“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
—John Quincy Adams
For those of you that followed the Women’s World Cup games (soccer to some, football to others), you witnessed, as expected, that the players played with heart and skill.
Heart and skill helped the U.S. team make it to the finals, but they also had another element on their side, Coach and Leader, Pia Sundhage.
Coach Sundhage credits advancing to the finals a result of the teams ability to deal with adversity. The players on the other hand attribute a good portion of their success to their coach’s ultra-positive outlook.
Coach Sundhage is frequently heard saying: “My glass is half full”; “I coach what is healthy”; “if you have positive expectations, it very often happens”, and a favorite motivator “Excellent!”
Player Heather O’Reilly says Sundhage “is the most positive coach I have ever had,” and another player, Julie Foudy says “she’s always positive, her glass is always full and that helps to stabilize the team in moments of crisis and adversity”.
Sundhage has a calming influence, is an extreme optimist, and readily sings a song to help her team combat stress. She even sang “Feelin’ Groovy” during a news conference!
Included in her leadership strategy is reviewing videos of previous goals, and highlights from past games. She uses these to provide feedback and build confidence by reinforcing successes.
Sundhage says: “That feedback, I hope, will make them stronger, gain some confidence, and I’m also telling them, ‘This is good, do it again’. She concludes by saying “It’s fun for me to coach like that.”
In addition to playing with heart and skill, the U.S. team played with class. After losing the title to Japan, (many say because of missed opportunities), U.S. Goalie Hope Solo summed it up by saying. “The Japanese showed a lot of passion and a lot of fight. I don’t say that about many teams but I have an awful lot of respect for them. They played for a lot more than sport. They played for so many good and wonderful reasons.”
They all deserve being credited for playing and leading with heart, skill, and class.