Girls In Sport: The Emerging Female Coach

The female coach continues to be a rare occurrence, though there is recent claims of a significant increase through instituted policies by sports organisations and governments. We look at what the emerging female coaches experience when they enter the mainstream, and what is considered their biggest strength, as they take their place in teams and establish themselves.

 

D For DISCIPLINE

When I got my first major leadership position, I was excited about making an impact. I was put in charge of a staff of 27 members, many who had more on the job experience than my own age. I tried my best to build teamwork, prepare schedules that would suit individual strengths and programmed in individual and group training. Our performance shot up steadily and by the end of the second year, other competing units began to sit up and take notice. But even then something else was happening that would ultimately show me how much success can be dangerous to the leader.

In an effort to keep up the steady improvement in performance, I attended various seminars, where I learnt how important it was to “know your staff individually”. I took it very seriously, and deliberately assigned time to meet each member of staff regularly. I felt pleased when, after some time, I would be invited to special family activities: kids’ graduations, christenings, and birthday parties. A couple of the senior staff members, Samuel and Jonah, and I often met as members of the same club, and played football together. However, after a while, I began to notice that Samuel was coming to work increasingly late, sometimes by as much as 2 hours, while Jonah kept rarely submitted his weekly report by the Friday deadline, instead shifting it to late Mondays or Tuesdays. I requested for change verbally and eventually through a memo. They came to my office, apologized, and soon went make to their bad habits. It was beginning to affect the behavior of the rest of the staff.

Then three weeks later, for reasons that no one could gather, Samuel and Jonah could never agree on anything. I tried to bring them together, mistakenly thinking that I could broker a truce and, eventually hold the already fractured staff together. That was the biggest mistake I ever made. If I mentioned that one person was right, the other would take it that l was taking unfair sides and this would lead to resentment. There was no peace.

Eventually, both Jonah and Samuel quit their jobs in a huff and taking some of their supporters with them. I was distraught. Our results plunged for the first two quarters of the year, and it looked like the rest of the year was going to be disastrous.

I learned on valuable lesson: I may have self-discipline, but I had failed to instill discipline amongst my staff consistently, in an effort to be accepted. The fact that staff was now more familiar with me should not have meant that they could act in the disrespectful manner that they had adopted. I had lost the ability to control them.

During the next three months, I engaged new senior staff, and helped them engage the lower cadre officers for their respective sections. I also set new conditions and trained all staff on their doe of conduct. By the end of the year, we succeeded in beating our targets, and once again our unit topped the performance charts.

Here are some of lessons about discipline and leadership:

  1. Set up golden rules of behavior and stick to them. These rules will often stem from your organizations Code of Conduct or similar documents.
  2. Do not operate under two separate rules where you have discipline, yet your staff can get away with breaking expected code of behavior. Make it a practice to train your staff and then ensure that they know that you will act to discipline poor behavior. Take action immediately a staff member fails to follow the required ethic of behavior. This ensures consistent acceptable behavior modification.
  3. As a leader, you always have the option to drop undisciplined staff, and seek support to recruit and train new members. Even when you do not have direct responsibility, seek the necessary support from those in charge to support your section to act immediately.

If you wish to learn more about becoming a stronger leader, or exchange views, please write a comment below

C for COMMUNICATION

I sighed deeply. It was going to be yet another difficult morning, with endless complaints about the manner in which Flo treated the students and colleagues. I stepped out into the hallway and gasped at the long line of people trailing around the building and all the way to my door. “Anyone who does not have any story about Flo can come to the front of the line,” I said loudly. “For the rest of you, just know that I am meeting with her now, so just go back to your work or study. You will be contacted.”

I walked stepped back into my office, shut the door firmly, and turned to face an angry Flo. “You are too soft on them. They think that they can get past me with excuses, which they never will!” I looked at Flo calmly, and after a long stare into each other’s eyes, she glanced down. “Flo, help me understand this,” I asked quietly. ”Were you following the normal schedule while allocating work last week?”

“Of course!” exclaimed Flo defensively, “No more, no less!”.

“Flo, just hold on. You know that I left you in charge because I trust you to get work done well. Would you care to explain, then, why the complaints?” I asked quietly.

Flo looked down at her hands and said fretfully, “They don’t listen”.

“Don’t worry Flo,” I smiled, “Its just about communication, lets try and make it work.”

That morning, I gave Flo some important but very simple points to note, which I am sharing with you.

  1. What is the information that you wish to communicate. Be clear about what the information is. Is it generalized, or could it be broken down into specifics that are easily taken up by individual members? Often team members may already know the basics, but need to understand clearly what their role is. This therefor means that you are able to see where the team is, and where you wish them to be. Now just stay on topic!
  2. Why do you wish to communicate it: Its important that both you and the person you are communicating with understand the reason behind a desired action. This is when the overall picture should come into focus, and then each team member get more detailed information about why his or her input is required. An answer like. “because Madam said so” or “Because its your job” is often met with resistance.
  3. To whom do you wish to communicate the information: When speaking to individuals, try to remember that people are not all the same. Much depends on their character and attitude. Since they are people you work with daily, you sometimes make assumptions about them that may not be true. Put on imaginary spectacles and really try to study and understand where each person is coming from, what are his/her outlook and culture, and therefore how he/she react to the information that you wish to share. Be an active listener, take time to understand the issues that your team member brings up, it will help you gauge how far he/she actually understood what you were communicating.
  4. How do you wish to communicate it: try to stay on even ground, and ensure that what you are passing on is being understood clearly. Talk in a manner and language that can be understood, and be sure that you have put the steps together correctly, and not mixed up. If an argument ensues, try not to have the last word. Perhaps it’s not the right moment: give it a little time or simple change the focus to something of interest to the person and then get back to the subject again. And remember to thank each person!

It’s important at all times, that you speak in a calm manner. Flo is a fast speaker with a high voice that quickly shakes under pressure. I got her to practice speaking in an even tone, calmly and quietly. Then we worked on how to animate her voice, to encourage and energize. And most of all, to show staff that she appreciates their input.

Working with Flo was a joy, mainly because she loved her job, and all she needed to do is to focus on sharing her enthusiasm, rather that argue with other staff. I’m confident that Flo will make a great leader, as she builds her skills for communication.

If you wish to learn more about becoming a stronger leader, or exchange views, please write a comment below

 

 

 

R for Risk Assessment

“Pato is coming!” shouted Grace as she burst into the staff break room, where her colleagues were busy having lunch and chatting quietly. Everyone turned and stared at her mutely, then John asked idly, “Is this one of you jokes? April Fool Day was 4 months ago”, John remarked doubtfully.

“No, really, I’m serious this time.” Grace looked around and sighed. Just then Peter, the Project Manager, stepped into the room smiling, “It is true, we have been asked to host a special event, to honor Patrick’s return to our community.” The atmosphere in the room lightened visibly, and everyone was jubilating with a lot of fist pumping and hand slapping. Everyone knew Patrick Masimba: he was a local hero since he got signed up for a major team in the Premier League. Now every football player want to be “Pato” as he was affectionately called. Rumors had been flying around that he was coming into the country to visit his mother, whose home was in a town about 2 miles away.

“We are lucky we have been chosen to welcome him home,” Moses piped in, and everyone nodded. “He arrives in two days” said Peter, “How much can we do within that time?” John looked at his watch quickly and said. “If Peter can agree to extend our break for another half hour, we may be able to come up with a plan.” Peter nodded and stepped back and watched as someone pulled out a paper and pen and everyone settled down quickly to thinking. John said, “I will go to the Accountant and find out how much we are able to spend on this activity.”

Ten minutes later, John stepped back and watched sadly the animated voices that filled the room. They turn in unison and he cleared is throat. “I’m sorry guys, here is all that is available to budget for this.” And the placed a sheet of paper in the center of the table. “Oh no” cried Grace, as they all leaned in, “how are we expected to make this happen? The amount you are mentioning is not nearly enough’.

Well, said Amos, the M & E Officer pushing away the notes he had been taking, and reaching out for a plain sheet of paper. Why don’t we look at the pros and cons of hosting Pato, and the best possible solution? There is always a risk to actions; we just need to work out if it’s beneficial or not. Lets do a risk assessment!”

“What does that even mean?”, Grace impatiently asked. Is it one of your M & E tests?” and everyone laughed. “Actually”, John said, taking a seat at the table, “Amos is right, its just a simple way to ensure that we are not exposing ourselves and our organization to bad surprises. Do we all agree that this is a good surprise?” Everyone nodded. Okay, then here is a list of questions that you could ask yourselves before we decide if we can go ahead and host this homecoming event”, as he quickly jotted down some points.

Here is his list:

  • Outline your organizations vision and goals
  • Make a list of what your organization does.
  • Is the proposed event in line with your organization’s goals?
  • Figure out what could go wrong if you carried out this event. Is that likely or unlikely to happen?
  • How bad would that be for your organization?
  • If likely or costly, how can you make it less likely or less costly? Is that likely or unlikely to happen?
  • How good would the event be for your organization?
  • How can you make it more likely or more helpful for your organization?

Almost one hour later, everyone agreed that it made for sense to have another local organization whose mandate was a better fit, take over the main event, only providing a small portion of the program to lend focus to their organization’s activities.

If you wish to learn more about becoming a stronger leader, or exchange views, please write a comment below

B for BOLD

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”  —Winston Churchill

Amina knocked on the Director’s door with resolution, heard him call out and stepped into the room. She blinked in the sudden change from the sunlight corridor, and made a sudden gasp when she noticed that the room there were other people in the room. She recognized the local Chief and District Officer amongst them. The Project Director, Mr. Rishi, smiled at her, and turned to the guests at the table. “As you know, I make it a point to invite one stakeholder to our Board meetings to give us a chance to get some feedback on how well our organization is performing. This time, I have invited Amina, who is captain to one of our football teams”.

All eyes turned to Amina, and her hands shook as she pulled out a folded sheet of paper from her back pocket. She realized that she had to step up and be counted. She had to take a stand. It was going to be tough, especially if no one believed her. She cleared her throat, “I want to tell you a true story, about neglect and abuse of our football team. “ What she talked about was heart rending, and when it was over, there was shocked silence in the room.

She took a stand

Then Mr. Rishi turned to Douglas, the Head Coach, “Would you like to explain why you ignored when the girls reported all this to you two years ago?”

A visibly shaken Douglas, said “I was convinced that it was all a lie, a way to get attention.”

“I agree, growled Chief Omumbo. “These girls need to appreciate what is being done for them. All they do is gossip, trying to change the system!” The room fell silent for a moment, then the Mr. Rishi turned a questioning gesture to the Development Officer, Rukwaro, who spoke up, “I agree that the girls are expecting more attention, with the increase in funding”

What would you like us to change, Amina?” interrupted the District Officer gruffly. Amina hesitated. “We want to choose our own coaches, and set our own rules”.

“I couldn’t agree more. It’s time we all trusted and supported the girls. We would like to apologize for what you had to go through. As Chairman of the Board, I would like to apologize for what happened.”

Amina smiled for the first time that day, and turned to the Mr. Rishi, who winked at her and said, “Thank you, Amina, you have helped us make an important decision today!”

This story explains a lot about how much we face a sport and development leaders. Every day, there are acts of courage, but also lack of it.

Searching through the story, you will come across many people who are bold:

Amina took a great chance, faced her fears, and spoke up for her team.

Mr. Rishi showed courage by giving her a chance to talk, He is genuine and authentic.

The District Officer was strong enough to apologize and promise to trust and support the team in making changes.

Do you display these acts of boldness:

  • delivering a report
  • volunteering as a mentor or youth group leader
  • stepping away from unhealthy friendships
  • resisting the temptation to lie
  • allowing others to be right
  • admitting mistakes
  • apologizing
  • keeping your word

On the other hand, you come across what does not represent boldness:

Douglas was defensive and unwilling to take responsibility.

Chief Omumbo is suspicious, and unwilling to change

Rukwaro probably knows what has been happening but does not want to rock the boat.

Ask yourself if at any time you have been involved in the following:

  • allowing others to make your decisions
  • being a bully or a passive bystander
  • gossiping and lying
  • running away from a mistake
  • placing too much reliance on the rules
  • remaining silent in the face of injustice and rationalizing lack of action
  • choosing sides after seeing which way the wind is blowing
  • breaking promises

Do you ever allow others to expose the weaknesses in your organization?

Are you ready to go the extra mile, to protect those you represent? Just remember, to be a leader you must be bold.

If you wish to learn more about becoming a stronger leader, or exchange views, please write a comment below