RLL 73: Leadership Lessons from Soccer Seniors 2019

Real Life Leading 73: Leadership Lessons from Soccer Seniors 2019

This past week marked the beginning of soccer playoffs for my high school soccer team, and it proved to be quite the exciting time. We have three seniors on the team this year, all of whom have been excellent and key contributors throughout their entire careers. We were blessed to be able to celebrate them and recognize their accomplishments at a senior night ceremony during one of our games. Since then, I’ve been considering some of what they have taught me over the years, and I came up with two quick lessons that I want to share with you.

Had to get a team picture after a 4-3 double OT win in the playoffs!

Had to get a team picture after a 4-3 double OT win in the playoffs!

The first lesson is the importance of resilience. You could also simply refer to this as toughness or hardiness: these girls are resilient. They have overcome all kinds of challenges in their four years together on the varsity team: multiple injuries to themselves and/or teammates; changes in our school’s area (meaning our conference opponents) and classification (the size of schools we have to compete with); personal issues off the field (what teenager doesn’t face those, right?); and the usual assortment of issues in the classroom (again, think back to your own high school days).

Through all of these difficulties, these girls have remained tough and continually overcome these obstacles, culminating this week in a 4-3 win in double-overtime in our first playoff game this year. In fact, in each of the past four years, these girls have helped win at least one game in the post-season, an accomplishment never before achieved by our soccer program. They’re tough. What a great example, and what a great reminder to me: no matter what’s going on, my job is to continue moving forward despite whatever obstacles happen to appear.

Celebrating our seniors with their special gifts on Senior Night 2019!

Celebrating our seniors with their special gifts on Senior Night 2019!

The second lesson is that they’re consistent. They show up ready to play and to work every day. High school soccer season in Alabama is a long grind, beginning with preseason training right after New Year’s and not ending until the end of April or even mid-May (depending on the post-season). So for these girls, while other seniors are getting ‘spring fever’ and thinking of graduation and summer, they’re continuing to work and to sweat at practice and in games. And they’ve been at it for four years of high school (and many years before that). Though there are always ebbs and flows during a season, it’s been a joy to watch them come out to play and work hard at every opportunity, and our program is better for it. Again, what a great example to set: always come ready to work and to give your best effort.

These two reminders hit me this week, and so I wanted to share them with you. Whether you’re a business leader, part of a blended family, a college student, a parent, or anything else, you can benefit from remembering to be resilient in the face of adversity, and from being consistent in your hard work every day.

Action step: This week, look for new ways to overcome obstacles that have held you back, and commit to working hard each and every day.

RLL 72: Bathing Suits in Winter? Presenting a United Front in Blended Families

RLL 72: Bathing Suits in Winter? Presenting a United Front in Blended Families

It’s spring, and summer is approaching rapidly! In our world, that means that all sorts of fun discussions are now taking place: what kinds of bathing suits our girls are allowed to wear, summer job opportunities, and what the general schedule will look like. These are all issues about which the parents feel strongly, and they also present us with the opportunity to either present a united, supportive front towards our kids or to backbite and undercut each other if we do things incorrectly.

I’d be OK with my daughters wearing a bathing suit like this.

I’d be OK with my daughters wearing a bathing suit like this.

In all families, and especially in blended ones, it is crucial for all of the adults involved to present a united front as much as possible. The reason for this are obvious: consistency is one of the major potential factors in difficulties for kids within blended situations, and presenting a united front can help minimize that issues. So, how to go about creating and maintaining a united front, even when there are disagreements and thorny issues? I’ve got three quick thoughts to share on how to make this work.

First, have the discussion without the kids present. Back in the middle of winter, my wife and I began talking about bathing suits for our older daughter. We’ve also had a few conversations with her mom on the same topic. This has allowed us to come to a pretty good understanding of what we expect in terms of modesty, etc, for our daughters as they pick out their swimwear. Because of that, we’re now much more able to have the discussion with the girls, knowing that all of the parents are on the same page.

Second, once a decision has been reached it is important that all adults agree to stick to the decision, even if it’s not our first choice. For example, I’d be ok with it if my daughters only ever wore giant, baggy, one-piece bathing suits made of sackcloth or heavy wool, or maybe wear a giant t-shirt on top of a giant one-piece bathing suit. However, both her mom and stepmom have gently pointed out to me that it’s simply not realistic. As a result, it has allowed us to come up with some general parameters that we agree on, and within those parameters our daughters have the freedom to choose what they like.

Third and finally, it is absolutely critical that all of the adults show each other mutual respect both when they are around each other and when they are separate. That is, each parent must be willing to show respect to the others even when they disagree about the specifics. In general, I’m the parent with the strictest views about clothing, etc. However, that doesn’t mean my view is always the right one, and it’s been a good lesson for me to learn. As we have these discussion then, it is important for all of us to stay on the same page, both for maintaining a united front and also because it is an excellent opportunity to set a good example: respectful disagreement is becoming rarer everyday, and we have a responsibility to show our kids how it can be done. In the long run, the bathing suits my kids wear may or may not be a huge deal. However, teaching them about modesty and compromise, about respectful disagreement and decision-making; these are issues that are important.

Remember, in every situation, put the children first, keep a long-term perspective, and show one another mutual respect. Do these things, and you’re on the road to a much better blended family situation!

Action Step: This week, consider how you and the other adults in your situation can improve the way in which you present a united front to your children.

RLL 71: Quick Tips for a Better Blended Family

Real Life Leading 71: Quick Tips for a Better Blended Family

This week, I was reminded of how much I still have to learn. Providentially, that reminder coincided with the publishing of a podcast interview that is all about lessons and tips for blended families. Anna Seewald, founder of Authentic Parenting (https://authenticparenting.com/) , and I had an excellent conversation on the topic of blended families. Below is a summary of what we discussed as well as a link to our interview. I hope that both prove helpful to you and your family.

8 Quick Tips for a Better Blended Family


1. Seek to apply the golden rule: Treat other people the way you want them to treat you, even when it’s difficult. And sometimes, in order to do this, we must leave past perceptions in the past.

2. Put kids first, especially when it’s hard or inconvenient. At its heart, this is a large part of what parenting is all about, so be willing to put what’s good for the children ahead of your own desires.

3. Make decisions with the long term goals in mind. Keep your focus on helping them become the adult that God has created them to be.

4. Speak gently whenever there is a disagreement [full disclosure: I have failed at this many times with my daughters, and it has caused much damage. I strongly urge you to be aware of your tone, especially when speaking with children.]  When speaking with other adults, the best way to decompress a situation is to speak calmly, no matter what. It isn’t always easy, but speaking over someone is not going to get anyone the result they desire


5. Accept that you can never get things 100% your way in a blended family (or in any family, really). Once you accept that, it becomes much easier to do adapt and compromise as necessary.

6. As much as possible, be flexible and adaptable, especially regarding time. There is generally a written “rule” or legal document, but consider being flexible when it is helpful to the kids. [Again, full disclosure: this is something that I’m very thankful my ex-wife and I both strive to do, allowing each other to see the kids when it’s not “our week” with them.]

7. Be willing to apologize for your mistakes. Openly acknowledge when you are wrong. Not only is this the right thing to do, it also sets an example for your children to follow.

8. Make it a habit to speak well of the other adults involved in the relationship. It’s important not to bad mouth each other, and it may be even more important to purposefully point out the positives! Be sure to talk about how loved the children are by all of their parents.