Attention to Detail

“Please leave your crosse outside the door.”

It’s 8 am and class has begun. The girls are a little slow this morning having played a lacrosse match the night before. One by one they grab their stick and place it outside the door, returning to their seats for Leadership class. The topic is “Attention to Detail” and these girls are usually very attentive. Despite being tired, today was no different. 

The girls sit down and I ask “What is the first thing you do in the morning when you wake up?” 

“First thing I do is hit the snooze bar,” offers Lexi. A few teammates laugh and offer words of agreement.  

“Okay, so let me get this straight. The first thing you do for a new day is to help yourself to a healthy dose of procrastination? Why not just set the alarm for when you are suppose to wake up?”   

The girls laugh and that is always a good sign for a teacher. If you can get the students to feel comfortable enough to laugh early in the session, it is a sign you have their attention and more importantly, their trust.

“Who in here makes their bed every morning?” I ask. Three out of the 14 girls raise their hands. “Can you tell me why you do that?” 

Their captain, Miranda, speaks up, “My dad wouldn’t let me leave the house in the morning until I made my bed. He said it would help me later in the day.”

“Interesting… did it help you later in the day?”

“Yeah, I guess. I kind of like knowing that when I get home, my bed is made and I know I did it.” 

Usually, I like to hear alternative answers to the question I pose, but Miranda almost nailed it on the first try. The other two had similar answers. I pass out some high-fives and return to the lecture. 

“Those are great answers. When Navy Seals are checked in the morning, after they have made their beds, taken care of hygiene, and are decked out perfectly in their uniform for the day, they stand at attention near the end of their bed for inspection. When the instructor comes by for early morning inspection, that officer checks only one thing. Do you know what it is?”

“The shine of their shoes?” 

“No, but that is a good guess, Chloe. Anyone else?”

“Their bed,” answers Stephanie. 

I throw my hands in the air for dramatic effect. “Seriously, ladies, you are making my job way too easy!” The girls laugh. 

“In the book called “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World” Admiral William H. McRaven recounts tales from his own experience and from those he encountered during his tenure in the military.”

“Oh yeah,” interrupts Miranda. “My dad was in the military, too. That’s where he got the idea about bed making?”

“Perhaps,” I answer, forgetting what I was talking about. “What was I saying?”

“The Admiral dude wrote a book about making your bed and changing the world.”

“Yes, thank you, Heather. Admiral McRaven discusses in his book the difficulty of making tough decisions and how he used determination, compassion, honor, and courage to guide his choices. Among those choices was to take ownership of his daily routine…starting with making his bed. It sounds like such a simple thing, but like Miranda explained, but that simple discipline has a ripple effect on the rest of your day.”

I walk over to the door.

“Your attention to detail speaks volumes about who you are. You communicate to others by how you dress, how you walk, whom you spend time with, and in so many other ways. Come into the hallway with me, please.”

I walk into an empty hallway except for 13 lacrosse sticks. Some are laid down, others leaned against the wall. 

“Close your eyes for a second. Imagine you show up to a tournament and you know nothing about the first team you are going to play except for one thing: you can see how they lined up their lacrosse sticks. When you open your eyes, tell me what it communicates to you about that team by what you see. Open your eyes. 

“Undisciplined.” 

“Sloppy.” 

“So, you see that we are always communicating a message, even when we are not present. Can you beat the team that does not respect the crosse enough to place it up against the wall nicely with the rest of the team?”

“Are you saying if we lined up our sticks then it will make us play better?”

“No, Chloe, but I am saying it sends a message to the other team about who they are about to play. Watch this: you have 30 seconds to organize these sticks to send a message to the other team about who you are.”

I move out of the way and begin counting outloud. The girls hustle to their equipment and organize as I walk over to their coach to watch from her point of view. 

The coach leans over and whispers, “I’ve been asking them to do this the whole season.”

I smile. Time is up.

“Okay, close your eyes. You just arrived at the tournament and you are about to see something about your first opponent. Open your eyes. What do you see?”

I watch as the girls smile with pride. 

“Looks good,” says Miranda. 

“That is a disciplined team,” offers Heather. 

“My challenge to you is to be intentional about being you. Take ownership of what you can control. For the next week, make your bed after you wake up. When you get to practice, don’t just throw your stuff on the ground- make it look nice. At your next game, notice what the other team does with their gear. You can learn a lot about a person by just paying attention to their habits.”

I can tell the point was made so I end class early. 

“Okay, ladies. Please grab your stuff, shake my hand, and have a great practice.”

The next week they are back in my classroom. I shake hands with every athlete as they walk through the door and I notice no one has their crosse. I wait until they are seated and quiet. Without saying word, I walk towards the door and into the hallway. This is what I saw:

Lacrosse sticks

Coach, challenge your athletes to set the standard for the team. They will not adhere to seemingly arbitrary rules handed down on a piece of paper or written on a wall. You didn't when you were an athlete and neither will they. However, if you can get them to feel how the expectation will help them, you will see improved compliance.