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  • Writer's picturePeter Miller

A Bell Cow Coach provides us a model from whom we can learn deeply and meaningfully about coaching. The term “bell cow” is not just a catchy reference to Wisconsin’s proud dairy heritage, but a useful metaphor for leadership.

Tradition has it that farmers have been known place a large bell around the neck of the “lead cow” in a herd. Knowing that the other cows tend to congregate around the lead cow, the herd can easily be found by the farmer, even in the biggest of fields or roughest of terrains. The farmer listens for the clang of the bell and knows that by finding the bell cow, they’ll find the whole herd.

What’s interesting to note about bell cows is that the other cows naturally follow them. They watch, learn from, and follow the bell cows. Bell cows pace the herd and model the way to go. In a similar fashion, we can each benefit from “bell cows” in our own lives. We can observe, listen to, learn from, and, in some cases, emulate leaders we admire. Bell cow coaches.

The Wisconsin Coaching Project is identifying and honoring several Bell Cows throughout the 2021-22 academic year. These leaders change lives. They grow the good around them.

We honored Madison Memorial (WI) High School Coach Marques Flowers for his leadership of the school's girls basketball program. A former standout player who now serves as a social worker in the school along with his role as head coach, Coach Flowers epitomizes the notion of "growing the good" in and through sports.

He develops players and wins games on the court. We recognize Coach Flowers as a Bell Cow for this competitive success. But even more, we view him as a model from which others can learn because Coach Flowers purposefully and consistently uses the game to support young women in developing as strong, resilient leaders.

Coach joined us on the SGG podcast to explain, “Our goal is not to make themselves the best basketball players they can be, but the best people they can be.”

He further noted the importance of resilience in and beyond the court: “Sports give kids a low risk environment to practice resiliency. Nobody’s lights are going to get turned off, nobody’s going to lose a meal if they turn the ball over...Sport forces you to be vulnerable. Being on a team forces you to be vulnerable. It also forces you to learn how to connect with people. And empathize.”

Coaches who are committed to developing resilience and other durable life skills can draw from Coach Flowers. We congratulate him for his many accomplishments and thank him for leading in our community. Students who study in the UW-Madison Sports Leadership Program will find wisdom in Coach Flowers' approach.

Listen to our full SGG interview with Coach Flowers:

And to read more about Coach Flowers' commitment to growing the good in and through sports, refer to this Wisconsin State Journal article.

Coach Flowers was a key figure in the MLK Classic, where teams came together around themes of basketball, competition, and unity.

The MLK Classic crowd was greeted by a welcoming message from the College President.

Coach Flowers in action at the MLK Classic.

The community came out in support of their schools at the MLK Classic.

Coach Flowers has invested hundreds of hours with the youth program over the years.

Coach Flowers utilizes basketball as a place for meaningful conversations with team members -- not just about basketball, but also about life.


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