Friday, May 15, 2015

Broken Window Theory and Your Team

I've read a lot of Malcolm Gladwell. The guy's got some pretty good research that I feel is important for coaches. In his book The Tipping Point Gladwell talks about the "Broken Window Theory". The Broken Window Theory was introduced in 1982 by Wilson and Kelling. The basis of the theory is that if a building has a broken window it shows that no one cares. Because no one cares more people break more windows. Pretty soon because the windows are broken people start to graffiti the building, break into it, etc. That will then lead to the same thing happening to the buildings around it until an entire neighborhood is ruined.

This idea was put to the test in the 1980s to clean up the New York City Subways. The Subway system was a haven for crime from graffiti and fare jumpers to muggings and beatings. What law enforcement did to clean it up was start with arresting and charging every fare jumper and constantly cleaning all the graffiti, instead of the muggings and murders. Some people wondered why - why waste time on "trivial" stuff like fare jumping and graffiti? But then something amazing happened - crime took a nose dive. Part of the reason was in arresting the fare jumpers they were getting people with weapons and intent to commit bigger crimes. By constantly cleaning up graffiti they were proving they had pride for the subways.  But more importantly it sent the message that the subway was important and they weren't going to stand for anything. It got people thinking: "If they are this mad about fare jumping, what are they going to do to us?"

Great story, but what does this have to do with coaching? Well, a lot I think. As a coach I think it's important to identify and fix your "broken windows". What are the small, almost unnoticeable, things that are leading to bigger problems? You might not even notice them until you examine the situation. What things are you letting slide that are encouraging players to have bigger issues? It could be with players or parents. Either way, it's definitely worth examining and fixing before they become real problems.

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