Leadership is For Everyone: Why Coaching Soccer Can Help You in Engineering

Mike Lane, Transportation Designer, wants his colleagues to know when things feel most dire, you can take that negative energy, and like a matador taking a bull by its horns, divert it at what seems like the last moment. Suddenly all is not lost. Suddenly, all is okay, maybe even great. What was, seconds ago, an all-time low, is now an all-time high. Mike’s advice in the face of adversity-

“This is your shining moment, let the world see what you are all about!”

Does it matter that he most often shouts these words at a huddled mass of teenagers on a soccer field? We don’t think so. What Mike so confidently tells his team as the head soccer coach of McCracken County High School is a piece of advice that resonates in engineering as well.

Every moment is your moment if you want it to be. That’s the kind of advice that won Mike and his team (the Mustangs) the district championship in 2021.

Mike Thinks Everybody Could Use a Mentor

Mike remembers fondly how it felt to have someone. That is, to have a mentor to look up to, someone who had a wealth knowledge more than he did.

“When I was growing up a good friend of the family coached me in many sports. So when I started coaching, I always remembered some of his mannerisms and things he would say that inspired or motivated me to do the best that I could.

Throughout the years, I’ve made some great accomplishments as a coach.  My team and I are constantly setting the bar higher, so to speak. I’ve won championships, been runner-up, fallen short, and ended up on top and even coached semi-professional soccer. Yet, I still wake up every day eager to go to work and go hang out with my players and coaches trying to achieve the next accomplishment.”

Finding a Crossroads Between Engineering & Coaching isn’t a Stretch

“Soccer has been a part of my life since age 8 and I guess over the years I have evolved from a player into a coach.

I’m still very passionate and competitive and I try to instill that desire and passion in my players. I’m able to give back to my community what I’ve learned in life through soccer to the kids I coach. With engineering, I’m able to do the same thing but it probably affects a broader spectrum of people.”

Mike doesn’t think it’s a stretch to compare soccer coaching to engineering; both rely on inspiring people, crafting a strategy, and having the intuition to pivot when the moment calls for it.

“Both soccer and engineering need a game plan before anything else happens. There’s strategy involved with both; in soccer, we attack the other teams’ defenses. In engineering, I try to play my own devil’s advocate, and I guess in the process I attack my defenses as if I’m competing against myself. This forces me to think critically about the design decisions I’m making.”

Effective Leadership Comes from Listening & Understanding

We asked Mike what it means to be an effective leader, whether it’s on the soccer field, in the office, oe with a client.

“I think to be an effective leader you have to be flexible and willing to change. In high school soccer, the group of kids you coach will bring different skill sets to the table year-to-year which affects how the dynamics of your teamwork as a group. The same is true with your colleagues and clients at work.”

Mike goes on to explain that a leader’s job is to get everybody on the same page. Communication is a byproduct of understanding, which is accomplished through listening. On and off the field, Mike’s greatest challenge is ensuring everyone around him is communicating clearly, and that his peers and colleagues are truly listening to one another.

You’re Never too Old for a Mentor

Mike has one final piece of advice, which he aims at his fellow engineers. That is, you’re never too old to have aspirations, or to surround yourself with people that inspire you to do better and accomplish more. That’s precisely why he’s so at home at BFW/Marcum; he’s surrounded by people that push him.

“From my experience having a coach in your life keeps you continuously challenged; from fundamental, technical, and tactical situations to life-teaching moments that help you continuously develop your skills.”

Mike hopes his coaching skills resonates with his students. No matter the path they take, they take it with the same level of professionalism and enthusiasm that he expects them to with soccer. Would he be upset if a few of them became engineers? Probably not, in fact, he’d jump at the chance to show them the ropes. For now, he’s happy to instill in them a desire to not just persevere, but to own the environment they’re in.

When every moment is your shining moment, then every moment holds within it an opportunity. Mike emphasizes, success in anything, even engineering, is all about your perspective. We must admit; Mike’s enthusiasm is contagious.