Wise people are really good at doing this one thing!

Show me a wise person and I will show you someone who is able to see through the surface issues and get to the root of the problem/matter.

The immature or unwise person wastes his/her time on surface problems and never gets to the root.

What does it look like to get to the root?


Let’s say you have an athlete who doesn’t want to buy-in. They have an edge. They are consistently tough to lead and manage. In many cases, a coach is simply going to look at the athlete and challenge them to buy-in or else. The leader just assumes they are a cancer and need to be removed.

The surface problem: they won’t buy-in.

What’s the root problem?

Hard to say… that is what you, the leader, need to find out.

Is he/she insecure about the freshmen who might take his starting spot? Is he/she having problems of not fitting in with the team? Is this athlete self-medicating with alcohol or harder substances that is creating shame that is coming out as rebellion?

The list of possibilities is long. That is your job, to find the root of what is going on.

A helpful framework is to know the primary drivers in our life. Author Tim Keller writes about three primary root level drivers:


Satisfaction- The over-desire for things that comfort or medicate us. It is constantly needing to be comforted or numbed. What it might look like: drug, alcohol, food, obsessive screen time.

Significance- This is the desire to be loved, thought of as cool, to be liked, to be respected, to be a “somebody”. What it might look like: clingy, anger/shame when feeling unloved, chameleon.

Security- This is the craving for everything to be okay. To have something or someone to assure you will be safe and sound. What it might look like: acting out when feeling out of control Manipulation to feel like they can control something.

None of these are bad desires in and of themselves. The problem: When we desperately want them, and we want them at an unhealthy level, we do things that are unhealthy.

5 Why’s

One practical tool is to employ the 5 Why’s. This is where you keep asking ‘why?’ until you have hit the root.

Presenting problem: Not buying in, hard to lead.

Ask the athlete why. “I’m frustrated with how things are going.”

Why? “I thought I would be a bigger part of the team”

You are a part of the team! Why does this bother you so much?

“Everybody back home is expecting me to be a huge success and I feel like I am failing.”

The root of the problem: This athlete is under pressure, from themselves and/or from family and friends back home to be the star… or to put it another way, his/her significance is tied to their performance.

Does this athlete need to buy in? Absolutely!

Would just telling this athlete to buy in work? Maybe.  

But if you really want to help your athletes mature, grow, and perform at a high level, get to the root. Take time to talk, investigate and help.

As a leader, you’ve got nothing better to do than to help develop the people in your program.

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Travis Wyckoff

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