The story of Ken Carter, who returns to coach basketball at his former school, is based on true events. Rather than simply improving the team’s results, Carter truly believes he can improve his students’ lives.
Here are four leadership lessons we can learn from Carter’s approach.
Set clear expectations
At their first meeting, Carter hands each student a contract, setting out his expectations. In return for playing, all students must attend their classes and achieve basic academic standards. If they don’t sign, they don’t play.
Have difficult conversations
When his team members fail to honour their contracts, their coach isn’t afraid to take action. Although his team are now winning, Carter stops the team playing until every student’s grades meet the minimum standard.
Gathering his team for a ‘clear the air’ discussion, Carter listens to how they feel and explains his reasons. He encourages them to aim higher in their lives, and challenges them to work harder for a better life.
Stand up for what you believe
Carter’s move meets resistance from every angle: his team, parents, teachers and the School Board. But he is willing to risk his job to make a better future for his students.
It’s that power of conviction that ultimately wins over his students. As a result, they take responsibility for helping each other improve their academic scores.
Encourage a team ethic
There’s a popular management saying that there’s no ‘I’ in team. Carter ensures his team take this on board by stopping everyone from playing – academic achiever or not. He’s teaching that successful teams win because of team rather than individual performance: you’re only only as good as your weakest link, and successful teams work for each other.
Coach Carter is about having a vision of change and seeing it through in the face of resistance. Carter’s strength of belief draws people in, winning respect and loyalty.
And unlike many films, there’s no perfect sporting ending. Instead, the victory is off the court, in the way the team has come together and grown – changing both their outlook and their future.