How a society fundamentally defines the everyday working relationship between leader and led, is imbedded in how that society teaches its young people to compete in athletics. In its most popular sports. If that working relationship does not function well, the team loses.
It is no coincidence that the terms common to American teams sports are used time and again in the American business context. For the overwhelming majority of Americans have experience neither in the military nor in politics.
Other than being a member of a family, participating in team sports is the most common experience Americans, especially youths, have in a team context. And for those whose days of playing in a team are past, most remain fans of those sports. Teams sports in America form how Americans work in teams. The relationship between coaches and players is very much the model, or the mold, for the relationship between team lead and team.
The American sports tradition involves a close working relationship between leader and led, between the coaching staff and the players.
The coach and coaching staff in American football are the dominant actors during the game without stepping onto the field. They determine not only the strategy, but also the tactics. Both they can change quickly.
The rules of the game limit in no way when, how often, which and how many players they can substitute. Nor are there any restrictions on team formations on the field.
The coaching staff in almost all circumstances calls the individual offensive and defensive plays via direct communication with designated players: the quarterback on offense, the middle linebacker or safety on defense.
Playbooks are extensive descriptions of what each player does in a given play. They are detailed and prescriptive in nature. Depending on the position there is no to little room for variation.
During breaks in play, as well as changes in ball possession, the coaching staffs instruct directly their players on the details of execution. In other words, teaching occurs during the game.
American football is a very tightly managed and scripted sport, in many ways a sophisticated chess match between opposing coaching staffs. The television and radio commentators refer time and again to what decisions the coaches are making during the game: strategy, tactics, player substitutions, play-calling, time management.
Basketball – invented in 1891 by James Naismith, a Canadian-American, while teaching physical education in Springfield, Massachusetts – is also a sport dominated by the coaches. It has all of the characteristics of American football.
The teams of five players are smaller. The lines of communication between coaches and players are shorter and more direct. Although there are fewer set plays memorized from a playbook, the coaches can determine more directly how their team plays.
The chess match character is particularly evident during the final minutes of close games with coaches standing on the side of the court directing their players in real time, substituting players rapidly based on ball possession, and calling timeouts in order to give them explicit instructions.
Although baseball is in many ways a different kind of sport than American football and basketball, its rules and how the sport is played very much echoes the coach-player relationships in football and basketball.
It is the coaching staff who decides who pitches the ball, what pitches are chosen, when they are pitched. The coaching staff also instructs to a certain degree the batter on when to swing at which pitches. When players are on base as runners, they too are given instructions on when or when not to attempt to steal a base.
American colleges recruit their athletes from high schools across the nation. The athletes are often offered full tuition scholarships to play a sport at a university. Top basketball players are identified as early as in their 8th or 9th grade. The best players will be recruited during their junior year of high school.
This is a very personal process which consists of a dialogue between the university‘s head coach and player during his or her lasts one pr two years. Although there are many deciding factors in where a player decides which school to attend, the personal relationship with the coach is one of the most important.