Coach's Perspective: David Svoboda 5/28
By David Svoboda PrepsKC Columnist
The safety net is gone now, having moved en masse across the graduation stage in the last few weeks.
The high school seniors of the Class of 2013 have departed their respective schools, leaving not just a physical void, but likely a leadership one as well.
Most high school football programs begin transitioning their leadership as soon as their seasons end in October or November.
But as long as those often beloved seniors are still “in the house,” there’s still the tendency to rely a bit on what’s familiar – what’s safe.
And that’s a good thing.
For high school football programs to do something other than just survive – to have a chance to thrive – they need to be constantly grooming future leaders.
There’s no “leadership formula” or “operator’s manual,” so how do successful high school coaches cultivate these vital young men?
There are three common threads.
First, they begin identifying these leaders early. Sure, kids change physically and emotionally a ton between the ages of 14 and 18, but the wise coach can begin the process of identifying a future leader when that leader is still in middle school.
If you think for one moment that the summer football skills camp put on by the high school coach is only to develop the ability to block, tackle or catch a pass, you’re wrong.
Most high school coaches spend an equal amount of time watching how young people interact with their peers and with the adults who are coaching them. Give a high school coach a young man who will make eye contact during instruction, and you’ve got someone to keep an eye on.
Second, once these athletes are “in the building,” high school coaches take advantage of every opportunity to advance these leadership abilities. Whether it be by encouraging athletes to go out for other sports or through offering philanthropic opportunities outside of their football seasons, there are plenty of ways coaches can make the formation of leaders a year-round venture.
Have “team captains” of differing grade levels in the weight room. Select “leadership councils” to meet with the coaches to express concerns – both in and out of season. Put young men in charge of running the team’s coat and blanket drive. Force the process.
Finally, high school coaches – at least those who are extremely successful – stress to their student athletes the importance of truly making teams THEIR OWN.
A successful coach often has a personality that fills a room, an aura that is overwhelming, a staff that is like glue.
But until the PLAYERS realize that it’s their team, those personalities and wise old men can’t possibly succeed.
When the young men grab hold of their team and become extensions of the coaching staff, a team can truly begin to take flight.
Don’t get me wrong: Those seniors who’ve just crossed the stages at high schools around the metro were vital in where their programs went in recent years. And, likely, they were vital in helping to shape – either positively or negatively – those who will now replace them in leadership roles.
But they’re gone.
Time for the new crop to truly step up.
David Svoboda is a columnist for PrepsKC.
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