Chapter 1: The Self-Motivated Leader
First and foremost, an athletics director needs to be self-motivated. Unlike followers, who must be told what to do, a leader is someone who is highly self-driven to succeed.
Athletics directors are literally out in front of the crowd. Usually handling fan behavior. Nonetheless, athletics directors are always moving forward on their department initiatives, taking action without being told to do so. An athletics director must be able to drive things forward without direction. Although we know as athletics leaders we have many who give us advice and feedback.
They must have an innate ability to make change happen, even when they can’t see exactly how it’s going to happen.
Athletic Directors aren’t primarily motivated by salary or social status. They have a fire within them. A powerful desire to make positive change happen for their school community.
Daniel Goleman, author of the book “Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ”, puts it this way:
“Plenty of people are motivated by external factors, such as a big salary or the status that comes from having an impressive title or being part of a prestigious company. By contrast, those with leadership potential are motivated by a deeply embedded desire to achieve for the sake of achievement.”
How can you as an athletics director grow in self-motivation?
The primary way is by choosing a goal (or set of goals) that resonates with you and stirs you up to want to accomplish greatness for your programs.
Think about your own career as an athletics administrator. What do you really, truly want to accomplish? What goals fuel your passion and make you want to take action? What objectives would you be willing to sacrifice for?
It’s these feelings that create motivation. Focus your attention on them. Write them down. As an athletics director I used pursuit lists to focus on my goals for the year. We also implemented a strategic plan that cast our vision for our athletics department goals for the future. Make it a habit of reviewing your goals. The more you’re focused on your goals, the more you’ll be motivated to want to achieve them.
Assuming your goals involve more than just yourself, you’ll also be motivated to get others on board with your goals.
What is the definition of a self-motivated leader?
According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of self-motivated is: “driven by one's own desires and ambitions. Motivated to do or achieve something because of one's own enthusiasm or interest, without needing pressure from others.”
Advice from the DNA AD Pool
Driven - “In terms of the AD, means the 24/7, 365-day quest to make everything run smoothly, while creating experiences for students, parents and community to enjoy and remember, many times putting your own family and personal needs second.” Chris Coffman, Grinnell Athletics Director
Competitive - “Means to Me as an AD. Competitive can be meant differently between student-athletes, parents, coaches and an Athletic Director. Competitiveness needs to be balanced in the world of educational-based athletics and the 3Dimensional coaching model. It should promote the beauty of sport. Competitiveness should also lead to life lessons for student-athletes from participating in interscholastic sports.” Jason Schroeder, North Scott Athletics Director
Determined - “The moment I entered the International AD world I was determined to become the best AD that I could be through learning from more experienced ADs, doing professional development and growing day-by-day. Determination to become the best AD you can be directly affects the programs you oversee.” Jeffrey Koops, C.M.A.A., Director of Athletics, International School of Ulaanbaatar
Dedicated - “Jack Morris, four-time World Series champion, gave an interview stating he lived by a mantra of the 3 D’s – Desire, Determination and Dedication. His competitor’s mindset lends itself well to our work in athletic administration. We must have the desire to want what is best for our kids, programs and schools to be able to excel, which includes a healthy and supportive activity and athletic program. We must have the determination to see things through to make them happen – to put our teams in a position to be successful. Finally, we must have the dedication to continue to aspire to a high level within our activities programming. Working from this ‘3D’ mindset will lead us to many future successes.” Dr. John Krogstrand, Director of Athletics, Omaha Public Schools
“When nothing seems to help, I go look at the stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times with as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it, but all that had gone before” - Jacob A. Riis
Persistent – “Persistency is a key skill an AD needs to possess. You will face hard times, complaints or will do things wrong but own up to it, learn from it and move on. Persistence and patience go hand in hand, and it is those who are persistent that will be successful in the end.” Jeffrey Koops, C.M.A.A., Director of Athletics, International School of Ulaanbaatar
We all know as athletics directors that self-motivation is vital for our work. There's a good chance we can keep plowing through despite all the trials and tribulations of the crazy world of education-based athletics without high motivation levels. But, how much more fulfilling would our positions be if we could maintain a high level of self motivation through the hectic and crazy schedules as athletics leaders?
Unexpected fires pop up on us every day as athletics administrators. And depending upon how we react to them, these small fires can quickly ignite into a fiery inferno.
It's even more prevalent as ADs find themselves overloaded with taking on multiple roles within their school districts . With this overloaded schedule it is easy to struggle with self-motivation. You may find we can easily become frustrated, unproductive and ineffective in our crazy roles.
Fortunately, there are strategies athletics directors can implement to avoid this. For example, you can schedule your daily work tasks according to your calendar. Additionally, you can manage your day. If you wake up late, don't start your day with Twitter.
Instead, you can make the most of every waking moment.
Try these tips to increase your motivation:
Set goals. A lack of motivation comes from not knowing where we want to go. Why do you wake up each morning and go to work? What’s your purpose? What is your Why? What would you like your athletics department to look like in the next year, five years, or 10 years? Why do you want your athletics department to look that way?
- Asking these questions helps you gain clarity and define objectives for your athletics department. Once you have answers to these questions, you can finally set the goals that are right for your teams.
Avoid comparing yourself to others. As athletics directors we know we are imperfect by nature. But we sometimes forget this when we compare our schools to others, thinking we have to perform better than everyone else. This action leads to more negative thoughts and feelings.
- Instead of comparing your school to others, try imagining what your school athletics department will be like when you achieve your goals. This approach can help you eliminate the endless lists and mental comparisons that hinder your progress.
Fight through your struggles. As athletics leaders we all have challenges in our daily lives, so it's easy to have negative thoughts and emotions. Instead of abandoning your goals, try to face your obstacles and figure out how to overcome those obstacles.
- Your challenge may feel like a huge obstacle, but giving up on your goals is detrimental to your own mental health.
- Remember why you started. Recognize that results don't come instantly. Stay motivated and keep looking toward your overall athletics department goals.
Overcome your fear of change. Everyone is fearful of change. But many times, that's what we need. You don't have to make significant changes, you can make small changes that lead to substantial results.
- For example, someone trying to get in shape might choose to eat healthier and exercise more. Someone trying to run a marathon may think about trying an endurance running program. Someone interested in starting a business may look for inexpensive ways to market their product.
- Your results will follow your decisions, so choose wisely!
Embrace your failures. We all fail. Even if you're doing something right, sometimes you will still make a mistake. Learn from your failures and move on. Realize that failure is as natural to us ADs as breathing.
- Even the most successful people have failed at one time or another. And the truth is, failure helps us to grow as we learn. Failure allows us to learn new skills and improve in our role as athletics leaders.
- So instead of dwelling on your failures, evaluate them and think about what you did well. By doing this, you will learn from your mistakes and achievements, making you more motivated in the long run!
It's easy to feel unmotivated. However, the key to staying motivated is to focus on your WHY.
While it's true that you may never reach some goals, if you focus on the possibilities and work hard to meet them, you can still achieve your athletics department goals no matter how difficult they may be.
About Scott Garvis
Scott Garvis has been a leader and innovator in intercollegiate and interscholastic athletics development and fundraising for more than 25 years – as an athletics director, coach, association board member, adviser and editorial contributor.
Scott has a record of excellence as Athletics Director, Director of Activities and Assistant Principal, having led the athletics departments at six high schools or school districts in three states. He has achieved unparalleled success at all levels of high school athletics: large public school districts, a small public high school, a private school, and with state and national athletics administrator associations.