Thursday, April 4, 2013

Learning from an elite basketball coach

A few leadership lessons that came to mind were passion, commitment, dedication.

By Martin Tirado, CAE
In early January, I had a surprising inspirational and learning experience. Where did this happen? At a local 1st grade basketball practice of course. I’m watching my son at his first basketball practice this past winter, he’s on 1 of 8 teams practicing in a large field house. Another team practicing on half the court in front of me makes me take notice. The coach of this group of 1st graders is Buzz Williams, head coach of the Marquette University men’s basketball team. This is elite level, he just took Marquette to the Elite 8 in last year’s NCAA tournament, they were nationally ranked during most of the past season, and here he is in a local high school field house filled with kids who are playing organized basketball for the first time in their lives. Wow.

I’m clearly focusing on him now, as are several other parents. How will he coach a team of 1st graders compared to how I see him coaching on the sidelines during games? Now here’s the inspirational stuff. He brought the same passion, enthusiasm and positive attitude he brings as a college coach to these kids, yet without the harsh criticisms he must at times have with his college players. He was loud, he was encouraging, he was sweating, and most importantly, he didn’t seem to care where he was or who was paying attention. He had 100% of his attention and focus devoted to the 10 kids fortunate enough to have him as a coach. 

A few leadership lessons that came to mind were passion, commitment, dedication. At the end of practice, he even taught his team how to properly encourage each other from the sidelines and that player substitutions require giving your teammate a ‘high-five’ when entering or exiting a game. Teamwork. Despite his stature in the community, he’s taking time every Sunday afternoon this winter to coach these young kids, including his own, in the basics of basketball. Humility.

What’s to be learned here? To me, a lot, and I’m glad I was there to see it.

SIMA’s CEO of the Year award was created to recognize leaders with many of these leadership traits, and how they reflect on the values and culture of professional snow and ice management companies. If you work with or know of someone who would be a great candidate to receive the CEO of the Year Award in 2013, please nominate them at

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