As I embark on a journey launching PipelineSquared, I want to share some lessons I learned this spring that will help me as I am building a new team. I finished my first season as a soccer coach for a U6 coed team called the Destroyers. I did not decide to coach to beef up my volunteer experience on LinkedIn. I also did not plan to have a group of six-year-olds put my leadership training to the test, but I was wrong.

Great leaders inspire people

Here are some principles that I have been taught that have helped me understand how to be a leader.

  • You should follow three simple rules leading a team:
    1. Have a small set of rules
    2. Repeat yourself often
    3. Be consistent
  • You need to repeat yourself seven times for people to think it is important.
    • The next time you find yourself repeating yourself for the third time don’t get frustrated. Instead, say to yourself I only have four more to go!

How the Destroyers helped inspire me

While we enjoyed some success throughout the season, at this age it is not about winning and losing (quick note: the kids really want to know if they win every week)! In a coaching clinic before the season started I asked where we should be as a team at the end of the season. I wanted to be able to gauge if I was doing a good job. “Just introduce the kids to the game and make it fun,” I was told. With that in mind, I came up with my strategy for the season. I would pick one player every time I took a knee to address the team and ask them a question.

What are the two most important things we are going to learn this season?

At the beginning of the season, the answers to my question varied.

  • Do we have snacks?
  • Scoring goals?
  • Halftime?
  • Slide tackles?
  • Finding turtles in the creek?
  • Can I get some water?

While all hilarious, the real answers were:

  1. Have fun
  2. Have good sportsmanship

As the season progressed, I would ask the question consistently. The answers started to get better but I cannot say that it was flawless. I would even ask a player at the end of every game in our team huddle just before putting our hands together to say “1-2-3-Destroyers”. After the final game was played, I realized we had finished the season 6-0-2, technically undefeated. I wanted to let the kids know that they were winners and had a great season. The competitive side of me immediately went to the record (that I was not supposed to keep up with), but I decided to talk about what was important, my pillars for the season.

I started to address the team…

Me: “You guys had a great year and you should be proud…”

Player: “Coach Cobb?”

Me: “Yes”

Player: “Did we have fun and show good sportsmanship?”

Me: “Yes!”

Player: “Today can we say 1-2-3 have fun and be good sports”

Me: “Yes!”

Seven weeks since our first introduction that is how we ended our time together. Shortly after we broke the huddle for the last time, one of the players came back to give me a card that he made for me.

Go Destroyers! I hope you all had fun.

Thanks for refreshing me on the importance of teamwork and leadership. It is a lot of fun through the eyes of kids.