3 Simple Ways to Put First Things First with Your Team

Lost in Our Mission

            In Mark Batterson’s book, Wild Goose Chase, he shares a study of some seminarians, where the researchers had the students prepare a sermon about the Good Samaritan. For those who’ve forgotten or who haven’t heard it before, the Good Samaritan is the parable in the Bible about multiple people (including a priest and a Levite) who walk past a traveler who has been beaten up by robbers and is lying in the road. Eventually, a Samaritan comes along, and he is the only person to stop and help the man.

            So, after these seminarians had prepared their sermon, the researchers told the students they had to go across the road to give their practice sermon. But, half of them were told they were running late and needed to hurry. The other half were told they were early, and they could take their time. On their way across the street to give their practice sermon, the researchers planted a man slumped over, coughing and appearing hurt.

            The results were startling. Of these seminarians preaching about the Good Samaritan, those who weren’t in a hurry stopped and helped 63% of the time. But, the seminarians who were in a hurry only helped 10% of the time. In one case, a hurrying seminarian was reported to have literally stepped OVER the victim!

            The lesson from this research is this: It’s not about whether we want to help. The thing that matters most is whether we are in a hurry or not! When we are in a rush, it make us indifferent and unsympathetic to others’ suffering. 

Stop Hurrying

            Batterson’s point was that the priest and the Levite (the two men who passed by the man in the road before the Samaritan helped) were probably in a hurry to love their neighbor and do good things. They were just blinded to the most important thing!

            This is just like us as coaches! We can get so busy with our mission that we forget what our mission is all about! Just think about your practices lately. Practice plans are great, and having an emphasis or an objective for the day is important. But how often do we over-plan or overemphasize the significance of “getting stuff done” at the expense of responding to the needs of our team and the people we are leading?

First Things First

“You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.”

—C.S. Lewis

The most important thing you can do in today’s practice, team meeting, or game is serve the needs of the people you lead. Sometimes, that means other things will need to be put on the backburner during that practice. That is putting first things first.

            What does this look like? Here are three examples:

  1. Run an impromptu team meeting to discuss something that is upsetting certain people on the team.
  2. Let your assistants run practice as you sit down to talk with a player one-on-one, about something they are struggling with in their life.
  3. Enforcing the consequence of failing to practice hard by telling a player they have lost the privilege to practice and sending them home, even if losing them could screw up your plan. I explain more about this on Culture Builders 120.

All these moments—especially holding a standard, like not letting a player practice—may feel like you are experiencing a setback. Just remember this: These “setbacks” can actually be the steps forward you need to create your culture! More about this concept on Culture Builders 104.

The bottom line is this: If we don’t have the time to take care of what is most important now, then when will we have the time? As C.S. Lewis said, “Put first things first, and second things are thrown in; put second things first, and we lose both first and second things.


  • Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson
  • C.S. Lewis Quote