At the recently concluded Ryder Cup tournament, the U.S. was not able to stage the comeback needed to win the cup. Win or lose, I’m still proud of our players.
I’m writing in reference to what transpired throughout the event, especially when the U.S. fell behind on Saturday. I certainly don’t question Tom Watson’s decisions, because as the leader of the group you have the prerogative to make the decision that you see fit. The U.S. lacked energy and fell behind 10-6 going into the Sunday match play. My memory is still fresh that the European team was able to stage a comeback from a similar deficit so I was confident that we could still make it happen.
After discussing and setting the stage for Sunday, the team presented Mr. Watson with a gift: a replica Ryder Cup trophy signed by all the players. As noted by Yahoo news, Mr. Watson scoffed at the gift, suggesting that it meant nothing unless his team completed the comeback the next day. Here is where his leadership fell short. While he is entitled to his frustration, he needed to continue to engage and inspire the team and promote an environment that helped the team uplift their spirits.
A leader is a tough position. If it were easy then everyone could be a leader. Often a leader is looked to as a source of inspiration and energy. When the chips are down, your constituents seek your guidance to keep them going. When a leader says the right thing, no matter how bad the situation, the players listen and continue to do their best. I’m by no means saying that the players lost focus because of what transpired, but it certainly did not help.
As I reflect on my experience, I vividly remember the 2012-2013 season when I was coaching St. Elizabeth’s 4th grade girls’ basketball team. We had a great season heading into the playoff. We faced some challenges in the semi-final, but we buckled down and pulled through. Before we started the championship game, I told the girls to enjoy the moment and leave everything on the court. I mentioned that this was our moment and this was what we worked so hard for the last four months. We started strong, leading by 4 by halftime; we played well, but had a hard time scoring in the second half. Our opponent shut us down and our girls faced the adversity of trying to make things work. My assistant coach told me to let the girls know that it is okay to lose. I told him that I refused to do that because there was still time on the clock and as long as there was time, we would never give up. With two minutes and 47 seconds left we were down by 4 points; I called a timeout. I told my players that I believed in them, the question was did they believe in themselves. They yelled “Yes”. I told them to forget about what happened leading up to that point that the most important time was the next two minutes and 47 seconds. One of my players named Maura went for a shot and was fouled. She calmly sunk the free throw. At last, we were down by one. I told them to play good defense to get the ball back.
We made a stop and executed a perfect fast break from my point guard Molly to our center Lauryn and the gym erupted with cheers from the parents of St. Elizabeth. We were now leading by one. I told my players not to foul, but continue to play good defense. We got the ball back and Selena threw the ball to the back court to Lauryn and the game ended. I always look back to that last huddle and it brings a smile and joy to my heart. As the coach and leader of the team, I know it was tough to be in a situation where my team could lose the game, but I refused to quit, because I wanted the players to learn how to work through adversity.
Granting my experience is nothing like Mr. Watson’s, I still understand that a leader plays an important role in helping the team set up the tone and atmosphere. As leaders, we are responsible for the team no matter what happens. At the heart of leadership is sacrifice that is necessary if we want to lead others. In the end, Mr. Watson wrote an open letter to everyone, but it was a bit too late. The next time PGA picks a captain, I hope they consider the person’s leadership capabilities. There is a saying that not all smart people can teach; sometimes they cannot make the subject simple enough for a layman to understand. The same is true in the workplace. The best technician does not make a good manager. Therefore, the best player who has won many tournaments is not necessarily the best choice. They need to take a page from Mr. John Wooden’s book on leadership that says, “People want to believe you are sincerely interested in them as person. Not just for what they can do for you.”
Writing is a labor of love; I’ve blog for 26 weeks in a row. I’m aware that people who read my post need to learn something therefore I do my best at all time. Feel free to share my post to your friends.