Get a Towel

This past weekend our family went to large volleyball tournament that my daughter was in. There were hundreds upon hundreds of girls and many more parents and families crammed into a large sports center for three days. Needless to say, I have the sounds whistles, cheering, and yelling still in my ears.

All in all it was a fun tournament. Not only because of the sport, but also because of an incredible leadership principle that played out during one of the games.

As our team was waiting for the prior game to finish a small issue, that quickly became large, caught my attention.

During the teams switching sides, a bottle of water must have spilled by the bench / playing area. It was during this moment that a leadership observation hit me. While the scramble to clean up the water unfolded, here is what I observed. There were different reactions from those at the court.

What I observed is that each of these people may represent people on your team:

1. The Coaches

The Coaches immediately saw the situation before anyone else. They raised awareness and drew attention to the problem. Subtly at first and then with more vigor which quickly got the attention of everyone else. What amazed me was that was all they did. They just complained and threw their hands up. The coaches also did something that I see a lot of leaders do. They just blamed the people that were there before them. Pointing fingers, waiting to see if the other coaches would assume responsibility. Blame shifting is one of the weakest leadership qualities someone can have. No action - just awareness, blaming and complaining.

2. The Referee

The Referee, sitting in their high perch above the court. The one designated to keep control, enforce the rules, protect the game. Eventually the "crisis" caught the attention of the Ref. At first it was kind of shocking to see the Referee turn away, as if to say "don't bother me". Now granted, in a world filled with real issues, this is not even on the list. However, at this moment, in this scenario it was a risk. If you've ever played any sport on a court you know how dangerous water can be. The Referee, almost perturbed by the situation slowly, and I mean slowly, climbed down from their tower and slowly walked across the court to the score table. Finally someone with authority and knowledge of the rules will calm the situation and resolve it. Nope! Instead of taking immediate action, and let's face it the answer was simple. The Referee just slowly walked away. The game has now officially stopped.

3. The Players

The Players, at first oblivious to the situation were called to stop play. At first they just stayed on the court, I'm sure thinking the same thing I was. Someone wipe the water up so we can keep playing. These 14 year old girls honestly did a good job at first keeping their energy and spirits high. They were huddled up giving each other a pep talk with a loud cheer thrown in every few moments. Trying to stay focused and keep their passion alive. Minute after minute passed with no resolution. You could see the passion and energy leaving the players. Here are the ones trying to leave it all on the court. The ones chosen and tasked to go out and win one for their club. They were not getting attention from their Coaches, they were still pointing fingers and looking at water on the floor. The Referee literally has just walked off and the Parents are beginning to get restless. The players, who were once filled with passion had now lost all momentum, just standing there almost lifeless without direction from their Coaches.

4. The Parents

The Parents, the ones who are supposed to set the example from age and wisdom began to also notice what was happening. They were just sitting on the sideline yelling and losing their minds. At first it was honestly a little entertaining to watch the parents start to unravel. As the Parents began to yell at the Referee and the Coaches you could see their daughters start to fill with embarrassment. The Parents were out of control. Mind you, up to this point they have been coaching from the sidelines. These parents were definitely the most animated crowd of the day. But it got ugly quick.

So here's the problem so far: WHY DIDN'T ANYONE GET A TOWEL AND CLEAN UP THE WATER?!?

5. The Girl with the Towel

Warning: this is a brief proud dad moment.

So out of the corner of my eye while all of this is going on, I see my 14 year old daughter reach into her bag, grab her towel and walk across the court and started cleaning the water. Nobody asked her to do this, she saw a problem, had the solution and fixed the issue. It was actually pretty amazing to watch how the coaches, players, and parents all calmed down and watched her clean it up. When she was done, without saying a word, simply walked back over and sat in her seat.

The Coaches began to actually communicate and coach the Players who began to once again show life and the Parents began to calm down and cheer the girls on instead of yelling. Oh, and the Referee, yes the Ref eventually returned with two small paper towels and realized that the problem had been resolved. Game resumed.

Here's the principle: "Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership!" John Maxwell

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