly. Violated a policy. Just went straight up selfish?
Ever seen one player’s actions change an entire season?
Of course, you have. You could look up this story from this year with one of the country’s top players. You could find the same story any year all over the country. How many years, thousands of hours, sacrifices from players, parents, coaches, changed in a single decision? It’s like we’re building programs out of a house of cards that can fall with a thoughtless breeze of selfishness.
This is not about judgment. Mistakes are exactly how we learn. It’s why we look at game film. Life has game film too. The secret is to look at some of Life’s game film with our leaders before they must experience things themselves.
It’s about stepping into an integral role in the shaping of the next generation of men, the next generation of leaders. Coaches spend more time with players than their parents do. Like it or not, we’ve got an opportunity - I would say an obligation - to model and develop our players’ character.
There are no more important players to trust than your quarterbacks. They hold the keys to what you’re building.
We intentionally develop their ability to deliver the ball on a key 3rd down, doesn’t it make sense to be as intentional about how we develop their entire decision-making system - their character?
So, here’s a truth that can greatly shape the way we lead and develop our leaders:
People perform based on the way the world occurs to them.
Let that sink in for a second.
Every bone-headed, confusing, straight up wrong, or head-scratching thing you've ever seen someone does made perfect sense to that person based on how he or she saw the world at that moment.
Every disappointing choice or behavior you’ve had a player make was the result of a perfectly coordinated series of events begun months or years before that led to that outcome. It’s like a chain of dominoes set up a long time ago by all the experiences a person has had in life.
Your power as a coach is to change the default future of where those dominos lead.
So what shapes occurrence?
Occurrence arises in language... so what language are you using to shape your players' occurrences? How the world and their place in it occur for them.
One occurrence is whether the character is a thing your program talks about, believes is fixed or changeable and is something it intentionally develops. "Does Coach work our muscles, minds, and mindsets?"