The ladies came together gathering around the central pillar in our weight room to receive feedback from our strength & conditioning staff regarding the outcome of their mission. They circled up standing shoulder to shoulder while their hands were still covered in chalk and sweat still pouring down their faces. They look eagerly towards us awaiting to receive their mission outcome. We make it a habit to debrief the team and the individual leader for every session (or evolution) we lead our athletes through. In this session, Whitney stood proudly in front of her teammates having lead her squad through the 60 minutes of challenging feats of strength & power.
“Give it up to Whitney for having the courage to lead the team today”, I command. The teammates hoot and holler while applauding and acknowledging Whitney’s trial of fire through our leadership program.
“Let’s Debrief. Whitney, give your teammates one thing they did well today and one thing they need to improve on before our next session.” I said. She turned to her teammates and commented that her squad did a great job communicating coaching cues to each other while navigating through a new lift, consisting of new exercises. I nod my head while listening to her.
Whitney then addressed that the team needed to do a better job at hustling from one exercise to another. I paused as I listened to the words Whitney was saying. “Their were moments where I was coaching you to jog from one side of the weight room to the other and not every single athlete was responding”.
I affirmed her statement by nodding along as she was recalling the tough and physically challenging 60 minute session. I held a long pause, to draw the team’s focus, before moving along. “Teammates! Give your team leader one thing she did well today and one thing she needs to improve on before her next opportunity to lead.” I asked the team.
The teammates were quick to respond on Whitney’s ability to to “see the room” and offer vigorous partner coaching to every single one of them. Tonya, one of Whitney’s teammates, quickly added “Although I wasn’t Whitney’s partner during this lift, she was always pushing me to do better; even while she was struggling through an exercise, her focus was on improving her teammates.”
“Tonya, You’re absolutely right” I said. I scanned the team and made individual eye contact for a few moments with every athlete. “What’s one thing she can improve on before her next leading opportunity?” I inquired. The team fell silent and soon after, the eye contact strayed.
“If you’re too afraid of hurting someone’s feelings, you’ll never be confident in your ability to lead” I said. I attempted to get the ball rolling by addressing our fundamental strength & conditioning belief.
‘”Whitney, you’re responsibility is to make sure our teammates accomplish the mission. Your mission today was to ensure every athlete abide by our four weight room standards. You identified that several of your teammates did not respond to you coaching. Their response falls upon your ability to lead; as its your sole responsibility to complete the mission.”
She responded with an affirming nod and continued to listen.
“Use my staff to help communicate your message. If you see teammates not responding to your command, confront the teammate to walk in lock-stop. I promise you that I’ll back you 100% during the session.” She again nodded understandingly.
I asked the rest of my staff to contribute their feedback regarding what they witnessed during the lift. In an instructed and educated manner, they sandwich their responses to the team of athletes. They start by reinforcing or praising a few positive elements of the session. Our staff then follows the positive reinforcement with future-oriented instruction that identifies elements of the lift where the athlete could improve. My team then encourages them with motivational praise ergo conveying our confidence in their ability to perform the skill correctly.
“What are we saying today” I enthusiastically command as I reach my clutched fist into the middle of the circle. “Shocks on three”, Whitney responded. In a violent eruption Whitney yells out “one, two, three” . The team roars will a loud and defining “SHOCKS!”
It’s all in a days work, and coincidentally, it all transpires in final moments of each session. I believe these last 5 minutes allow for the greatest growth of an athlete. Perhaps, more importantly, it allows for the greatest opportunity for the growth of a leader.