As football season approaches, I am reminded by the beauty of those symbols atop football helmets that make me smile. Fondly called “helmet stickers,” also known as pride stickers, are stickers that are affixed to a high school or college football player’s helmet, representing individual or team accomplishment.
I learned about football stickers in 2009. I was watching a college football game with my [not-yet] husband and asked what those things were on the players helmets. He [John] explained them and I couldn’t believe it. I was delighted! In my world of working with leaders and their teams, the importance of valuing others at all levels for a job well done is often lost. It was amazing to me that such a thing existed in the sport of football, where testosterone flows freely. Visible recognition and validation!
In a quote from a blog of mine last year, Dr. Linda Sapadin eloquently defined validation. She said, “It is getting feedback from others that what I do matters to you. You see me. You think of me. You thank me. You acknowledge my accomplishments. You appreciate my efforts.”
Helmet stickers have actually been around for over 40 years. The decal signifies a school symbol like Ohio State’s Buckeye tree leaf, Stanford’s axe blade or Clemson’s paw print. Football lore says coaches were always trying to gain that extra motivational edge and rewarding great plays provided incentive for more of the same.
In the early days, they were given for interceptions. Today, the criteria for receiving a sticker varies depending on the school, but for the majority, they are awarded for outstanding plays during a game. And add on white for football plays and black for academic excellence. How awesome is that? Picture them in the work environment (not a helmet, of course)… one color for exhibiting individual excellence and a different color for contributing to team brilliance. And perhaps another color for one’s volunteer calling or community service.
While not all teams award helmet stickers and some teams have gone away from them, the bottom line is that appreciation of others is a fundamental human need. And those that receive that appreciation respond because their work or effort is valued by others. When that happens, they are more motivated to maintain or even improve their efforts.
So, whatever resembles your helmet stickers, keep those Buckeye leaves and Clemson paw prints coming!! And here’s to a great football season! Whoever you are cheering for!!