By Lindsay Huddleston, Sports Psychology Consultant
This is the phrase I have coined for coaches, leaders, parents, and other youth stakeholders. “Buy In or Peace Out” refers to how we need to approach this generation of student-athletes when trying to establish a positive culture for your team or program.
Over the past years, I have traveled the country with my non-profit Sport Psychology Solutions, providing sport psychology consulting services to underprivileged and underserved youth. In that time I have shared my insights from the time I’ve spent working with USA Basketball Youth Development, NBA general managers, NBA athletes, Division 1 college coaches, and college players on several topics, including mental toughness.
There are a few things I always seem to notice, especially when working with student-athletes who are still enrolled in their K-12 and post-high schools. That is, amongst these student-athletes, no matter who the coach or teacher may have identified as a leader, the players have identified their own leader as well. This is the de facto leader, one who is now the unlawful and illegitimate leader of your organization. These de facto leaders are the ones the other look to during the meeting or practice to see if they are buying into “the real leader’s” process. Because if they don’t, others don’t as well. This could be in the form of paying attention to the presentation or instructions, which can be viewed in the form of positive or negative body language.
As the true and legitimate leader of your team or organization, you must be willing to eliminate this person from your program (even if only temporarily), no matter how talented he or she may be. The best visual, no matter how graphic it seems, is to ‘’cut off the head of the snake and its body will die.” After you eliminate this de facto leader that is holding your team and culture hostage, you have to reestablish your expectations. You have to be willing to choose character over talent and look at the long term over the short term. You have to also really do what you say you’re going to do and not just talk a good game or pump-fake. This also means standing up to the pressures of other stakeholders to include parents, athletic directors, alumni, etc.
To help with that, find solace in your decision by understanding that proper player development leads to professional development. What I mean by this is that how you conduct yourself as a student-athlete often reflects how you conduct yourself as a professional. The best guidance and mentorship we can provide to our youth is an opportunity to be eliminated from a positive culture with time to reflect on what they need to do in order to make positive habit changes and eventually fit in and make positive contributions. Now, this de facto leader will believe that the culture and team is more important than them. They will also know that your sincere belief is that that if they don’t buy in, they have to peace out!