How did a former high school hockey player, who never scored a goal, end up coaching that same team and leading them into national recognition? That’s the story laid out in John U. Bacon’s latest book titled, “Let Them Lead: Unexpected Lessons in Leadership from America’s Worst High School Hockey Team.” In it, Bacon recounts his journey from playing hockey to coaching it, and explores how uplifting leadership practices drawn from his own experience ended up transforming the nation’s worst high school hockey team into one of the best.
Listen: John U. Bacon on what he learned about leadership by coaching one of the nation’s worst high school hockey teams.
John U. Bacon is a writer, speaker and author. His latest book is titled “Let Them Lead: Unexpected Lessons in Leadership from America’s Worst High School Hockey Team.” In recalling his time playing as a forward for Ann Arbor Huron High School River Rats hockey team, Bacon says he didn’t score a single goal. When the time came for him to coach, most of the players on the team were about as talented as Bacon was during his own tenure on the team.
When it came time to try to change the team from being one defined by loss to one celebrated for success, Bacon says he intuited his way through the journey. “I made it hard … and not one of them quit. They were inspired by the challenge of it all — and it worked. By the end of three years of me coaching we were fourth in the state and 53rd in the nation,” says Bacon, who adds that many of the leadership lessons he explains in the book can be applied for any number of settings from workplaces to youth sports. “I never got mad about a loss … not that we had many toward the end … I got mad about effort and lack of team spirit,” he says.