Building a team isn’t easy because of attitudes.

Teams can be hell. Teams of all kinds – sports, work business – have the potential to become one of the ninth layers of hell. I majored in leadership as part of my Master’s degree and, in my opinion, a lot of leadership literature is full of pink-bubble fairy tales that have no relevance to real-life. Attitudes can fire up layers of hell on your team because of one simple reason that’s often overlooked because many people in leadership roles would rather be liked and be friends with their team instead of doing their job as leaders which is not to be added to friend’s list.

I wrote the following article for Coachbook to share what we do in our program. I don’t write fairy tales to add to the romance books about leadership and team-building that’s already out there. I write about real-life experiences that centers on one overriding principle – team-building is hard work. Bad attitudes will poison your team. It will kill your environment and slaughter any hope of winning or success by whatever definition you choose. And, unless you’re careful, team-building can drain the life right out of you. Here’s the article – season’s greetings. Peace, joy and love.

Don’t complain about what you train.

The worst repeat problem I’ve had to solve has been disrespect to a staff member – student-athlete disrespect to a member of the coaching staff or a faculty member in the college programs I coordinated. The number one cause I have found is the going out-of-bounds.
I have warned every assistant coach I’ve hired and every faculty member I’ve hired – build boundaries. Stay in bounds. Do not cross the line. What line? The line between mentor-protégé. Once you cross the line, you become friends, just like the fake Facebook friends and fake Twitter followers that people expose their privacy to.

I’ve cleared my conscience by warning every one I’ve hired – if you need friends, don’t coach, don’t teach. Join a social club. Take up golfing, join a bowling league, join a volleyball league and make as many friends as possible. The most important relationship in sports and education is the mentor-protégé relationship. You cannot be friends with your players and students and expect them to not cross the line.

I have had a strict program ideology for all 40 seasons I’ve coached. I’ve put it in writing. Here are two excerpts:

1. No socializing with players-students. No team parties, no pizza nights, no kayaking trips, no BBQ, no three-legged races, no white-water rafting. The only time our team gets together is in the weight room, on the field, in the classroom. That’s it. The highest form of bonding is shared misery – the shared spilling of blood and guts, not the socializing with players/students around picnic tables. Reason? Forced socialization of players and coaches/faculty is potential hell. I believe there is nothing worse than forcing a team to socialize with each other. Team social activities are a perfect example of conformist brainwashing. When I was a rookie cop, I attended shift parties that became an extension of junior high drunkfests. I got drunk, acted like an asshole, and regretted everything I said and did the next day. I stopped. I had to work in a high-risk job with these people. I didn’t need to see or hear them at their worst and I didn’t need them to see or hear me at my worst. No socializing with my co-workers ever again. Not a drop of alcohol since 1978. I built every team I’ve coached with the same ideology – no socialization whatsoever. True relationships are not alcohol-induced. True relationships are not built in drunken stupors or at any mind-altering stage of substance consumption.

2. No wild celebrations. Post-game dancing, jumping, hugging, and any other activity reserved for a bar or New Year’s Eve party is strictly prohibited. Be dignified. Act your age. Teach real-life lessons about ‘expected excellence.’ In real-life, you won’t be celebrating like a party animal for every success. Winning is expected in real-life consistently, day-by-day, minute-by-minute. And real-life expects you to do it again and again and again without fanfare. In 40 years of real-life work, I have never experienced a boss or supervisor celebrating hysterically after any of our successes. Just business as usual.

A mentor-protégé relationship is sacred. It’s the difference between building a functional or dysfunctional team. It’s the difference between many levels of hell happening and not happening. Staffers who don’t believe in my ideology or share my beliefs are welcome to coach elsewhere. I invite it. I will not compromise my personal beliefs to be accepted by the mainstream. I don’t care what other programs tolerate. Every program builds a brand. Staffers are free to choose where to apply to. When they become the head coach, they can instill whatever ideology they want.
The moment you become friends with your students and players, they will treat you exactly how they treat their friends. Hell happens. True mentors do no expose their private side to adolescents. I’ve been blessed in my careers because I never have had a true mentor lower him or herself to my level of immaturity. Those who have lowered themselves, never have been and never will be given the title mentor in my books. Instead, they will be added to the growing friends list that is replacing true, meaningful relationships. The coaching profession is not a right. It’s a privilege. Student-athletes need mentoring. They have enough friends.

Don’t complain about what you train. Train your team to be your friends and they will treat you like one and eventually block or delete you from their friends list. That’s the last line in our program manual that I distribute even before the first job interview so that the applicant doesn’t waste his/her time or mine if they don’t share that ideology.

Festive seasons.

Peace and joy to all.

Gino Arcaro M.Ed., B.Sc., NCCP Level 3
Head coach – Niagara X-men football
Owner – X Fitness Inc.

Gino Arcaro is a widely published author. His website, blog, Youtube channel, and list of books are at: www.ginoarcaro.com His books include: 4th & hell: seasons 1-5, Soul of a Lifter, SWAT Offense, SWAT Defense, X Fitness Workout System. He also has written 20 editions of 6 law enforcement academic textbooks.