Inside the Huddle – It’s Time for Battle

In our sport of cross country, we bring the team together a few minutes before the race and run through a few things.  The head coach usually leads with a message, the assistant coaches add a few thoughts and the captains give a final word or two as motivation.  We always end with a prayer and what we call a “break down”, which is a final team cheer.

As head coach, I usually have some notes as I head into this huddle.  But this past week I decided I was going to “wing it”.  I didn’t prepare any notes the week of the race and I figured something would come to me.

Well, it really did….

As I was getting ready to head to the big race, something kept coming to mind.  It was something I thought of while I was sleeping, and it stuck with me that morning.  While I was on the treadmill in the morning, I re-framed it a bit, but it’s something I have thought about every day since that race (we are now 4 days out from the race).

The thought that kept coming to mind was something that I was struggling with.  As a coach, I am always preaching to the team about being compassionate to those around you and really showing love and care for those you interact with each day.  But what I was really struggling with was the second part of coaching – and that is to teach a young athlete to be aggressive and to be tough.  As I noted in the huddle, they have to be able to take the fight to the opponent at some points in the season and in life.

In the huddle, I explained that I want them to be human beings that change the world in a positive way; but it’s also important to be able to battle your opponent and be tougher and stronger than those you go into battle with.  That is my struggle.  Should we be teach the young men and women in our care, to love those around them, or should we teach them to battle for every inch.

After four days, I think I have settled on this – it’s a little bit of both.

A good program, a good team and good office really wants to make a difference.  They all want to be helpful and caring.  That is very important.  But a good organization is always looking to be better and to be stronger.  As leaders we have to teach our athletes and our employees to be tough and fight for things.  We have to teach resiliency, toughness and grit.

At the end of the day, both approaches are crucial to development within a team and an organization.  I think it is important to define what is most important to you as a leader.  And to define what is most important to your team/group.  Once you know what’s important and what drives your group, you can develop a course of action.

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

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