Leadership: Twelve Nervous, Sweaty Teammates. Obnoxious Fans. Two minutes.

This past week at a basketball tournament in the Peninsula I made my debut after 6 weeks on the DL due to an ankle sprain. The season is just getting underway, and it was our 2nd game of the season. We were clearly playing a better, more athletic team. And with not all our guys healthy, we got outplayed. Suprisingly, our opponents had tons of student fans (“6 man club”) making lots of noise and yelling un-repeatable things from the stands. For me, they must have known I had a torn ligiment in my ankle (“33 has a weak ankle, break his ankle!).

It’s halftime, we’re down by 10, but still have a shot to stay competitive. The coach says his bit, and now everyone turns to me and my co-captain for final words before we head back out to the court from the locker room. Before starting, I look at everyone. Some are dejected, some are pumped, some are just fidegty and nervous. We hear the ear-piercing loud rap music playing in the gym. The locker room is getting stuffy. This is the ultimate place to exude leadership. There is absolutely no pararellel to this situation in the business world. I know that each word I say and the inflexion of each word is critical.

I choose to harkon back on a theme I presented early on: “Everyone needs to give 100%. The scoreboard is not important now. We need to improve and get better each and every game this preseason. We cannot be scared. We need to take our man to the basket if we are getting pressured. We need to run our offense through and not get flustered when it breaks down. Everyone needs to play big, needs to play extra-aggressive. Crash the boards. Cut the margin to 5 by the end of the 3rd quarter. Let’s do this. We can do it.”

Then, I do something I wasn’t sure was a good idea did it anyway. I single out three players by name in front of the team who I didn’t think were working hard enough or who didn’t have their head in the game. People debated the next day whether this was an effective strategy. One of the players did indeed pick it up the second half. Another player didn’t, and asked after the game what specifically I was referring to. “Going 100%” is obviously up to interpretation.

I can’t talk anymore because I’ve lost my voice from yelling so much earlier. We break up and head back out. We ended up losing by a healthy margin but I was content with our effort and excited that I could make it back on the court.
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The following game in the tournament I came down and severely sprained my other ankle, the very day my other ankle was finally close to 100%. Honestly, I’m pretty devastated. I anticipate I will be sidelined for 4-6 weeks and the season is starting. Words can’t express my anger and sadness. After all I just went through in rehab on my other ankle, to go through it all again is a huge, huge setback. I’m confident I will find a productive way to channel this anger, but for now, my emotions are overriding everything else.

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