The New York Jets are a mess these days, as a number of players have spoken out about quarterback Mark Sanchez, openly questioning whether he has the abilities to lead the team to the Super Bowl. Of course, it doesn’t help matters that Peyton Manning may be available through trade as the Colts have the first pick in the draft and are expected to select Heisman runner-up Andrew Luck. What will happen next remains to be seen, but much of what has already happened to date is a direct reflection of Head Coach Rex Ryan and his leadership abilities.
While I don’t have any interest in “piling on” Rex Ryan, the current Jets situation does serve as an excellent example to learn from for coaches at all levels – including youth and interscholastic – about the impact of coach leadership skills. As every football fan knows, Ryan is a very outspoken and brash coach, which has seemingly created a culture within the Jets locker room that not only allows for but may even encourage players to openly call out teammates in public. This may be a perfect case of “live by the sword, die by the sword,” as Ryan’s tough exterior may help his team in some ways, but seems to have also created an environment where players also feel very comfortable airing their dirty laundry for the world to see.
What we are seeing in New York has nothing to do with Ryan’s play calling or knowledge of the game of football. Instead, his style may be directly influencing, permitting, and enabling players to say what they want, when they want, and to whomever they want. Herein is where the team culture problems have developed, leading them to what we are seeing today — their star quarterback (Sanchez) getting publicly ripped by numerous anonymous Jet players. Coaches at all levels know this is not good.
Of course, there’s probably a lot more to the problems with the Jets than we know, but fellow coaches should pay close attention as these examples of broken player relationships and toxic dynamics can occur on any team. Team culture is a very important part of any organization’s success, yet it is a very misunderstood and often devalued construct. Some coaches don’t think much about their team culture, while others believe it simply “comes together” from playing together. Others, however, place great emphasis on “the way we do things” and model themselves for the rest of the team to follow suit.
There are a lot of entertaining things about Rex Ryan, and I suppose most people would say he is very good for the NFL. He is direct, candid, and funny. He is also harsh, critical, and outspoken. Unfortunately, you cannot simply “pick” the parts of him you like — instead, you get the whole thing.
Every coach has his or her own style and way of doing things, and this is part of why we enjoy sports so much. The head coach, however, is the biggest influence on the team and because of this should think about the following things:
- Overall demeanor and ways in which he/she treats others, including players, the media, parents, and others involved with the program. Players — especially at the youth/interscholastic level — will often model their coach, for better or for worse.
- How he/she handles team issues and crises – does the coach play favorites and/or use other players as punching bags for what not to do?
- How does he/she respond to player problems — does the coach step up and defend the player, or instead stay out of the mess?
- What tone does the coach set for the team? This includes how the team dresses, presents themselves, and speaks to the public.
- When it comes to doling out punishment to players who break team rules, is the coach fair in the process? In other words, does he/she penalize the star player in the same way any other player would be punished?
There is a lot that goes into positive team culture, and it usually doesn’t just “happen.” Coaches who are respectful to the process and keep their egos in check usually get it, while others who minimize the importance of team culture often end up in situations like we are seeing in New York. While there is no “cookbook” way to develop a positive team culture, coaches who care, are specific with team goals and rules, and apply consistent consequences to players who break team rules usually develop a very psoitive and healthy team climate and culture.
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climate, culture, jets, mark, new, problems, rex, ryan, sanchez, team, teamwork, toxic, york