Leadership Lessons from the Field

Lots of studies have shown that playing sports helps individuals become better team players and future leaders. That makes sense, but I also think it’s important to have the right coach to provide that guidance.

I was fortunate throughout my athletic career (field hockey, volleyball, track) to have great coaches for the most part. I was reminded of this again listening to Gina Lucida, the field hockey coach for the University of Richmond, who recently shared her views on leadership to faculty and staff. I was fortunate to be in the audience.

One of the things she stressed, “If you say things, they have to become real.” For Lucida, she wanted to win a national champion and at UR, she has led the Spiders to three Atlantic 10 Regular Season Championships, two A-10 Tournament Championships and two NCAA Tournament berths.

“If you say things, they have to become real.”

I wanted to become president of a national communications group and I said it out loud and a year later, I was president. Of course, there was a lot of hard work in earning that position, just as lots of hard work is involved in winning championships. But if you don’t say what you want, there is no way to make it real.

Lucida also talked about how leaders must continue to grow. “You constantly have to refine yourself because you are asking others to do the same thing.”

One of the ways I continue to grow is by reading books on leadership and joining with others to discuss them. I also follow bloggers who cover the subject. For about a year I had a coach, too, who helped me continue to refine myself. When I need a tune-up, he’s always available for a call.

Athletes also succeed because they are surrounded by like-minded people. They often live in the same dorm, study together and, of course, practice and play together. “You can’t underestimate the power of like-minded people,” Lucida said.

I belong to several professional organizations, which greatly helps me. Not only do I learn from subject matter experts, I also develop a network of like-minded people whom I can call when I need advice.

Lucida also stressed the importance of focusing on your strengths. While it’s important to know your competition in athletics, you don’t want to spend all of your time focused on them. By focusing on your strengths, she said, you perform at your best.

That’s great advice, whether you’re on the field or meeting a deadline.

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