Building and Fulfilling a Team Vision

By Jake Henderson

Coming into any new endeavor, leaders have a vision.   Each school year, I have a vision and plan of what math concepts I want them to learn, how I want my classroom to run and how I want them to grow as people and students.  As the only teacher in my small alternative program returning this year, I had a vision for how we could make positive changes.

Leaders must have a simple, clear and compelling vision.  Tony Dungy put it this way, “A well-cast vision is one that can commonly be shared by all members of the team.”  At the beginning of each season I have always felt that giddy feeling, where you see the potential of your team.  The whole season is in front of you.  It’s exciting!  Then as the season wears on, through the ups and downs, it is important to keep your eye on the vision you have set out for your team.  Not only do you need to continually buy in to that vision, but you need your team to as well.

Getting everyone to buy into that vision throughout the long season is difficult.  As a leader of a team, captain or coach, you must continually keep players focused on the vision, but you can’t allow yourself or your team to forget about the now.  Players are people, not robots.  People need to see little victories.  And outside of ultimate, people have lives and they need to know they are cared for not just as a teammate, but as a friend.  Stuff happens in life and it is important to take time care for the players on our team; don’t let the vision get in the way of caring for your players’ lives in ultimate and outside.  Part of that vision can’t just be an end result to the season; it has to be about building better players and people and creating a real team.

After losing in the semis to the eventual champions in 2012, Drag’n came into the season with high expectations.  As a first year coach, I had a vision for the team.  I wanted a national championship and I wasn’t alone.  At our annual retreat in August, we share team and personal goals.  I compiled everyone’s goals and we put them into a few different categories.  Those three categories were: win a national championship, have fun playing with this amazing group of people and become a better ultimate player.

I tried to keep that vision for our team the rest of the season.  We stated our goals.  But as the season wore on and the results didn’t go as expected and life happened outside of ultimate, I struggled to keep players focused on the vision.  Players had family issues, job changes, injuries, bad practices and games and some players had low confidence.  Throughout our season, I tried to build positive relationships with all players on the team and kept their eyes focused on their personal goals as well as the teams.  I truly cared for every player on Drag’n despite what happened on the field and that doesn’t mean I didn’t get frustrated with players.  But I think everyone knew I had their best interest and the team’s best interest at heart.  When we got to nationals we had built to that vision: we had fun playing with an amazing group of people all summer long, individually everyone became a better ultimate player and we were poised to win a national championship.  For most leaders, the vision is rarely completely fulfilled, for us this past year, it was.

As we look towards 2014, Drag’n is stirring.  We are training.  We will have new teammates.  We will have new challenges.  And we will have a new vision to match.  We will craft this new vision and identity, we will build it together.  And as a coach, it will be my job to hold on to that vision, and to make it evident to our team daily.

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