Day 1 of the Steel Sports coaching symposium got off to a bang with a story from President and COO Mark Cole about his early encounters with Executive Chairman Warren Lichtenstein on the ski slopes of Aspen.
For those not familiar, FCUSA is subsidiary of UK Elite, which is a part of Steel Sports. UK Elite is focused on providing a world class youth soccer experience offering team and individual soccer training, camps, club teams, international tours, and club services across the US. Steel Sports, whose portfolio includes Baseball Heaven, National Youth Baseball Championships and UK Elite has 300 coaches across the country. Warren started the company after forming a friendship with two-time World Series champion and member of the baseball hall of fame Tommy Lasorda.
Before the formation of Steel Sports, while Warren was a team dad, he observed the environment of his children’s teams. He noticed that when his children’s teams were playing under the leadership of an organized and professional coach, the team would end up having more success. Before the creation of Steel Sports, Warren polled one of his children’s organizations and asked both players and parents what they wanted from this team. The parent’s answer was to win. The player’s response was to have fun. Warren mentioned the rapid drop in youth athletes in this country at age 12. Across all of our organizations across Steel Sports, our goal is to change the game in youth sports. We want to have a “kids first” mentality.
Sixty members of Steel Sports gathered in Parsippany, NJ to discuss changing the landscape of youth sports in this country. Key figures engaged in discussion to review the past year, share ideas, and ways to improve in 2019. Much of the day was spent in small groups with directors and coaches from Baseball Heaven & Team Steel (baseball) working together with UK Elite and FCUSA – (soccer).
One of the hot topics was culture. Not only the culture we have in our respective clubs or regions, but getting together to maintain the culture across all of Steel Sports. Steve Jones, FCUSA Director of Professional Development, stated that “I believe we have a strong culture. We need to share it more with our parents and families. They need to know that we are all gathered here today. For our customers to understand we are spending days discussing ways to improve the leadership and the framework which will allow their children to maximize their potential on and off the field.”
Other key focuses were professional development and positive parent engagement. The small groups discussed what is working today, where we can improve and ways to continue to keep the ball rolling in 2019.
Later in the day, the group had the honor of hearing from Lieutenant General George J. Flynn, United States Marine Corp. With culture being a hot topic for the day, it was interesting to hear General Flynn explain that culture = values + behavior. Our core values of Teamwork, Respect, Integrity, and Commitment are shared across all of Steel Sports. It is vital for our coaches to be role models and act out our core values each day in front of their players.
Other leadership thoughts General Flynn shared:
- Giving someone a 2nd chance and it works is one of the best feelings for a leader
- The way to create a better team is to create more of you. Let your team know your expectations in your communication. Put more of yourself on the field.
- Diversity. In this room today, we have baseball and soccer people. Very different backgrounds. The General learned to surround himself with people who don’t think like him.
- He told a story of US planes being inferior to North Korean planes during the Korean war, but the US won 90% of the battles in the air. Why? Because the US pilots we able to observe, orient, decide and act faster than the opponent.
- Courage is 1) physical – which we all have, however sometimes we need a little push 2) moral -when confronted with a situation do you tell the truth and do the right thing.
- Setting standards and keeping them. Once you let something go, what’s acceptable has changed.
- We all evolve as leaders. We all have revolutionary moments.
- The biggest mistake that you can make is putting someone in a position to lead that doesn’t want to lead.
- In leadership development, you learn from your peers. You become a thief.
- Leaders are not born. They evolve. However, they have a couple of basic things. They have heart. They want it. They have passion. Not everybody passes military tests. Many get in positions and blow it. They can blow it by not wanting it, or by lying or cheating. If you would lie during a simple test in camp, how do I know you won’t lie to me when it matters on the front lines.