If you have watched college or high school football games before, there’s a good chance you have noticed that many players’ helmets have extra little stickers on them. Some players – usually the quarterback’s or running backs’ – helmets are covered in them. They are awarded for various accomplishments ranging from making a big play to scoring a touchdown or causing a turnover etc. Not all teams award helmet stickers but over the years more and more teams have adopted this practice. Sadly even some youth teams have jumped head first into this practice.

I think this is a shame for many reasons but mostly because I believe it is counter productive in doing what a coach’s mission is: To develop the TEAM. Generally the players with the most helmet stickers are the guys who are already getting the majority of the attention. These players get to score touchdowns or make lots of tackles etc already. Is that not enough of a reward?

The truly special teams I have witnessed over the years did not elevate certain players over others. They made sure everyone had a job to do or role to play that was vital to the team’s successes. Often overlooked is the importance of the contribution the scout team provides. If all of your scout team players are working their hardest to provide the starters with the best possible look that they can give them, it will improve the team greatly. Often their contributions are what lead to outstanding performances by the starters on game day.

My core philosophy, the one that I based my company on, is that “Preparation isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” (that matters). So I say if you are compelled to give helmet stickers out, reserve them for the scout team and backups who help the starters prepare. The more important you can make the people on your team or organization feel, especially those who are not receiving all the accolades, the better your team or organization will ultimately perform.

Truly exceptional leaders and coaches make greatness attainable for all who are under their charge. We are not all blessed with the same amount of physical prowess, but we all have the ability to make the most of what we have and that is where greatness lies. I subscribe to what legendary coach John Wooden said, “Identifying an individual under my leadership as being better than others, runs contrary to my bedrock belief about success. I believe that personal greatness is measured against one’s own potential, not against that of someone else on the team or elsewhere.”

Do you measure your children against each other or what they are each capable of doing? Would you single out one of your children over the others for all to see? Of course not, because you know how that would make your other children feel. So why some coaches insist on doing essentially the same thing with helmet stickers is unfathomable to me.

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