WIN Article #116 Team Authority


Team Authority
By Ben Peterson

Sooner or later coaches in any sport need to correct and discipline their athletes. Wrestling is no different. We must continually bring discipline and order to our teams, so let me list some important factors to consider.

Coaching and Team Leadership are Natural Positions of Respect.
When a person is given a position of leadership, authority must also be given. For coaching, the authority comes from the school administration or a club’s officers. It needs to be clearly communicated by authorities that the coach has the position and the responsibility to make decisions and guide the team. The clearer and more directly this is stated the better. If a head or assistant coach or captain position is not clearly stated, there may be doubts or questions concerning their authority. It is always wise and helpful to clearly identify each one in leadership even for those who volunteer their time.
Once we receive our position of authority we need to be careful not to undermine that authority. If we are not honest, prepared, organized or we are lazy, we may very well find ourselves starting to lose the ability to instruct, discipline and even motivate our athletes.
The more we live in a disciplined worthy manner, the less chance there is that the initial respect will be lost. Instead, we can increase respect. It is natural for athletes to honor a new coach when the coach comes with clearly stated credentials and compliments from their superiors. The personal discipline, hard work, honesty, and commitment of team leaders will build on his beginning respect.
We must be sure to show honor to others as well. If we are not respectful to authority ourselves, then we should not be surprised when others resist following our leadership.
Unfortunately, misunderstandings and false accusations can undermine a leader’s authority. The support of superiors and the character of the leader can sustain him during such time even if it means that he starts over with a new team.

Youth Will Naturally Test the Authority Over Them.
Any parent can verify the testing of authority their children do. All children do it but to different degrees. Some are very confrontational, while others are much calmer and less frequent or dramatic in their testing of authority. Some may just watch others do the challenging and then observe and learn. Being 5th in a line of six children, I did a lot of watching and learning. Before leaving home, I knew it paid to respect and obey authority. The experiences of older brothers clearly proved that concept for me.
A reason many regularly test the leadership/authority over them is to verify that leadership. Children want stability and security. That security needs to be proven. If a leader is not willing to be tested he may find himself losing respect. Verifying strength, stability, honesty, and consistency is so important to the insecure. So expect to verify your leadership position at all times.
If we do not live with maturity, confidence, and consistency we can cause those around us to be insecure. They need to have confidence that we will stay strong as their leader. Often when we verify stability to those who test us, we find they become our hardest working most committed team members. Note: it may take time for us to verify our worthiness and for some to fully accept it.

Work to Illustrate Stability, Consistency, Honesty and Confidence.
Many coaches, captains, and sports leaders fall into the “be cool, be macho, or be tough” crowd. If we choose this method we will always need to prove ourselves, always need to be more cool, more macho, and tougher. As soon as someone else outdoes us, we begin to lose authority. If our desire to “be cool” includes foul or crude language then we may need to get more and more vulgar to impress as time goes on. Personally, I see no place for foul or dirty talk in the practice room or locker room. Such actions quickly tear down respect and authority.

Everyone has a desire to be accepted. Therefore it is easy to want to be friends or buddies with our team. While it is always proper to be gracious, caring and friendly - trying to be best friends can bring definite pitfalls. To this day I recall the professional way legendary Iowa State coach Harold Nichols conducted himself with his National Championship teams. Coach was friendly and courteous, but not our close friend. He made too many choices between his wrestlers to appear favorable to any one. Coach was not perfect in this matter, but his distance brought respect and permitted him to correct us and motivate us to heights we could not have reached alone.

Some practical recommendations for wrestling leadership:
1. Be professional, a cut above the crowd in appearance, manner and talk.
2. Standardize and simplify schedules and expectations whenever possible.
3. Avoid over-manipulating your athletes and putting unnecessary demands on them.
4. Create and continually reinforce a positive, encouraging, hopeful atmosphere at practice and meets.
5. Give each athlete space to grow and develop individually.
6. Don’t be threatened by any challenges, but stay stable and confident.

Coaches and team leaders influence so many others. I pray that each of us who lead wrestling teams will have wisdom and determination to create stability and confidence for our teams. And I pray that we are able to lead with honor and consistency.

Find other articles by Ben at: Today Ben & John Peterson run Camp of Champs Wrestling Camps.
Contact them at: PO Box 222 Watertown, WI 53094 800-505-5099

Asics USA Wrestling The Competitor
USA Wrestling
National Wrestling Hall of Fame
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