Is YOUR Sport, making YOU, A Leader?

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For so many of us, playing sports is……. WELL,…... playing sports. The thrill of playing the game: carrying the football, shooting the basketball, trying to stop break-aways, swinging at the baseball, etc., etc., etc. are what keeps us up night after night. Who can sleep!?

When we get older, however, many of us old folks realize more and more that although playing the game was INCREDIBLE,( Boy, I wish I could still play!) equally as important was that there was MORE to the game. It taught us stuff. It made us better.


2013 Heisman trophy finalists pose with the legendary trophy.

The Heisman race finally got resolved last Saturday night as Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston took home the trophy in a landslide.

Lost in the shuffle, however, was the fact that Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron was a surprise runner up. It really should not have been a surprise with his 36-3 record as a starter, his school-record 8, 243 passing yards and 72 touchdown passes, and his nation-leading pass efficiency rating as a junior…not to mention leading Alabama to the National Championship that year, defeating Notre Dame.


A.J. McCarron with the 2013 Maxwell Award.

To be sure, McCarron has received recognition for his remarkable football career at Alabama, including last week winning the prestigious Maxwell Award for the national player of the year. What was best during his acceptance speech, maybe, was his humility; thanking his teammates and his acknowledgment that it is no easy task playing for Coach Nick Saban.

A.J. McCarron's acceptance speech after winning the Maxwell Award


A.J. McCarron's reference to Coach Saban helped me remember to the beginning of this year's football season. One of my former players I coached at Moeller High School, John DaVita, had shared with me a great article about A.J. McCarron and Nick Saban written in ESPN the Magazine. A.J. is talking about his freshmen year at Alabama and a 1 on 1 experience he had with Coach Saban.

I've copied it below:


“I was running with the 3’s and 4’s-almost all walk-ons,” he says of a scrimmage in the fall of ‘09. “We were against the 1’s. I was pissed and felt like I couldn’t show Coach Saban what I was capable of, so I went to his office and complained about being with walk-ons. He let me rant and simply asked, “Are you done?” Then he made it clear this was a test---a leadership test---and that I’d failed it miserably. “It wasn’t about you, he said, but your ability to make your teammates better. You didn’t. You failed.


Our biggest job as coaches is to make our players BETTER people. We have to train them to become better leaders. We have to train them to be better problem solvers. We have to train them to be better communicators. We have to train them to be better teammates: people that actually care and are willing to sacrifice their celebrity for the TEAM. So many coaches "claim" they do this everyday by coaching their players in playing the game. But so many players aren't realizing these lessons( I know I wasn't!) and applying them to the rest of their lives. Making that connection OFTEN MUST include a translation from the coach---a 1 on 1---like what Coach Saban did with McCarron. Many times these meetings are NOT going to be easy; communicating truths to a young person is no easy task! But they are necessary, all the same.

A.J. McCarron is thanking Coach Saban for all those lessons he taught him, for sure. Undoubtedly, he is also thanking him for having the time to explain to him the meaning behind those lessons so he could actually USE them.

SportsLeader urges ALL OF US, to make "playing the sport" so much more than just playing the sport. Let's everyone of us take the time to coach, nurture, urge, celebrate our young people…1-on-1... the REAL LESSONS taught through our sport. Champions are just waiting to be made….and waiting for OUR help to make it happen!

Need help making your players, Leaders? Contact us at SportsLeader!