A few months ago, I wrote a post about my new favorite TV show, Ted Lasso, giving some background on the show and my enthusiasm for it.
Apparently, I am not alone in my opinion about the show.
Jason Sudeikis, who plays Ted Lasso, has already won a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award and was just nominated for an Emmy for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.
Well, now the Wall Street Journal has a wonderful story about how coaches are incorporating some of Ted Lasso’s techniques into their strategy.
Tyranny is out. Empathy is in. Coaches are getting the most of players by relating to them, not dictating to them, while keeping them accountable without coddling them. They are behaving more like Ted Lasso.
- Utah Jazz basketball coach Quin Snyder needed some help dealing with a tricky situation at work not long ago. He decided to invoke the folksy wisdom of the fictional American football coach managing an English soccer club. “I don’t know if you watch ‘Ted Lasso,’ ” he said. “But sometimes your favorite animal is a goldfish because it has a memory of 10 seconds. That’s where we need to be.”
It doesn’t matter that Lasso doesn’t know anything about the sport. What happens on the pitch is the least demanding part of his job. He soothes the neuroses of his star players. He injects his role players with confidence. He uses his superpower of emotional intelligence to balance competing personalities, foster an environment where everyone is capable of good work and build the culture of a team initially resistant to his charms.
- Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr was an early fan of the show, tweeting his praise for the series when most people were ready to dismiss it. “If there is a lesson on the show, it is that culture beats scheme,” Kerr said in an email. “The guy knows nothing about soccer but he has created a great atmosphere with the club that leads to winning. The most famous example of Kerr going full Lasso was the time the Warriors went small in the 2015 NBA Finals and he deflected credit for the schematic tweak that helped win a championship to Nick U’Ren, a previously anonymous special assistant to the head coach. Lasso also takes suggestions for set pieces from his players and promoted Nate the kit man to assistant coach since he was already crafting strategy in addition to cleaning laundry. (in reality, given the timing, it may have been Lasso going full Kerr.)
- Chris Paul was binging the show between film sessions as the overachieving Phoenix Suns made the NBA Finals. Meanwhile, his coach sounded like he was interviewing for Lasso’s staff as he discussed the bond he’s developed with his players. “When they make fun of me,” Monty Williams said, “that’s a sign that we’re tight.”
It isn’t a coincidence that NBA players and coaches are studying this TV series. Lasso is a realistic portrayal of an effective leader in 2021 partly because his character was inspired by real people. And they don’t work in soccer.
Basketball seems to be the source of much of Lasso’s wisdom.