When I first heard the premise of “Ted Lasso,” I was like a lot of folks from the coaching world.
Come on: a college football coach from the United States who knows nothing about soccer, taking over as head coach of a soccer team in the English Premier League? Seriously! I expected slapstick silliness in line with the likes of a bad sitcom from the late ‘70s.
I couldn’t have been happier to have been so wrong.
Part of what is so special about Ted Lasso for me is that I started watching it around the time we decided to use the acronym CARE as the key component of our newly formed nonprofit.
As you see from our logo above:
CARE stands for Culture, Ability, Relationship, EnJOYment.
Let’s look at the acronym through the eyes of Coach Lasso and examine why he’s so popular and why he’s arguably so successful. (I measure success here by how many people want to play for him and come back each season, which, for youth coaches, should be the ultimate test of success).
Culture – One of the most charming things about Ted is his acceptance of his own naivety. He owns and accepts what he doesn’t know, but is always willing to learn. In order for coaches to build a positive culture within their organization, they have to be open and accepting of all the cultures and differences of those around them and under their care. Like most teams in the English pro system, Ted’s AFC Richmond is a melting pot of players from around the world who are all doing their best to adjust to their temporary homes in England. By acknowledging, respecting and celebrating the many backgrounds of the players on his team, Ted is simultaneously building an amazing culture amongst the entire program – one where individuals feel free to be and express themselves without fear of ridicule or being excluded.
Ability – I’ve coached lots of sports in my life, but the most fun and most success I had was coaching the field events (jumps and throws) on a track and field team and coaching girls varsity lacrosse. As I look back, I think the fun and success were, ironically, because of one thing: I had never played either of those sports before coaching them. You won’t see Ted demonstrating soccer skills. He just takes what he knows from other sports and tries to apply them. Ultimately, he surrounds himself with great assistant coaches who know the sport (Coach Beard, Roy Kent, Nathan). And, most important, he empowers his players to learn/develop at an accelerated pace because they are given internal motivation. They are given voice and choice in how the practices and training will evolve. Our role as coach is much more effective when we look to guide, rather than control.
Relationship – This is perhaps where Ted is most masterful. Look, I realize that he is charming and funny and … but, he also works really hard at building relationships. And it doesn’t come without sacrifice. Ted makes building relationships a priority. He also recognizes that to develop culture (there’s that word again), relationships are multifaceted within a team or sports program. Relationships go coach to player, player to player, player to parent, parent to coach, coach to referee, referee to player and all are intertwined. Not recognizing this and paying attention to this is shortsighted for any coach not to recognize. Because Ted models the value of relationship building, every member of the organization is having a more positive and meaningful experience and therefore performing at a higher level. And they’re having fun … which takes us to our final “letter” of the CARE construct.
EnJOYment – Yes, JOY is capitalized on purpose! Think about it: anything that is truly fun should bring you joy. I think that is one of the most obvious and compelling things about Ted’s program (which he had with the football team he left before heading to England). Everyone is having fun. Too often we lead kids (or their parents) to believe that there are the fun teams and then there are the winning teams or the fun league vs. the competitive league as if they have to be separate or antithetical. Think about anything you have done in your life that you have sustained. My guess is that 9 times out 10, it’s been because in some capacity you enjoyed it! So it shouldn’t be surprising that 7 out of 10 kids leave sports before they enter high school because they no longer deem it fun. (I’ve written about this before – It’s No Fun if it’s No Fun). Ted Lasso reminds us that we should seek joy in our lives.
I am so grateful that I discovered Ted Lasso at the time Kerry and I were making the decision to take our model, turn it on its head and confidently move in the direction our hearts were telling us to. I also want to thank everyone for the amazing response to our announcement to do so.
We will be running our Impact Campaign over the next month and hope that you will consider contributing (and if your company does matching gifts that you’ll help us there as well).
And if any of you know Ted (Jason Sudeikis) personally, please let him know I said thanks and that he’s welcome to come visit any of our programs at any time he (and the team) want to! Go Richmond!
About Steve Boyle
Steve is the Executive Director of 2-4-1 CARE, Inc and Co-Founder/Director of 2-4-1 Sports -- a signature program of 2-4-1 CARE-- whose flagship program is held at the Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, Conn. but now has locations throughout the United States and Canada. 2-4-1 was recognized by the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC as one of eight model programs in the United States for its approach to anti-specialization in youth sports. This led Steve to form the National Association of Physical Literacy – of which he is now Advisory Board Chair. Steve is also a founding member of the Quality Coaching Collective – an international group of activators around sport, movement and mindfulness. Lastly, through his role at CCG, Steve was the two-year Global Lead on Physical Literacy and Athletics for Whittle School & Studios (2018-20), which currently has campuses in Shenzhen, China and Washington, DC.