Strength in Diversity
By Dr. Chris Hobbs
The diversity of the group is the strength of the group…
I was speaking with a varsity basketball coach recently as we were watching his players shoot around before a practice began. It was a very prototype pre-practice shoot around. Players were laughing with each other. Some of the players were playing 1-on-1. A few were working on their jump shots alone. A shooting contest was taking place on 1 basket. There was a lot of good-natured trash talk taking place in every corner of the gym. It was everything that’s great about being in a gym with your team.
The coach and I were discussing a lot of the players that were out on the floor. It seemed that each player we discussed was very different from the previous player we had spoken about. They were different skin colors, different family backgrounds, different skill sets, different heights, different academic performances, and different levels of love for the game of basketball. The wide spectrum of differences struck me, and I asked the coach the following question (*before you read the question, note that the coach who answered has coached high school basketball for nearly 40 years, won almost 700 games, and has claimed three state championships.) ‘Coach, in your experience would you say the teams that had the best chemistry were the teams that had the most diverse roster?’ The coach didn’t even have to think about. His immediate response was ‘absolutely’.
“Coach, in your experience would you say the teams that had the best chemistry were the teams that had the most diverse roster?” The coach didn’t even have to think about. His immediate response was “absolutely.”Click to tweet
My father, a career-long educational leader, often told me, ‘Son, it takes all kinds to make a world.’ I think he was subconsciously doing two things with this often-used quote. 1) I think he was teaching me the God-given worth of every single person. 2) He was inadvertently preparing me for the reality of leading in 2020 as our world continues to become more and more diverse. As athletic directors, we need to embrace and effectively lead diverse departments.
Here are some simple suggestions to make sure that you can leverage the power of a diverse group of coaches to maximize the impact on student-athletes and ultimately your school.
Embrace the fact that coaching excellence presents differently – I have written extensively that coaching excellence is demonstrated in preparation, positive responses to negative circumstances, and great parent communication. However, I have learned that a diverse group of coaches can meet these standards of excellence in diverse ways. One coach may demonstrate preparation through scribbled notes in a beat-up spiral notebook while another does it through meticulous spreadsheets. A coach that communicates
Coaching excellence is demonstrated in preparation, positive responses to negative circumstances, and great parent communication.Click to tweet
Ask coaches what they think and implement their suggestions whenever it is possible – There is hidden wisdom in your coaches. They see things from a different perspective than you do. I once worked for a superintendent that often stated, ‘the best decisions are often made by the boots on the ground.’ Your coaches have their boots on the ground. They will regularly help you make the best decisions. Unless you never ask them to.
Be aware of how many coaches you hire that think, act, and even look like you – We all have our biases. We are initially drawn to those that are the same as us. Cross country coaches in a room full of coaches will gravitate to other endurance coaches. Type A personalities will gravitate towards other type A personalities. In a room full of spouses, the men will gravitate towards the men and the women to the women. However, homogenous atmospheres devolve quickly into toxicity. Creativity and teamwork die in homogenous atmospheres. Back-stabbing, self-promoting competitiveness bubbles up. Just think about a human body made up of only eyeballs. How fast would the begin to outduel each other to become the primary source of vision for the body? Athletic directors need to fight against their own biases and choose coaches that can demonstrate the vibrancy of diversity.
Celebrate every sport equitably – I believe that being an athletic director in 2020 requires the skill of celebrating others. In order to navigate celebrating all sports equitably the athletic director must create clear standards by which each sport will be celebrated. If every win on the varsity level will be celebrated then it should be celebrated for every varsity sport. Tennis wins and football wins should be celebrated. The all-county basketball player and all-county swimmer should both be celebrated. Too often, athletic directors allow the anticipated response from the school community to dictate whether it will be celebrated. This suppresses diversity and sends a message that some sports matter and others do not.
I believe that being an athletic director in 2020 requires the skill of celebrating others.Click to tweet
Athletic directors need to respond much like the basketball coach that I referenced earlier when asked whether a diverse team was a strong team.