I had the extreme pleasure of watching the national tour of Hamilton recently. Of course, I cried, I laughed, and I left incredibly inspired. One part that stuck out to me was Alexander Hamilton’s speech about his legacy.
It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see
I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me
America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me
You let me make a difference
Build Your Legacy
I believe every coach has the opportunity to build a legacy on his or her team. A legacy they won’t always get to see come to fruition, but one that can really make a difference.
Not every coach is going to last 10 years, 15 years, or 20+ years. There are a few of those gems out there, but it’s pretty rare in our industry for coaches to last more than 5 years. If you’re one of those long-term coaches or aspire to be, you in a position to create a legacy that is bigger than you.
Merriam-Webster’s definition of Legacy: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past
What is the legacy you want to build for your team? It’s not about your personal legacy, but your TEAM’S legacy.
What are you transmitting from one year to the next? When your athletes are grown and gone from your team, what will they take with them? What will the new members of your team this year receive from their predecessors?
Good leaders think about the legacy they want to leave behind, even if they are years away from leaving the helm of the ship. Maybe your legacy comes in the form of a mantra you always say that sticks with your dancers. Or maybe it’s a life lesson about hard work and drive that guides them in their careers 10 years later. Maybe it’s a feeling of belonging and teamwork that they go on to instill in their own teams some day.
A String of Championships is NOT a Legacy
Legacy is something passed down by your predecessors, and I think for a coach, that legacy is both a feeling and a behavior. Legacy is not a tangible thing. You can’t pass down a legacy of championships. Instead, you build a legacy of work ethic, mindset, and positive emotions that continue to make championships possible.
Look at any team you admire with a string of championships. When a new dancer makes that team, she doesn’t just get to put a logo on her new uniform and instantly become a champion. Each dancer – and each team – has to earn it every time.
The legacy you inherit from your predecessors is a mindset, a work ethic, a feeling of confidence and belonging. Those things help you reach your own championship your own way… if you do the work.
Have You Thought About Your Team’s Legacy?
The first few years I was coaching I definitely wasn’t thinking about my legacy. I thought I would coach a few years, help my little sister enjoy dance again, and then move on. I was really just in survival mode.
Fast forward 10 years, and I started to realize the lasting effect my work had, even if I didn’t get to see it. In the most recent years, I really started to be intentional about the legacy of my team. I thought about what I wanted my dancers to take with them when they graduated. I thought about what feeling I wanted to instill, what mantra I wanted them to remember, and what it meant to be a part of our legacy.
That also meant I started to intentionally teach aspects of my desired legacy to those on the team. I would say things like, “if there’s one thing you take away…” I made sure I had the same little speech before a competition so that it would stick with them. I would talk about the importance of alumni support and encourage and invite alumni to always visit and help the current team.
There is nothing like your alumni coming back to visit and positively support your current team to perfectly demonstrate what it means to be a part of this legacy. I want my current team to know they are part of something bigger than them. Bigger than just this year. Bigger than just the last 4 years.
Tradition Never Graduates
There is a team here at home in Colorado that I’ve always admired for their legacy. Once you are a part of their family, it never stops. They have a great tradition that every graduating senior gets a t-shirt at their senior banquet with the team logo on the front and “Tradition Never Graduates” on the back. And you better believe when their alumni show up at competitions to support the current team, there is a pack of them wearing those shirts. Their legacy is on full display, and I love it. As someone who didn’t grow up in that legacy, I can’t be certain, however, I believe the legacy of that team is one of continued support, passion, and fight. The current team is able to see it, and the alumni all proudly display it.
My Team’s Legacy
I hope the team legacy I wanted to instill was clear to my athletes. I hope that the current team and coaches build on the legacy I created and make it their own. I am proud that I planted seeds of passion and work ethic in my dancers that have grown up now, even though I may never get to see the results. I’m ok with that. I don’t need to see the end to know that the team legacy I built mattered to some.
What seeds are you planting?
What is your legacy?