Editor’s Note: We welcome first-time Breakfast Club blogger Jeffrey L. Jordan, CEO of Sportika Sports in Manalapan, New Jersey. We had the chance to interview Jeff about his work managing a 170,000 square foot elite sports facility serving 1000 families /kids a year. In this interview blog, Jeff shares how he integrates leadership and life skills with youth and staff simultaneously.
Q: How do you use leadership and life skills when you are coaching your athletes at Sportika?
JLJ: As if we didn’t know it, sports skills, activities, and philosophies transcend into real-life applications. Some of the transferable activities that are easy to share with our student-athletes are: keeping your eye on the ball, that’s focus. The passing of a ball, that is communication. And making an assist, that is support. All of these are leadership skills.
- Maintaining focus
- Communication with teammates
- Supporting your partners
We use these activities as metaphors in real life examples with our athletes. They like it and it resonates with them. If we engage young student-athletes with life skills that first apply to their sport, it’s easier to translate these skills and apply them in real life.
As mentioned, this isn’t new news, and as we know, kids need to learn these skills. We are struggling with young people’s ability to stay in it when it gets challenging and not to drop out when it’s hard.
Today everything is so instantaneous young people are getting used to instant gratification, they are not understanding that the work they put in needs to be hard work, thoughtful work and that it will take time to obtain results.
That makes them uncomfortable. What we try to help them understand is that the work they do now on a daily basis will be seen down the road, and will make an impact, even if it takes a long time. We have to let them know they actually have to work at it, and that’s how they excel. They need vision. This is a challenge in the era of digital devices and fast processing. So, when they are with us at Sportika, we work with our athletes on life skills in order to perform better not just on the field or court but in school, socially, and in their communities. We want to build young people not only as athletes but as whole children. Our goal is to have our kids arrive on a college campus and thrive, whether they are playing their sport or not. We need to prepare them for that possibility.
Q: How do you use these same concepts in leadership with your staff?
JLJ: In many regards, a sport is a metaphor for life. The very principles that we stress as important for our student-athletes are the same for our leadership team and staff. We can only be effective if we communicate. To be more specific, a huge part of that communication is having the ability to listen and to be empathetic to the points of view and perspectives of your staff and team. One thing that can get lost when there is a lot of communication and sharing of different views is focus. It is vital to maintain focus and connection to the ultimate mission and purpose of your organization. Quite possibly the most important concept in leadership is supporting your team. In the same way that our student-athletes will perform at their peak when they know that our coaches believe in them, company leadership and staff will be most effective when they know they are supported by management and ownership.
Q: How do the life skills that you teach apply to run your organization?
JLJ: The same philosophies and importance of teamwork, communication, and focus apply for the kids on the field as it does as a leader in an organization. It is important that our athletes observe coaches and management implementing strong leadership so that we remain true to our teachings and coaching. In order for these kids to really listen to us talk about the importance of teamwork, working collaboratively and overcoming obstacles we have to have integrity and present the same behaviors, otherwise, why would they even consider anything we are trying to teach them?
We can’t be the disconnect, we need to be the example. We need to demonstrate what we are teaching. The kids are watching us and we have to be living examples for them to look up to.
For breakfast, I had a pineapple.