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Leadership Lessons from 14-Year-Old Boys

Have you ever wondered what a teenager could teach you? Probably nothing, you might think, however, recently I had the opportunity to coach a group of 14-year- old boys through their 4-month basketball season. This is what I learned about leadership.

Angry? Get over it! 14-year-old boys are prone to losing their temper when things don’t go their way. During our season we had a number of incidents where as a coach I had to discipline some of these young players for their verbal outbursts of anger at referees or other players. One thing I noticed is that these boys were able to get over their anger and get back into the game within minutes.How often as leaders are we mad at someone and let that anger ruin our whole day, weekend, or month? Putting the drama aside and getting back to business is something we could all do better at.

It Hurts So What, get Back in the Game! Teenage boys play hard and get hit hard. On one occasion, one of my players got an intentional hit, while not seriously injured he was sore, however after a few minutes of ice, he wanted to get back into the game, despite the pain. As adults, we have a truckload of excuses as to why we can’t perform at our best, but sometimes we just need to ignore the pain of our problems and challenges and get back in the game.

If its Not for You, it’s Okay to Quit! One of the fellows on the team realized after three months that he loved Hockey more than Basketball and gave notice that he couldn’t make the last few weeks. So often as leaders, we stick with something long past the time we are still enjoying it. While there is a time for sacrifice, we need to recognize that if we find that we have taken a route that no longer fulfills us, it’s okay to make a change.

Have a Plan for the Unexpected: In one of our last games, we came up against a tough team and as I stood on the sidelines watching this team beat us, I realized that I didn’t have a plan for the unexpected. At the end of the game and on the losing end of the scoreboard, I recognized that though I had the tools and the team had a variety of plays, I had underestimated the challenge and didn’t have a proper plan in place for the game. The teenagers had looked at me for direction and I feel that I failed them because I hadn’t prepared properly. The last two games of the season I had a game plan and followed it with great success.

As leaders within our organizations; we are flustered when something out of the ordinary happens and everyone is looking at us for direction. Sometimes we choke because we hadn’t planned properly. Having a game plan we can resort to, can settle us down and improve our outcomes.

It's Just a Game – Be Positive: One of the lads on my team was just a beacon of positivity. He was happy to play no matter what the outcome. He was there to have fun and would make suggestions on what we might try to defeat our opponents. How often as leaders and adults, do we worry about winning so much that we forget that life is to be enjoyed and appreciated. If 14-year-old boys in the angst of puberty and adolescence can enjoy the moments of life despite the tensions, so should we.

We didn’t achieve our goals as a team to win the districts because a wrench was thrown into the works. However, if I look back to the goals the boys stated at the beginning of the season; to become better basketball players, to have fun, and make friends, they were all winners. Life isn’t all that complicated and sometimes teenagers are smarter than we give them credit for.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an Award-Winning Business Coach, Business Broker and the author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. What is something you learned in the past few months? I would love to hear. Email


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