Leadership Lessons from a Great Women’s Basketball Victory

Last year, in the Sweet 16 of the women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, the University of Connecticut defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs by 60 points. It was the largest defeat in regional semifinal history.

This past Friday, the two teams met again, this time in the Final Four of the women’s tournament. And in an amazing game, Morgan William made a shot at the buzzer in overtime to give the Bulldogs the victory over Connecticut. This win was significant, not just because Mississippi State was avenging a 60 point loss from just one year earlier, but even more because the win snapped Connecticut’s 111-game winning streak. That’s right, the Connecticut Huskies had not lost a game in 865 days, going back to November 2014. The Connecticut dynasty of this era will go down as one of the greatest teams of all time and Mississippi State, in a show of tremendous resilience, defeated them.

So how did Mississippi State come back just one year after an embarrassing 60 point defeat to pull off one of the greatest victories in the history of women’s basketball? Much of it comes down to leadership. When you watch Mississippi State celebrate you see a coach, Vic Schaefer, who really loves his players. Their concern for each other is evident in how they act and talk during post-game celebrations and interviews. He is clearly more than just a coach; he cares about his players and these young ladies respect him and appreciate his coaching and leadership.

They also have a great leader on the court in point guard Morgan William, who hit the game-winning shot. Despite standing just 5′ 5″ tall, she plays a huge role on the court. Other schools had the chance to recruit William but they said she was too small. Schaefer and Mississippi State, however, saw something special in William and she has been their leader on the court during this storybook season. She is tough and confident and resilient and appreciative of the opportunity that Schaefer gave her, “After every game, I tell coach Schaefer ‘Thank you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to come play.’ He believed in me when no one else did, and I can’t thank him enough for it.”

It is amazing what our team members can accomplish when we believe in them. Have confidence in them. Show them that you care. Believe in them. And you just might pull off some amazing victories of your own!

Thanks for reading,

Jim

P.S. – Follow me on Twitter, @jvearle, and please share my blog with others who love leadership and positivity!

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