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A Coach’s Guide To Creating Harmony On A Female Team

12 Nov

gossipysource

Mean girls.  We’ve all heard that phrase and I worry that we all believe it on some levels.  I’ve heard coaches, mothers, and female athletes themselves talking about how girls and women can’t get along and that their team’s had “girl issues.”  I don’t believe that issues or conflicts have a gender attached to them.  What I do believe is that women can, in fact, get along and they can compete (together!) at amazingly high levels.  So now, let’s look at the…

2 prevailing myths that too many people believe about female athletes

  • Myth #1:  Women aren’t competitive.
    This is usually uttered by the exasperated male coach of a female team.  Check out this scenario:  it’s game point in a close volleyball match.  The two teams are pretty evenly matched…they’ve been trading points the whole game.  Your team is about to serve for the game and the opposing coach calls a time out.  You huddle your team close around you and you look your server in the eye very intensely and tell her, “it all comes down to you Susie…we won’t win without you!”  You think you’re firing her up and showing her that you believe in her.  She hears: “Don’t screw up!  If you miss this serve, your team will hate you!”

    Women are very competitive and will rise to any occasion…together.  Studies show that women get onto teams to be a part of something and to socialize, then once they realize that they’re good, they’ll keep playing.  That’s exactly the opposite of guys who join teams because they’re good and happen to make friends along the way.  So, the moral of the story is, if you want to motivate your female athletes to greatness, remind them of their teaminess.  At that same time out, bring your team in, huddle them up close and (while making eye contact with all of them) say: “ladies, you all have worked your tails off to get to this point.  You’ve hit, you’ve passed, you’ve set, you’ve played amazing defense.  Now, Susie is going to crush this serve and we’re going to win this game.”  You’ve said the same thing as the first example, but now you’ve included her in a group effort.


  • Myth #2:  Girls can’t get along.
    If I could have a cause as a coach, it would be to eliminate the world of this perception that female athletes can’t get along.  You’re probably thinking…well Dawn, you coach collegiate athletes, but my middle school girls are ripping each other apart!  I’ve coached middle and high school as well as at the Division I and III collegiate levels and I’ve learned one major lesson:  the coach sets the tone.  It’s our job as the coach to understand what makes female teams tick and what motivates each athlete.  As Kathy DeBoer says in her book, Gender and Competition: How Men and Women Approach Work and Play Differently, “until recently, it was not politically correct to think of women as different.  If you said women were equal, then they couldn’t be different.  The wonderful news is we can now say women are equal and different.  And that’s a huge and dramatic breakthrough.”  So now that we know it’s kosher to say that female athletes are different than male athletes, let’s cut to the crux of the issue.

    The coach runs the show.  Do you secretly believe that females are “catty” or can’t get along?  Then that’ll come across to your team.  How?  You’ll let bad behavior slide because you think that it’s somehow a female trait.  If two people have a conflict and they’re men, it’s no big deal…if they’re women?  They’re catty.  So the first thing is to evaluate your belief system and make sure that your team understands what you will and will not accept.  I’m pretty explicit with my team about this whole “girls can’t get along” thing and how I think it’s a crock.  The next step is to empower them with conflict resolution skills and also to help them understand the different personality types and how they interact with each other.  I certainly don’t expect my team to make it through an entire season and not have issues that need to be addressed, but I haven’t given them license to brush it under the rug as “girl problems”.  Conflict doesn’t have gender and we, as coaches, can’t give our teams excuses to not learn how to effectively deal with those conflicts.

So I’m hoping that this has confirmed what you already knew about your female athletes: they’re strong, confident, competitive, and resilient problem solvers who will run through walls for their teammates and their coaches.

Click here and you can get Coach Dawn Writes articles emailed directly to your inbox!  It’s free and easy…and you won’t get spammed.  Scouts honor.

 
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Posted in Captains, Female athletes

 

3 Ways Women Can Be Effective Leaders

05 Nov

female-leadersource

In my post, 3 Ways To Keep Females In Coaching And Athletics Administration, I talk about the lack of ladies in athletics…and the numbers were pretty dramatic.  If you’re interested in seeing all of the numbers and a link to the study, just click on the article and it’s all there.  Here are a few: 43% of female teams have female coaches, 19% of athletics directors are female, and only 12% of SID’s are women.

Those numbers make me tilt my head to the side, Scooby Doo-style, and say “ruh roh”.  Apparently this isn’t just an athletics problem, because there is a great video over on ted.com by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook.  It’s called Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders and it’s fabulous!  She talks about how two-thirds of married men who are executives have kids…while only one-third of their female cohort can say the same (more on that later).  She also gives her disclaimer that there’s nothing wrong with staying home with your kids, but if you want to stay in the game…

Here are the 3 things that females need to be successful executives/leaders/coaches/administrators

Sit at the table. She says one of the more powerful statements that I’ve heard in a while about us ladies, “women systematically underestimate their own abilities.”  What she means by sitting at the table is for ladies to see themselves as more.  She means that when there’s a meeting and all of the bigwigs are sitting at the conference table…women should too.  Don’t sit off to the side because you don’t think you belong with the big dogs.  Too often, we ladies attribute our success to others rather than owning it…so we not only see ourselves as less than, we put ourselves in a position to be seen as less than.

Make your partner a real partner. How about this?  When both spouses work full time, the woman does two times (!!) as much housework and three times as much childcare as the husband.  But her point isn’t the stereotypical finger wagging at men to do more (though that would help!), it’s more of a cultural slant.  She says that we put so much more pressure on boys to succeed that their self-worth is tied in to doing well at work.  She wonders aloud if men earned the same amount of respect for deciding to stay at home with their kids as they got from going to work every day, if there wouldn’t be more dads who’d stay home.  Which of course would let the mom be able to go out and be the wage earner.

Don’t leave before you leave. She means that women will sometimes stop looking for advancement opportunities way too early.  For example, a woman will get engaged and decide that she shouldn’t apply for a job because of her future husband.  Or because they’re trying to get pregnant.  Sandberg calls it “quietly leaning back”.  The women in these examples aren’t at the decision point (not yet married and not yet pregnant), but they’re already starting to shut down promotion options by not even trying for them.  They’re still going to work, they’re still (seemingly) doing everything the same way…they’re just not trying to make that next move.

Women, we may decide that staying the workforce isn’t for us…that we’d rather stay at home.  But we shouldn’t assume that we’ve got to give up our aspirations of greatness.  Let’s make sure that we’ve really thought it through, that we’ve talked to our partner (maybe he’s willing to do more), and that we’re going hard until we just can’t anymore.

 
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Posted in Female athletes, TEDtalk

 

6 Hidden Gems Who Go Unnoticed On Teams

02 Oct

diamond roughsource

Maybe you’re a high school coach who knows that the freshman and junior varsity teams are lacking talent to send up to your team.  Or maybe you’re the college coach whose recruiting class didn’t quite turn out the way you’d planned.  Or you could be the club coach who received five players who play the same position.  It could be that your team (God forbid) experienced a major loss when a key player got injured.

Whoever is reading this, we’ve all found ourselves in situations where we had to train players to do something that was seemingly outside of their skill set.  I got the idea for this post from, Diamonds in the rough: How to recognize your star employees, on Smart Blogs’ website.  When we’re forced to think outside of the box, sometimes good things happen!

These diamonds in the rough could be hiding in plain sight

  1. Haven’t put it all together yet.  Whether they started with the sport late, adolescence hit with fury, or they’re just slow learners…some players take a while to “get it”.  These are usually the players with great physical gifts (height, strength, etc.) who need tons of reps.
  2. Haven’t maxed out at skill level.  I’m sure we’ve all coached the player who’s maxed out their potential, they’re just not going to get better.  It’s not that they’re bad players, they could be really good, we just know they’re at the peak of their curve rather than on their way up.  The key when in crisis mode is to find the player who’s on the way up.
  3. Appreciative of coach’s effort and interest.  Those players who look us in the eye when we’re giving correction and immediately try to change their behavior are fired up about getting better.  They’re the ones we see practicing by themselves when we walk past the gym.  They’ll practice hard for whatever situation we put them in.
  4. Value team.  These players put team first.  When we ask them to switch positions or to step in somewhere they’ve never played before, they do it without question.  This type of player has an open attitude about change and will make our jobs a lot easier.
  5. Willing to work (hard) to improve.  Not only willing, but these players are excited about the challenge of learning something new.  They’ll watch film, come to practice early and stay late.  These players understand that working hard leads to really good things.
  6. Enjoy the sport.  Look for players who have fun when they’re with the team.  Enthusiasm will make the transition easier for the player and their teammates…and their coach!



As we think about our teams, we should always have a plan A, B, and C for each of them.

 
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Posted in Coaching strategy, Team roles

 

5 Questions We Should Ask While Problem Solving

30 Sep

Scampersource

Problem: A player isn’t performing at an acceptable level.

What to do?:  SCAMPER.   Let’s look at how we’d apply SCAMPER to our teams.

First things first, what the heck is SCAMPER?  The letters stand for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Magnify/Modify, Put to other uses, Eliminate, Rearrange, though I won’t talk about combine or magnify/modify here.

I’m sure we could use this technique with all sorts of problems, but let’s stick with our problem player.

Can we substitute?:  This is the easiest solution to an underperforming player…put someone else in.  Though, if the player is a starter and impact player for our team, keeping her off of the court isn’t a smart long term solution.

Can we adapt to her?:  I worked with a team at a summer camp with a pretty dynamic hitter, though she struggled with slower tempo sets.  The only problem?  Her head coach put her in a position to work only in her weakness and hit those slow tempo sets.  After watching her crush fast tempo after fast tempo ball, we changed the offensive system to work in her strength and she excelled.

Can we put her to another use?: Our players come to us with a certain amount of training in their particular position, but can they do other things?  Would it be better if they played another position?  Until we answer, “yeah, I can put her to another use…right here on the bench next to me”, we’ve got to figure out a way for each player to have a legitimate contribution to the team’s effort.

What can we eliminate?:  Maybe the coaching staff has come up with a sweet offensive plan for the team…they just can’t execute it!  Perhaps it’s time to scrap that plan and simplify.  Is there something going on in her personal life that’s keeping her from performing up to snuff?  We’ve got to help her eliminate the causes of stress if possible.  If nothing works…maybe we’ve got to eliminate more and more of her playing time.

Can our team be rearranged into something else?:  Sometimes we’ll play a team that funnels eighty percent of their offense through a couple of players and I always wonder what they do when those players have bad days…besides lose, I mean.  For that player who has lost their mojo, the coaching staff can restructure the offensive season so that player doesn’t carry so much of the burden.

I got the idea for this post from a Psychology Today article about creative thinking and I can see how SCAMPER could initiate the creative thinking process.  Sometimes the obvious answer isn’t the best option and we’ve got to dig deeper.

 
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Posted in Coaching strategy

 

How Knowing Your Personality Type Will Help You Manage Your Team

15 Sep

personalitytestcomicsource

As coaches, I think we all know that we’ve got different personality types on our team and I’m sure we’re all pretty conscious about how those personalities will interact.  When we bring recruits on to campus and we sit down and chat with them, we wonder about their “fit” with our teams…how their personalities will mesh with the current players.  Sometimes we don’t want to rock the boat and try to recruit like-minded players.  Other times, we want to shake things up a bit…whether it’s bringing more toughness or more fun…we know that the team needs a different makeup.

But do you think that your team recognizes that some folks are just made differently than them…with a whole different perspective on things?  I’ve used personality testing in the past with pretty good results, because the team gets to hear about themselves and also put the people that they know into categories.  The testing is pretty informative and can help them with their relationships outside of their team as well.

There are lots of personality tests out there: Myers-Briggs, colors, animals, and DiSC…and that’s the one that I use.  DiSC breaks the personalities down into four different categories.

D’s are dominant.  They’re what folks would call Type A personalities.  They like to get immediate results, make quick decisions and love to manage trouble and solve problems.  They’re decisive and competitive…natural born leaders.  That’s the good stuff.  The down side to D’s are that they are too self-reliant, the one’s who hate group projects in the classroom (can you see how that could negatively impact your team?!), and can be so blunt that they’re hurtful to others.

i’s are your people of influence.  They’re the one’s who everyone gravitates toward, the life of the party.  They’re your players who will pull the team aside in practice and fire them up if they feel that the effort isn’t where it should be.  They’re the folks who will immediately walk up to the newbies on your team and make them feel right at home.  i’s just need to remember that life isn’t all play and no work…that they’ve got to get down to business at some point.  And they try so hard to be everyone’s friend and not to hurt feelings that their teammates may not feel a true connection with them.

S’s are Steady Eddie’s.  They’re quiet, but very loyal and love the teaminess of teams…the one’s who stay on your team even though they know that they’ll never get any playing time.  They are skilled at calming an explosive situation and calming the scene down while others are freaking out.  S’s need to learn to assert themselves in group situations so that their teammates don’t overlook their contributions.  Since they can be overthinkers, S’s should learn the difference between the time for thinking and the time for acting.

C’s are your conscientious workers.  They’ll drill all day long and never feel as if they’ve gotten it down…they’re perfectionists.  C’s are good in the film room because they’re so analytical.  Come game time, they’ll know the opponents tendencies without a doubt.  Their downside is that they ask so many questions that they may drive their coach to drink!  And they have such high standards for themselves and their teammates that they may be destined to fail.

As you were reading this, I’m sure you were thinking of your team and where they fit.  Obviously, having a strong mix of folks is pretty key…but most important is that your team understands to positives and negatives of their personality and how they can be perceived by others.  Also, it’s pretty huge for us coaches to know the rough mixes.  Your D’s are going to think your i’s are screwing around too much and that your S’s need to toughen up.  Your i’s will constantly get their team in trouble for getting practice off-track with their incessant yapping.  Your S’s will either toughen up or continually get their feelings hurt by the too-blunt D’s and the hard-to-read C’s.  Speaking of C’s, should you deign to change the lineup or change a play without significant notice, get ready for their world to be spun off kilter and they’ll be pretty useless to you for a few plays.

Do you use personality tests with your team?  How do they respond?  At what point in the season do you administer your test?

Click here to learn how knowing your personality type will help you manage your team.

 
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Posted in Personality tests

 

Using Personality Tests To Increase Your Team Chemistry

11 Sep

disc-testsource

As coaches, I think we all know that we’ve got different personality types on our team and I’m sure we’re all pretty conscious about how those personalities will interact.  When we bring recruits on to campus and we sit down and chat with them, we wonder about their “fit” with our teams…how their personalities will mesh with the current players.  Sometimes we don’t want to rock the boat and try to recruit like-minded players.  Other times, we want to shake things up a bit…whether it’s bringing more toughness or more fun…we know that the team needs a different makeup.

But do you think that your team recognizes that some folks are just made differently than them…with a whole different perspective on things?  I’ve used personality testing in the past with pretty good results, because the team gets to hear about themselves and also put the people that they know into categories.  The testing is pretty informative and can help them with their relationships outside of their team as well.

There are lots of personality tests out there: Myers-Briggs, colors, animals, and DiSC…and that’s the one that I use.  DiSC breaks the personalities down into four different categories.

D’s are dominant.  They’re what folks would call Type A personalities.  They like to get immediate results, make quick decisions and love to manage trouble and solve problems.  They’re decisive and competitive…natural born leaders.  That’s the good stuff.  The down side to D’s are that they are too self-reliant, the one’s who hate group projects in the classroom (can you see how that could negatively impact your team?!), and can be so blunt that they’re hurtful to others.

i’s are your people of influence.  They’re the one’s who everyone gravitates toward, the life of the party.  They’re your players who will pull the team aside in practice and fire them up if they feel that the effort isn’t where it should be.  They’re the folks who will immediately walk up to the newbies on your team and make them feel right at home.  i’s just need to remember that life isn’t all play and no work…that they’ve got to get down to business at some point.  And they try so hard to be everyone’s friend and not to hurt feelings that their teammates may not feel a true connection with them.

S’s are Steady Eddie’s.  They’re quiet, but very loyal and love the teaminess of teams…the one’s who stay on your team even though they know that they’ll never get any playing time.  They are skilled at calming an explosive situation and calming the scene down while others are freaking out.  S’s need to learn to assert themselves in group situations so that their teammates don’t overlook their contributions.  Since they can be overthinkers, S’s should learn the difference between the time for thinking and the time for acting.

C’s are your conscientious workers.  They’ll drill all day long and never feel as if they’ve gotten it down…they’re perfectionists.  C’s are good in the film room because they’re so analytical.  Come game time, they’ll know the opponents tendencies without a doubt.  Their downside is that they ask so many questions that they may drive their coach to drink!  And they have such high standards for themselves and their teammates that they may be destined to fail.

As you were reading this, I’m sure you were thinking of your team and where they fit.  Obviously, having a strong mix of folks is pretty key…but most important is that your team understands to positives and negatives of their personality and how they can be perceived by others.  Also, it’s pretty huge for us coaches to know the rough mixes.  Your D’s are going to think your i’s are screwing around too much and that your S’s need to toughen up.  Your i’s will constantly get their team in trouble for getting practice off-track with their incessant yapping.  Your S’s will either toughen up or continually get their feelings hurt by the too-blunt D’s and the hard-to-read C’s.  Speaking of C’s, should you deign to change the lineup or change a play without significant notice, get ready for their world to be spun off kilter and they’ll be pretty useless to you for a few plays.

Do you use personality tests with your team?  How do they respond?  At what point in the season do you administer your test?

Click here to learn how knowing your personality type will help you manage your team.

As coaches, I think we all know that we’ve got different personality types on our team and I’m sure we’re all pretty conscious about how those personalities will interact.  When we bring recruits on to campus and we sit down and chat with them, we wonder about their “fit” with our teams…how their personalities will mesh with the current players.  Sometimes we don’t want to rock the boat and try to recruit like-minded players.  Other times, we want to shake things up a bit…whether it’s bringing more toughness or more fun…we know that the team needs a different makeup.

But do you think that your team recognizes that some folks are just made differently than them…with a whole different perspective on things?  I’ve used personality testing in the past with pretty good results, because the team gets to hear about themselves and also put the people that they know into categories.  The testing is pretty informative and can help them with their relationships outside of their team as well.

There are lots of personality tests out there: Myers-Briggs, colors, animals, and DiSC…and that’s the one that I use.  DiSC breaks the personalities down into four different categories.

D’s are dominant.  They’re what folks would call Type A personalities.  They like to get immediate results, make quick decisions and love to manage trouble and solve problems.  They’re decisive and competitive…natural born leaders.  That’s the good stuff.  The down side to D’s are that they are too self-reliant, the one’s who hate group projects in the classroom (can you see how that could negatively impact your team?!), and can be so blunt that they’re hurtful to others.

i’s are your people of influence.  They’re the one’s who everyone gravitates toward, the life of the party.  They’re your players who will pull the team aside in practice and fire them up if they feel that the effort isn’t where it should be.  They’re the folks who will immediately walk up to the newbies on your team and make them feel right at home.  i’s just need to remember that life isn’t all play and no work…that they’ve got to get down to business at some point.  And they try so hard to be everyone’s friend and not to hurt feelings that their teammates may not feel a true connection with them.

S’s are Steady Eddie’s.  They’re quiet, but very loyal and love the teaminess of teams…the one’s who stay on your team even though they know that they’ll never get any playing time.  They are skilled at calming an explosive situation and calming the scene down while others are freaking out.  S’s need to learn to assert themselves in group situations so that their teammates don’t overlook their contributions.  Since they can be overthinkers, S’s should learn the difference between the time for thinking and the time for acting.

C’s are your conscientious workers.  They’ll drill all day long and never feel as if they’ve gotten it down…they’re perfectionists.  C’s are good in the film room because they’re so analytical.  Come game time, they’ll know the opponents tendencies without a doubt.  Their downside is that they ask so many questions that they may drive their coach to drink!  And they have such high standards for themselves and their teammates that they may be destined to fail.

As you were reading this, I’m sure you were thinking of your team and where they fit.  Obviously, having a strong mix of folks is pretty key…but most important is that your team understands to positives and negatives of their personality and how they can be perceived by others.  Also, it’s pretty huge for us coaches to know the rough mixes.  Your D’s are going to think your i’s are screwing around too much and that your S’s need to toughen up.  Your i’s will constantly get their team in trouble for getting practice off-track with their incessant yapping.  Your S’s will either toughen up or continually get their feelings hurt by the too-blunt D’s and the hard-to-read C’s.  Speaking of C’s, should you deign to change the lineup or change a play without significant notice, get ready for their world to be spun off kilter and they’ll be pretty useless to you for a few plays.

Do you use personality tests with your team?  How do they respond?  At what point in the season do you administer your test?

Click here to learn how knowing your personality type will help you manage your team.

– See more at: http://coachdawnwrites.com/category/personality-tests/#sthash.9A1Rv97O.dpuf

 
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Posted in Personality tests

 

Coaches Corner: Managing Assistant Coaches

03 Sep

coaching staffsource

Sam Shweisky, the head men’s volleyball coach at Princeton University, is in a unique position.  He’s the head coach for the men and the assistant coach for the women’s program.  I wondered if that gave him a more in-depth outlook on the role of assistant coaches.

So what makes a good assistant coach?  Of course we want someone with knowledge of our sport and, logistically, we want someone who we can rely on to attend practices and competitions when they’ve said they could. Those are just the basics, is there more.

3 qualities of a great assistant coach

  1. Loyalty.  We’re all looking for that assistant coach who is proud to wear our school’s name on their shirt.  The person who understands the traits we look for in representatives of our institution and is willing to fall in line with those expectations.  Someone who’ll stay around for a reasonable amount of time and who will support us behind the scenes.
  2. Common voice.  Speaking of supporting us, a great assistant supports their head coach with the athletes…no matter what.  I’m not saying you can’t have heated debates as a coaching staff behind closed doors.  Hopefully your assistant coaches feel comfortable voicing their opinion and you, as head coach, have created an atmosphere where divergent opinions are welcome.  But once your players are around, we’re all singing from the same hymnal.
  3. Nurturing.  The head coach doesn’t always get to be the nice guy.  Sometimes we have to point out the inconsistencies between team goals and effort level in practice, sometimes we have to bench a player, sometimes we have to have hard conversations.  That’s when the great assistant coach steps in to make sure the athlete can see their way to success, because sometimes, those tough conversations can cloud their vision.



4 ways to manage assistant coaches

  1. Give them a role.  Whether you’re lucky enough to have full-time assistants or you’re making it work with part-timers, they should know their value to the team.  It’s good for them and the team will respect them more if they have a designated role.
  2. Coaches meetings.  Have regular meetings or check-ins with your assistants to make sure you are all on the same page.  It could be that you’ve decided that, as a staff, you’re going to be tough on your team, or that you’re going to focus on only one correction for a particular time period.  Whatever it is, everyone’s got to know what’s going on.
  3. In game responsibilities.  The beauty of assistant coaches is they are a set of willing extra hands.  Depending on the level of support at your institution, your game day responsibilities could be great.  Maybe your assistant has to help set up your game space, or set up the camera so that the game can be filmed, or do stats.  During the game, give them at least one thing to do during warmup and in game…those responsibilities will make them feel useful and needed.
  4. Ask for feedback.  My assistant and I speak after each practice, even if it’s just for a few moments.  We talk about what went well and what didn’t, what we need to keep working on, and personnel issues.  We’ve both been known to say, “feel free to say this is crazy, but…”.  Having a great assistant coach as a sounding board is priceless.




Join me in a series of interviews with successful coaches. I believe what we learn from our coaching peers can be applied to our teams, our recruiting efforts, and how we behave as professionals. These interviews will be less Q & A and much more philosophical in nature, keep coming back to see who I’m talking to and what they’ve got to say!

 
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Posted in Coaches Corner

 

Coaches Corner: An In-Depth Feedback Process

26 Aug

feedback1source

I was intrigued by Sam Shweisky’s feedback process he uses with his Princeton men’s volleyball team.  It is a pretty involved system of questionnaires, reflections, and meetings.  But the goal is simple: it shows his players how to appropriately handle authority.  Shweisky’s system also allows his team a way to give their opinion in a respectful manner.

What his feedback system is:

  • A way for players to give feedback and constructive criticism.
  • A time for his team to discuss what they did and didn’t like during the season.
  • A way for Shweisky and his players to discuss how he can best coach them.
  • An opportunity for players to let him know what they wish the team would do.



What his feedback system is not:

  • A time to complain without solutions.



As I listened to Shweisky explain his system, I worried that the meetings would become a time to complain, but he says it’s just the opposite.  Once his players got used to the process, they became very thoughtful.  So rather than lashing out in anger during a practice or whining about things in the locker room, they knew their time to be heard would be coming…but in a more appropriate location, his office.

His feedback system requires coaches to be open to listening, really listening, to their teams because it encourages dialog.  I think today’s athlete would respond well to a process that helps them feel like they’re being heard.  I can be honest and say this is an area that I can improve upon in my own coaching.  This generation of athlete is used to sharing their opinion in every other facet of their lives, I think it’s time for us coaches to make a shift in that area.

 
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Posted in Coaches Corner

 

Coaches Corner: Creating Realistic Discomfort For Your Team

19 Aug

comfortablesource

When I asked Sam Shweisky, the head men’s volleyball coach at Princeton University, how he prepared his team to handle challenges or being put in uncomfortable situations, I liked his answer about “realistic discomfort”.  Sometimes I’ll talk to a coach and it seems like their main goal is to put their team through some sort of boot camp or make practice about perseverance rather than gaining knowledge.  Of course, I’m not saying we shouldn’t appropriately condition our teams or that we shouldn’t figuratively kicks their butts in practice…but it should be applicable to our sport.  The amount of volleyball coaches I hear about who still have their teams running a timed mile astounds me!  Anaerobic sports need short, fast, all-out bursts…not long, slow, managed cardio.

Anyhoo, I digress.

As Shweisky talked about realistic discomfort, I found myself trying to figure out which ideas would be applicable to my team and if I could make these things happen in my gym.

Creating realistic discomfort

  1. Practice in jerseys.  The fact is, game day messes with some of our player’s heads.  Most times, we hope, it’s good.  They get super amped up and are on edge (in a good way) all day until game time.  On the less positive end, some of our players may get very nervous to the point of not feeling well.  Either way, letting them have the opportunity to learn how to manage those feelings is a great idea and one I hadn’t thought of.
  2. Turn the scoreboard on.  The power of the scoreboard is amazing!  It instantly ramps up the competitiveness of your gym and I’d highly recommend putting some form of visual pressure on your team.  It’s what they have to deal with in real games and they’ve got to be comfortable having those numbers up there.
  3. Set the “game day” court up.  There’s nothing like walking into the gym and seeing it all set up for game day…it’s one of the things that makes game day special.  Again, another things I hadn’t thought about doing with my team that I will now do: make sure we practice with everything set up the way it will be for games.  Hopefully this will help them learn to manage the butterflies that come along with competition.



Not so fun realistic discomfort

These aren’t from Sam, but from me, but I think still pretty good!

  1. Pull your best player from a drill.  What happens if your best player gets hurt?  Or their grandma dies and they’ve got to miss a game?  Do you have a plan of action?  We owe it to our teams to have put them in situations where that player wasn’t on the court/field/ice and the team still thrived.
  2. Unbalanced scoring.  I’m sure most of you do this already, but create an unfair situation and make your team dig their way out.  Not only will they learn that it’s possible, they’ll learn to never give up.
  3. Stack teams.  Make one team very strong, like “why are we even practicing like this?” strong.  There are many ways to address the unbalance in skill level: scoring, you could put your best player on the worst team and force them to step up and lead the weaker team, the stronger team could have parameters on their scoring.
  4. Unfair reffing.  In the heat of competition, the team will look at the coaches and disagree with one another heartily.  Sometimes I tell them that the officials of a game are just people and they make mistakes too.  Practicing dealing with bad calls, in my opinion, is essential.  Worrying about reffing takes our player’s attention away from where it should be and we’ve got to help them manage their emotions.



While these suggestions came pretty close to the X’s and O’s line, I think they hit home the idea that sport is a mental, as well as, physical venture.  These ideas will help you to develop your athlete’s mental games alongside their skills.  Good luck!

 
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Posted in Coaches Corner, Mental game

 

How To Successfully Follow A Popular Coach

11 Aug

Los Angeles Lakers v San Antonio Spurssource

There’s no easier coaching job than following a coach that the team–rightly or wrongly–didn’t like or respect.  In that situation, everything you say is a breath of fresh air, the players hang on your every word, and the alumni give you hearty pats on the back when they meet you.  It’s all good when you replace the unpopular coach.

Replacing the popular coach?  That’s a whole different story.  That’s the situation Sam Shweisky found himself in when he took over the coaching reigns of the men’s volleyball team at Princeton University.  My first coaching job was actually with the man that Shweisky replaced and I’ve seen, first-hand, the devotion his current and former players lavish on him.  There’s a saying that you don’t want to be the guy right after “The Guy”, but that you want to be the guy after the guy who replaced “The Guy”.  Well, Shweisky’s the guy immediately after the retirement of “The Guy”…how did he navigate those waters?

4 ways to create a fresh team culture while honoring the past

  1. Take your time.  Shweisky was in no hurry to step in on day one and change everything that the program had done in previous years.  Unless you’re planning to leave your school quickly…what’s the rush?  Sit back.  See how things are done.  Figure out what your priority list for change will look like and enact a plan rather than coming in, guns ablazing, changing everything in sight.
  2. Be good.  Winning games goes a long way in terms of buying time with skeptical alumni and players.  Shweisky had the good sense to experience success early and often.  Greasing the wheels with some wins certainly makes whatever change you plan to enact a little easier for everyone to get behind.
  3. Meet with key alumni.  The previous coach had amazing relationships with his alumni.  He was connected to them in a very real way and the alums are all very passionate about their time and experience under that coach.  So what did Shweisky do?  He talked to them.  He listened to them.  He engaged them in meaningful conversations and assured them their old coach would not be forgotten.
  4. Connect with previous coach.  In an incredibly smart move, Shweisky spoke with the previous coach.  He was respectful of what he’d done to get the volleyball program to its present state and he’s made a concerted effort to continually reach out to him that is admirable.



I’m sure, like Shweisky, if you find yourself in this position and feel you need to tread lightly, these are great steps to take.  Clearly, Shweisky had things he wanted to change about the program and he did it…on his own timeline.  Slow and steady wins the race in coaching.  We all aspire to be the kind of coach that our players will revere ten, twenty, thirty years after our time coaching them has passed.  And we all would want our legacies to be respected by whomever we pass the baton on to.

Join me in a series of interviews with successful coaches.  I believe what we learn from our coaching peers can be applied to our teams, our recruiting efforts, and how we behave as professionals. These interviews will be less Q & A and much more philosophical in nature, keep coming back to see who I’m talking to and what they’ve got to say!

Join me in a series of interviews with successful coaches.  I believe what we learn from our coaching peers can be applied to our teams, our recruiting efforts, and how we behave as professionals. These interviews will be less Q & A and much more philosophical in nature, keep coming back to see who I’m talking to and what they’ve got to say! – See more at: http://coachdawnwrites.com/#sthash.osbvJn6d.dpuf

 
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Posted in Coaches Corner