Sports are on Pause and Leadership has Taken Center Stage

Key takeaways:

  1. Sports promote, teaches and fosters valuable leadership skills and lessons for both participants and spectators.
  2. Resiliency is a key ingredient for finding success as a leader in difficult situations.

“So what, now what” : a game-changing mindset for leaders.

The phrase “so what, now what” has become incredibly popular within the sports industry. The catchy expression is often utilized by players, coaches and administrators to communicate the importance of not stressing about the past and to craft an optimistic narrative for the future.

Rolfe et. al (2001), developed a popular reflection model based upon the three questions:

What? So what? Now what?

Today, we find ourselves living in a world where, globally, sports are on pause. Many of the iconic leadership figures within the sports industry have turned their attention to help fight the growing pandemic.

Such leaders have vast and robust platforms, and their words often carry significance — especially among their passionate fan bases. This shift in attention and focus highlights the very essence of the behavioral leadership lessons that sports instills in individuals.

So while there may not be a March Madness, a College World Series or a Frozen Four to take in, it is a wonderful time to reflect on the leadership lesson of resiliency that sports so beautifully amplifies.

Resiliency is defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness” (

Sports have long been a great teacher of resiliency. At times, your favorite team or player may take a tough loss, but they go right back to the grind of improving for the next chance to get that win.

In life, there will be highs, lows, triumphs and defeats. For an athlete, it’s often expected that they quickly forget those moments and focus on the here and now. If their focus is anywhere else, it’s often deemed as a distraction. This too, has the potential to be a good expectation for leaders. A leader who is fully present and engaged in the moment often finds success as a light at the end of the tunnel.

Well, here we are. The moment is now, and a good number of student athletes learned recently that their season is over. Other professional athletes live with and feel an uncertainty about what will happen to their season. They’ve spent countless hours preparing for this moment and many were in the moment — preparing for the next game.

Sports again, becomes a great teacher of resiliency. While they are on pause, the impact, experience and effects of such a historic time will truly test the leadership fabric of the sport industry.

The impact is tremendous, the effects are long lasting and the experience hits differently for different people. We must do the right thing for public health and safety, and the sport industry has done that. For leaders, now is an incredible time to glean, observe and implement the leadership strategies on full display within the sports industry and beyond.

So when you find yourself in a difficult situation as a leader, don’t be afraid to ask yourself: “What? So what? Now what?”

How will you answer? History will record your response!


Resilience. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2020, from

Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001) Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.