Soccer Hall of Famer Claudio Reyna hung up his cleats as one of the greatest soccer players of all time and set out to determine the next chapter of his life.

No, not 'Dancing with the Stars'.

The two-time Olympian and twice national college player of the year, four-time World Cup player (twice as team captain), only American ever named to the World-Cup all-tournament team, and current Director of the New York City FC (a professional soccer team), discovered part of that next chapter in an unlikely way.

When Reyna's son joined a local soccer team, Reyna soon became frustrated with the way the coaches handled the athletes, as well as with the parent involvement and sideline behavior (I'm looking at you Overzealous, Foul-Mouthed Father).

In the span of a scissor kick, Reyna learned of the nonprofit Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA), volunteered to join the advisory board, and now serves on the board of PCA-New York City. PCA seeks to shape the massive youth sporting landscape into a hotbed for creating better athletes and better people--the kind who grow into stellar leaders.

Why is such an organization needed? Because it turns out that despite our best intentions as parents and coaches, we can have the opposite effect of what we intend.

Research shows that an astonishing 70 percent of kids drop out of sports after the age of 13 because "sports are no longer fun, nor a source of confidence, self-esteem, or feelings of worthiness".

That's a lot of misguided mom's, dad's, and coaches missing the point.

Reyna shared five powerful pieces of advice to help parents and coaches be a positive, not punishing, influence via their involvement in junior's sports. The lessons are 100 percent applicable for leaders too.

1. Mold triple impact players (and employees).

A key framework of PCA's mission is to teach players to have an impact on three levels: improve themselves, their teammates, and the game as a whole.

The coaching, teaching, and advice administered to players or employees should always be helping them to deliver this total portfolio of positivity. If your words/actions don't live up to this criteria, rethink what you're about to say or do.

2. Learn to win the right way.

Who doesn't want to win in sports (and business)? The key is to balance that competitive drive to win with thoughtful player/employee development. As Reyna told me,

When you're keeping score it's human nature to automatically want to win. Take a step back, though, and understand that everyone is trying to win. No one wakes up saying how can I help us lose today?

The implication is to act accordingly then and follow another of the PCA's key tenets, what they call the Double-Goal Approach©: coaching to win and teach life lessons (in their case, through sports).

You win the right way when you learn along the way.

3. Embrace the learning zone to shine in the performance zone.

Reyna has played and thrived in front of stadiums filled with more than 100,000 rabid fans, so he knows a little about performing under pressure. He often gets asked how he handles such high-pressure situations. Reyna's answer:

The key is to know that the learning zone is more important than the performance zone. The performance zone, whether it's a game or a key presentation at work, usually doesn't last more than 2 hours. The other 22 hours always give you a great chance to practice, study, and learn so that in those 2 hours of high pressure, you're prepared. And yes, I mean the other 22 hours because it includes getting enough sleep, exercise, and proper nutrition.

4. Think of the camera in the corner.

As a parent, are you role modeling positive life lessons while standing behind the coach and athlete in your efforts to support them? Would you be proud to see your sideline behavior on video afterward?

Same thing for leaders, would you be proud of how the rest of the organization would see your interactions with coachees and fellow leaders? This is in line with the PCA's goal of encouraging the Second-Goal Parent©--the mom or dad who support the coach and athlete in their efforts around life lessons through sports.

5. Fill the emotional tank too.

Young athletes, and employees, need truth, and praise. Never forget your role in keeping their emotional tanks filled. There is enough in youth sports culture, and the workplace, that leaves people feeling like they are running on empty.

So if you want to shoot, score, and say you hit your goooooooooooaaaaaal! -- then coach, teach, and be involved in the right way.

Published on: May 23, 2017
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