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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Dumont

What Can Steve Nash Teach School Leaders?

I love sports analogies and I love Steve Nash, so this blog post will be fun! Steve Nash is a Canadian, who played in the NBA for 18 seasons. He won two MPV trophies and has some of the best stats of shooting and passing in NBA history. Steve Nash became a basketball sensation in Canada through the 2000s as his performance and prominence in the NBA grew. I was like many Canadians who cheered for whatever team Nash was on. As a fan, I could identify with Nash who was a smaller point guard and who played the game like a true Canadian - politely. Watching Nash at his peak was fun because he was one of the best, and he was ours! He was known as Captain Canada.

What I loved most about Steve Nash’s game was that he was really committed to making his teammates better. The way he played was beautiful because he wanted his teammates to not just get the basketball, but to get the basketball in the exact spot and at the right time to be successful. He was about timing and precision and he was really, really good! He rewarded his teammates with amazing passes especially when they moved - on a fast break, cutting through a lane, or to a spot on the 3-point line. He not only knew where his teammates would be, but he also knew their strengths - and he would do his best to capitalize on these strengths. Raja Bell would get a pass in the corner for a 3 pointer, Amar'e Stoudemire would get an alley-oop, and Boris Diaw would get a behind the back pass at the free-throw line. Off the court, there are stories of Steve Nash giving out books to his teammates, saying to them "I think you might like this one." While his often-younger teammates were on the plane reading SLAM magazine, Steve was reading Nietzsche. Nash was a thinker.

Steve Nash joined the NBA basketball Hall of Fame early in September of 2018. He is the third all time leading assist maker and boasts one of the most accurate shots in NBA history. During an interview on a recent podcast with Bill Simmons (, Steve Nash spoke of an incident early in his career when he was getting yelled at during half time by his then coach Don Nelson for not shooting the ball. His coach explained that he was hurting the team when he refused to shoot. In the second half of the game Steve’s scoring exploded. Although he always seemed like a pass first player, Nash became an excellent scorer as well, which helped his team become more successful.

What can Steve Nash teach school leaders? I think that it is about how he tried to set up others to be successful is key. His teammates loved to play with him because he worked hard, he cared about the team’s success and he was committed to helping his teammates perform. Many players had career bests while playing along side Steve Nash. As a school leader, I would like my staff to feel that same level of support. I want to work hard and show my commitment to student success, but I also want to ensure my staff are set up to do their best work. This can be done by knowing the strengths of my staff members and setting them up in situations to be successful. It also means that I need to practice with them, get into situations where I can learn along side them and figure out how to best support them. Steve Nash was magical in doing this with basketball, but he got that way with a pass first mentality. School leaders who have a pass first mentality, I believe, will have a highly engaged staff. Steve Nash would recognize a player running hard on a fast break and he would deliver a pass for an easy basket. This would result in his teammates continuing to work hard and run for more fast breaks. School leaders need to recognize when their staff are putting in extra time and making a difference for their students. This time and effort should be celebrated whenever possible.

Steve Nash really became an amazing player when he figured out when to pass and when to score - this made him complete as a basketball maestro. School leaders really need to do the same. Whenever possible, effective school leaders will pass - share opportunities with their staff for leadership and growth. This will help engage staff to strive to be their best. But sometimes, school leaders need to lead, jump in and get moving on something. This will allow things to get done when necessary and help others know that the leader can not only delegate, guide and support, but can also captain the ship.. This creates an atmosphere of shared responsibility and courage to perform our best! The difficulty comes in knowing when to lead and when to assist others to lead.

For the best Canadian to play the game of basketball, it was finding the balance of passing and scoring that allowed him to achieve greatness and become a first ballot Hall of Fame member. Steve Nash did that through being resilient, and as he stated in the Bill Simmons podcast, resiliency is the best predictor of future success - in athletics and academics. Steve Nash was not the greatest athlete, not the tallest, not the fastest and not the most gifted - but he was extremely resilient. He came to work everyday willing himself to get better, get stronger, get smarter, and to perform the best he could in each and every game. That is how he won 2 MVPs and that is what so many of his fans truly appreciated about his game.

Congrats to Steve Nash! Hall of Fame speech is here -

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