Guest Post: Father and Coach by Jeremy Jeppesen

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Guest Post: Father and Coach by Jeremy Jeppesen


About The Author:  Jeremy is a graduate student pursuing his MBA at the Gore School of Business at Westminster College.

The game was on the line; we were down by 2 and had the basketball with only a few seconds remaining when we called timeout.  The crowd was going so crazy, and we had a hard time hearing.  Coach enters the huddle.  There was something about his calming presence that made everything slow down.  He exuded confidence and reassurance, and because of this characteristic, the panic and pressure consuming his players, seemed to vanish.  He knelt down, looked up and matter-of-factly said: “We are going to win!”  Calmly, he diagramed the play, broke the huddle, and sat on the bench.  The players walked back onto the court and did exactly what he told them; they won the game.

StoryPaul Jeppesen coached Skyline High School boys’ basketball team from 1976 to 1993, and again from 2003-2005. He was an effective coach because he led.  His teams didn’t always have to be told what to do but were taught to find success themselves. Coach accomplished this by setting clear goals and expectations, and defined roles for each player.  Although he was extremely competitive, he was also equally humble. His players loved to play for him, and he loved to coach them.

On the first day of the season in 2003, he stood before a group of boys who had not had a winning program in years, and he told them they were going to be winners.  As I looked around, I thought he was crazy.  We didn’t have any returning players with any noteworthy talent, and the team already looked defeated, avoiding eye contact.  He went on and explained that we would win by outworking everyone, out-smarting everyone, and out-playing everyone on our schedule. John P. Kotter explains that leadership does not create plans but a leader is someone who creates a vision. Coach’s vision was simple and effective.  He did not believe we could be successful by having every play in the book for every scenario; rather, we would do a few things very well, and make other teams adjust to us.  Jim Collins calls this “The Hedgehog Concept.” Mr. Collins goes on to explain that although a fox knows a little bit about a lot of things, a hedgehog knows one thing really well and the hedgehog wins.

basketball-huddle-424Jim Collins explained a Level 5 leader first puts the right people in the right place before creating a strategy.  Coach saw the talent was had, and understood what each person’s strengths were and helped those players understand their defined roles.  One of our players could not shoot the ball, jump high, or play without fouling but he was the strongest guy on the team.  Coach helped him understand that he would be needed to rebound the basketball, and help toughen up the players at practice who would be playing in front of him.  This player realized his role on the team was just as important as the player who scored all the points, or made all the passes.  He fulfilled his role on the basketball team and without him; we would not have been as successful.  This player was Tony Bergstrom; a former University of Utah, and current Oakland Raider football player.

During staff meetings, coach was not telling us everything that needed to be accomplished.  He often posed questions and then listened to our responses. Coach was the winningest coach in the history of Skyline High School basketball, and an elected member of the Utah Basketball Hall of Fame, yet, he was humble enough to learn from everyone in the room.  He didn’t want the attention to be on him.  During practice he would have other coaches explain different strategies or offensive/ defensive plays.  After games he was sure to attribute the success onto his team, and did everything he could to deflect credit off himself.  Having the professional will and personal humility was explained by Jim Collins as essential in being a Level 5 Leader.

I believe Coach Jeppesen is one of the greatest leaders I know.  He has an innate ability to lead. I am grateful for the chance to have coached with him, but I am even more grateful to be able to call him by another title.  You see, this great coach who influenced so many basketball players is also my dad, and if you think he can coach, you should see him parent!

About The Author:  Jeremy is a graduate student pursuing his MBA at the Gore School of Business at Westminster College.


About the Author:

Professor and award winning author, world traveler, Mom, thought leader, mentor, friend, and advocate Vicki Whiting, Ph.D. is dedicated to the facilitation of learning and the development of leaders in all walks of life.

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