PROJECT RISE SPOTLIGHT: P.J. FLECK
Have you heard of the name PJ Fleck? If you haven’t you need to. Let me introduce you to an individual that has captivated the sports world, including myself with his energy, unconventional leadership style, and passion for people.
Fleck is the head coach at Western Michigan, who is undefeated and preparing to play Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. Fleck, who was a standout receiver at Northern Illinois, signed a free agent deal with the 49er’s, and played in the league for a few years before an injury cut his career short. He then got into coaching and was mentored by Ohio State’s Jim Tressel and Rutger’s Greg Schiano. Coach Schiano took Fleck with him to coach wide receivers with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before Fleck, in 2013, made the move to lead Western Michigan to places never seen in the school’s history.
I equate Fleck’s coaching style to be the way Tony Robbins would coach a football program. He loves his players, teaches them more about life than X’s and O’s, and not only is inspiring the Western Michigan athletic program, but the whole Kalamazoo community. His pregame speeches are legendary. His recruiting classes are unbelievable, considering being in a non Power 5 conference.
His slogan “Row the Boat” has taken on a life of its own across the country. All of this coming from a man who just turned 36 a few weeks ago.
What I’ve learned by studying Coach Fleck:
- He has a clear vision and extreme passion
- He understands his values, models them, and expects his players to follow
- He values relationships beyond everything else
- He looks for kids who have dealt with adversity
- He stresses to his program to focus on the process not the prize
- He has failed…his first season they only won one game
- He’s a real person…he is divorced, remarried and even had to go through the tragedy of losing a child.
- He is not afraid to be himself and lead unconventionally in a sport full of “tough guys”
That list above is why the Broncos are undefeated and he is in the middle of a contract extension and pay increase. Take a look for yourself and re-evaluate how you are leading others. Maybe it’s time you “Row the Boat.”
Below is a great article that Fleck wrote recently for the Player’s Tribune. I also added an awesome piece done by ESPN, when College Gameday paid a visit to Kalamazoo this year, as well as a sit down interview where he explains the Row the Boat mantra. Enjoy!