Bobby Wilder – Positive and Empowering

Old Dominion University campus

Old Dominion University campus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unless you are living in Virginia, near Old Dominion University, you probably have not heard of Bobby Wilder.  Wilder is the head coach of Old Dominion’s football team and I hadn’t heard of him either, until recently.  I was watching Old Dominion’s football team play and I noticed how positive and encouraging their head coach seemed to be.  Although I didn’t know who this coach was at the time, I decided to find out a little bit more about him.

I learned that the ODU head coach is Bobby Wilder.  In 2009, Old Dominion decided to resurrect their football program after a 69 year absence.  They turned to Wilder, a long time assistant coach at the University of Maine, to lead the new program.  Right now, it looks like a great choice.  Wilder has compiled a four-year record of 38 wins and only 10 losses, a .792 winning percentage.  In 2012, the Monarchs were 11-2 and ranked number 6 in the final national poll for their division of play.

What I noticed immediately while watching Wilder coach was that he was very positive and encouraging even when his team made mistakes and even when they were losing the game.  A team member would make a mistake and Wilder would pat him on the back, give him a nod of encouragement, or clap repeatedly as if to say, “Let’s go, we can do this.”  Here is what players and coaches say about Wilder:

“Bob Wilder to me embodies a great leader.  He is a great motivator, recruiter and extremely driven.  His teams will be a reflection of his competitive spirit.  Bob also surrounds himself with good people.”  Ben Sirmans, Running Backs Coach, St. Louis Rams.

“Coach Wilder was always a positive driving force in our program and his attitude always gave confidence that we were going to win every time we stepped onto the field.” Ronnie Cameron, Former Old Dominion Player.

Wilder also believes in empowering his players.  He lets the captains of the team write a set of rules for the season.  Each year, the rules are reviewed and the new captains recommend changes and additions.  Wilder reviews these suggestions with the captains and together they agree on the new team rules.  Wilder believes in his players and gives them the power to govern themselves.  Typically, this empowering approach leads to a greater commitment from the team.

Admittedly, this is not extensive research.  But my quick search for information about Bobby Wilder reveals that he is positive, encouraging, motivating, and empowering.  These qualities certainly would help to explain Old Dominion’s tremendous success under his guidance.

If someone saw you leading, would they be curious enough to learn more about you?  If they did their research, would they find that you are positive, encouraging, motivating, and empowering like Bobby Wilder?  If you aren’t sure, work on being more positive and encouraging this week.  Empower your team so they are loyal and committed to you and your organization.  This approach has led to great success for ODU football and it can help your organization as well!

Thanks for reading,

Ways to follow Dr. Jim Earle:
Twitter – @jvearle Blog –
Facebook – JVEarleConsulting
Book – 100 Yards of Success: Leadership Lessons from College Football,


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