In a world that allows us to post, publish, and broadcast what we do in the blink of an eye, to an audience of millions, it is no wonder we focus on ourselves. Young men post a shake move against a defender in a 7 on 7 tournament that makes the defender fall down, or an offensive lineman doesn’t not use a proper kick step and punch in a one on one drill at a combine but reaches and throws the rusher to the ground and the videos go “viral”. These are snapshots of individuals that do not tell the story of a bigger picture. In the age of instant self promotion, and focus on self, the intrinsic value of relationship and creating belonging because of individual efforts contributing to a greater purpose have taken a backseat. There is danger in focusing too much on ourselves, especially with our world in such turmoil at the moment. This is why practicing relational leadership in the great game of football is needed now more than ever.

We are drowning in information and varying perspectives today. Oftentimes, whoever yells the loudest or has the most shocking perspective grabs the headlines. Left in a vacuum to sort through it all without a solid foundation from parents, coaches, teachers, mentors, etc. kids will gravitate to the loudest voice, the shocking headlines. Football is the ultimate team sport that without reliance, trust, willingness to put others before yourself, and become a part of something bigger than you, makes failure, many times, inevitable. Football allows people from all walks of life to come together and share in a common purpose. Coaches, this is why a relational leadership model is crucial to teach above the X’s and O’s. There is a game going on above us that our student athletes need to understand.

What does a relational leadership model look like? It starts with being awake. And working from these core values, lead by the acronym A.W.A.K.E

  1. Respectfully treat others as we would like to be treated.

We will be respectful young men. We will respect authority, even when we disagree with it. We will respect each other, because that is what friends and teammates do. We will respect women, because if we don’t we will no longer play football!

  1. Our attitude and mentality are focused on our school and mission before ourselves.

We will focus on being a part of the school and modeling through our words, actions and behaviors values that the school deems most important.

  1. Relational Leadership is our blueprint for success

Relational leaders value people first, put their morals and principles before personalities and work tirelessly to be positive influencers to everyone they come in contact with. The chart below lists how relational leaders may look at situations and how self centered individuals look differently at situations.

4. Embrace hardship and adversity.

All of us will encounter hardship and adversity in our lives. Sickness, loss of job, broken relationships, etc. We must use these as opportunities to build character.

5. Play for each other.

We will be selfless individuals who are willing to put their desires behind what is best for the team. When playing time does not work out the way you think it should, you will honorably do the job that is asked of you to help the team have success.

6. Have fun.

Everyone associated will commit a tremendous amount of time to this program, as a result, we will continue to find ways to have fun in the midst of our hard work and competition.

7. Compete.

We will compete in practice. We will compete in the weight room. We will compete on Friday nights.

8. Passion is a must.

Whether you are on the football field, in the classroom, in a marriage, or raising children, passion is essential for success. We will always bring passion in our time together as we create for ourselves and others an infectious positive energy.

These principles have proven to be a solid foundation from which we can launch into leading with a relational approach. We can be demanding and hold high standards with a loving and encouraging style. Your kids are worth every ounce of your sacrifice, support, love, and encouragement. Every kid who comes through your program has the ability to live a life of significance, it is our job to help them start that journey.

My mission statement for all the kids I coach and teach is:

“Know your why, have a fierce attitude, love and encourage everyone”

If you don’t know where to start to connect with your kids on a deeper level start by practicing the statement above. Your legacy, our future, depends on how well you build and teach relational leadership.

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By Britt Gusmus

Quarterback Coach/JV Head Coach

Arapahoe High School, Denver, CO

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