I recently watched the movie Coach Carter. It’s not the first time I have seen it, but I do love this film. It has some great leadership lessons and also some great basketball. As many of you will know, two of my biggest passions are sports and leadership, so whenever I get something that mixes the two, I am doubly happy.
As leaders, one of our roles is to drive change and improvements; often, this involves changing culture. People are often resistant to this type of change, and as we look to push through our ideas, it can make us unpopular. But we need to hold the course; we should never look to shirk the task or dilute what we are looking to achieve just to be popular.
In the film, Coach Carter wanted to make a change to the lives of the people on the basketball team and believed he knew the best approach to doing this. Initially, this didn’t make him popular with the players, as he demanded that they sign contracts about their behaviour as players, students, and as men. But he knew this was in their best interests, and in the end, they would thank him.
To drive people to the next level, we need them to get out of their comfort zones. When people stay in their comfort zones, we maintain the status quo.
In the film, the team had the talent, but they lacked the fitness to best utilise that talent. By significantly increasing their fitness, they improved on a record of 4 wins and 20 losses in the previous season, almost remaining unbeaten the following season. This required them to train harder than they had ever trained before—to leave their old comfort zones and create new ones.
As leaders, we have to help people achieve their full potential, even when they don’t see their potential. We have to create the desire, set the goals, show the way, and then help create the belief in the team that they can achieve these goals, and then support them on that journey.
Coach Carter believed that with the right schooling, his players would be able to leverage their basketball talents to gain scholarships to go to college. This would give his players a chance at a better life. He had to create that desire, show what they could be, and then show how they could achieve it.
Leadership can often require us to take a stand, to back our beliefs even in the face of mounting criticism, even though we might be in the minority. We have to stand up for our beliefs and be true to our values. Leadership was never meant to be easy, and often it requires the courage of our convictions to see it through.
Coach Carter believes that his players are student-athletes, with an emphasis on students first. So when his students fail to meet the academic levels they have agreed to, he cancels basketball practise and games until they meet the required level. This creates a conflict between him and the players, their parents, and the school board, but even still, he stands his ground, committed to what he believes.
As Michael Jordan says,’ Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships’ and as leaders, we need to increase teamwork and foster a strong team spirit to really achieve our collective potential. We need the better players to help coach the other players to make them better, rather than just letting them rely on the skills of the better players.
This really comes through in the film when, in the end, because of their strong team spirit, the team works collectively to help ensure that everyone reaches the same educational level, with the stronger students coaching those in need of help, with the result that everyone in the team achieves the desired educational level, which will give them a chance of a college place.
What’s interesting is that teamwork and team spirit transcend sport into other areas, such as education. It would be obvious to see players coaching other players on basketball, but to see them helping each other with studies shows the power that we have in teams.
If you haven’t seen this film, I can fully recommend it. I think it’s very inspirational and also shows the impact that leaders can have on their teams with the right belief and the right determination.
Even more impressively, it’s based on a true story.
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