There comes a time in everyone’s life when we meet someone who inspires us to do more than we’ve ever done before; to be better than we are; to see what we can usually only be seen through the eyes of wishful thinking, and give you the tools to make it all a reality.
For the past 15 years this man has unknowingly been the fuel of my fire. Vince Silva is a 2 time All American out of Oklahoma State. His remarkable wrestling career has been met with great accomplishment as well as by great adversity. In all, he has grown into being the person that has most represented for me what it is to be a wrestler, a coach, and what it takes to be the best.
I decided to interview him because he has taught me so much about being a Wrestler and I wanted to share his wisdom with other wrestlers and people who have a desire to lead; because, what Coach Silva does isn’t simply coach us, but leads us.
1. What is leadership and what makes a good leader (or coach)?
“The ability to influence people’s actions, and beliefs...and in some cases, their values.” This is Silva’s definition of leadership. I can safely assume that he means this in a positive way, even though we can see this in leaders who haven’t been positive for society. He once told me, “Lomeli, I can’t teach values…parents do that. I can only reveal them.” His hope is that when he reveals values to his wrestlers they will be swayed.
To the second part of this question, he simply states that leading by example is the best form of leadership. This is based on his experience. He goes on further to say, that if you demonstrate the knowledge and skill and confidence when demonstrating technique, or performing a task that you would have others do this in part breeds that same confidence in the people you lead. They view you as being competent and capable of leading them. “When you demonstrate success...people will cling to you, listen to you...and most importantly begin to respect you.”
To add, he stresses that you always keep up with knowledge or skills in whatever you do to maintain your leadership status; or get people around you who can, and use them to maintain your leadership position. As a wrestling coach it is important to stay in shape and continue to wrestle and workout in practice. It is important to constantly learn the sport and how it changes as far as technique and style.
2. In your opinion, what is the best way to inspire a team or player?
“Share the glory...the journey...the pitfalls.” Through stories, Silva feels inspiration is best accomplished. Stories of accomplishment that will demonstrate the example of what it is you are motivating them to do. It is equally as important to demonstrate the adversity (pitfalls) that happen. To be able to see how people they admire handle adversity. You have to be able to be articulate and be able to move your audience.
What I personally have gained from Coach Silva is, always reward the good the people you lead do. “Criticize their behavior, not them” (Silva), is something I’ve demanded other coaches to do. This I think is what coaches really lack. Criticizing behavior is to let the person know what it takes to be the best and show them that what they are doing will not get them what they want. Don’t call him a lazy good for nothing bum; instead tell him that those who want to win, “get up at 6 am and run.”
3. Can you learn to be a great coach or is it something you’re born with?
Simply, “Yes.” But he adds, “It is necessary to associate yourself with great coaches.” Keep an open mind and not be stubborn, be able to adjust to the needs of your team and know what other coaches do that work. Bottom line, “YOU HAVE TO HAVE PASSION.” Without it, he says, “Nothing matters.” You have to have the fire and desire to be the best.
4. What should be the main goal or purpose of a leader (in sport or life)?
“From a coaching stand point...it is to assist others in doing what they wouldn’t normally do on their own that is a positive act.” Now is that a quote? To paraphrase the remainder of his answer: It is important to want to be able to contribute to the success of others by passing on the torch of your knowledge and experience.
5. What is your personal philosophy of leadership or coaching?
“Anyone, anywhere, any time. In order to be the best, you have to beat the best.” ‘Nuff said.
6. What is your design for success?
I am happy to have influenced his answer here. I had previously written about the wrestling life based on what Coach Silva had shown me. I pointed out the principle of obsession. After reading my write up, he began delivering messages that included this principle. Again, to paraphrase, he says, be passionate, full of obsession, and follow a proven path. Attach yourself to someone who has what you want and do what great people do. Well, if you are Silva trained then you know his coaching path.
As a bonus, he gave me this potato chip piece of advice ;) “But the main thing, Isaac...man...you just got to be tough. Mentally strong…to win…to succeed you got to be tough…Monster tough.” This is everything in a nutshell. In regards to coaching, I’m sure he was saying, you can’t be weak; you can’t give in to coaching to your talent, but coach to your team. Coaching to your talent means, you let your talented wrestlers do as they please. You let them dictate your coaching. You bow to them. Coaching to you team, means being strong enough to hold on to integrity.
To summarize, leadership is based on your ability to motivate, not dictate. Be able to demonstrate with skill and confidence the things you would have others do. And to do it for the sake of the sparkle in their eye from what you have helped them accomplish. If you can get them to respect you and believe in you, you can get them to follow you. Very Jesus like, isn’t it. “Do as I have done, love others as I have loved you. They will know you by your love. ”
Of everything I know about the man, his desire to want what is best for his wrestlers is what shines. If I can add something to all this, let me say this. Let your light shine. In your light you will reveal the light in others, and they in return will shine. We don’t believe in Silva because of his wrestling, we believe in him because he opens his heart us. Though he probably doesn’t see this, it is why we follow him, believe in him, and are inspired by him. It is his love.
Now Coach once told me, “Isaac, I shy away from weakness. I don’t like seeing it; and sometimes it may come off as though I don’t care. But the truth is, I care, but me showing weakness won’t help my wrestlers.” To a point he is right. We all see him as being our mighty hero who shows us strength in our time of need…not weakness. However, what brings us to love him is in his weakness. His stories make this strong man appear weak, and this is why we listen; because we are weak, we can relate. And in his weakness he shows us how, in our weakness, we can rise…WE CAN RISE! Amen.