Category Archives: Books

Upcoming Ebook: Coach Dawn’s Guide To Motivating Female Athletes



So…I’ve written a book!  After lots of correspondence with various coaches, I figured out that there’s a great desire to “figure out” the female athlete.

What Coach Dawn’s Guide To Motivating Female Athletes is all about

Coach Dawn’s Guide To Motivating Female Athletes is a 56-page guide that will give you specific steps to increase the competitiveness of your female team.  It will show you why battling “girl drama” should be at the top of your list in order to dominate the competition.  Also, it has example after example from my coaching life, on how I’ve handled tough situations in the past.

If I know one thing about coaches, it’s that we want to be good at what we do.  And I know you want your athletes to be winners and have fun with the sport, this book could be just what you need to go to the next level.

The information in the book is beyond what you’ll find here on the blog.  You won’t find this stuff anywhere, on my blog or elsewhere, in one place and in such detail.

How much will Coach Dawn’s Guide To Motivating Female Athletes cost?

Unlike the posts that are here on the blog, I will charge for the ebook.  How much?  $10.  Now before you start thinking that $10 is too much to spend on a PDF file, I want you to consider the quality of the information.  I think you’re getting it at a steal for only $10!

You can spend hours on the internet trying to find this information…but it’s not out there.  That’s why I wrote the book!

Plus, isn’t your time worth more than $10?

You’ve got practice plans to write, teams to scout, and video to study.  Why make more work for yourself?  You’ve already got a job…so don’t add scouring the internet for tips on coaching female athletes to your to-do list.

Because it’s a PDF, once you purchase Coach Dawn’s Guide To Motivating Female Athletes, you’ll be able to download it and read it that same day!  You can begin putting the ideas to work immediately.

Here are the chapter titles:

1.      Motivating the Female Athlete (with four subcategories)

2.      The Myth That Is “Girl Drama” (with three subcategories)

3.      Why This Is Important (with one subcategory)

Book excerpt from the introduction:

I’d love for you to see this book as a conversation between us.  There will be times when you’re reading this and you will feel affirmed because it’s something that you’re already doing.  There will be other times, though, where you feel as if I’ve put my hands on your shoulders and am giving you a good shake.

I love coaching female athletes…and I’m not being sarcastic!  I enjoy coaching so much that it truly pains me when I hear folks complaining about working with women or girls.  Or when I hear a coach say that “girls just aren’t competitive.”  Or even worse: “girls can’t get along.”

I just shake my head because it doesn’t have to be that way!  If you’re currently a coach and having trouble with your female athletes, take heart.  You’re not the only one who hasn’t mastered working with female teams.

Let me tell you what…I’ve been there too, coach.  I’ve had those teams that look like world beaters on paper, but they can’t get along well enough to put it all together.  As you’ll read later, I’ve even had teams where the setters wouldn’t set certain hitters because they had some sort of issue off the court that had nothing to do with our sport.

It’s so frustrating!

So that’s why I wrote this book.  Because we’ve all been there.

Working with female athletes is our chance to teach leadership, goal setting, team chemistry…all of the intangibles of sport that they can carry with them for their entire life.

Most importantly, to me at least, we have a chance to show them that females can get along.  That female coaches of females can be successful.  That women can work and play alongside of one another…and still be friends.

Keep checking in on the blog and on the ebook page for the announcement when it officially goes on sale!

Follow These 4 Principles To Make Your Team Lucky!


Today’s post  is written by Randall Kreider, the Head Volleyball Coach at Elizabethtown College.  I asked Randall to give me some info so that he could toot his own horn about his team, but he wouldn’t…but I will!  His regionally ranked team won over twenty matches this season and almost ran the table in conference.  He helped a player earn conference Player of the Year as well as an All-American nod.  Want to know how he did it?  Read on!

Maybe not frequently, but often enough to call it regularly, I’ll have a conversation with a parent, an opposing coach, or maybe even a player that invokes the word luck in relation to a volleyball match.  Comments like, “Boy, you were lucky Sally stepped up when Suzie wasn’t playing well.”  Or, “You were lucky your team was able to cover line so well tonight.”  Most times I will simply smile and agree, but we’re pretty sure it’s not luck that’s involved here.

A quick internet search on “How to make your own luck” reveals a multitude of articles, books, blogs, and other items.  Many of them point back to a Professor Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire in Britain.  According to Professor Wiseman, author of The Luck Factor, only about 10% of life is purely random; the remaining 90% is defined by the way we think.

Professor Wiseman offers the following four principles, which I’ll use as a format on how you can make your team lucky.

·        Principle One: Maximize Chance Opportunities

This sounds a lot like being in the right spot at the right time.  But it’s more than that.  On the volleyball court it can easily relate to know your opponent.  If you know the team you’re playing has a tendency to rocket jump serves long, teach your team to protect the end line.  Know the likelihood of what may happen in the future base on what the team has done in the past, and then prepare your team for that likelihood.  Then, when you’re libero is perfectly positioned to pick up a thundering middle attack, it won’t be just luck.

·        Principle Two: Listen to Lucky Hunches

Do not disregard your own intuition.  In fact, Wiseman would say work to hone your intuition.  Have you ever gone against your gut and then later wished you hadn’t?  I think we all have.  I’ll translate this to know your own team. The better you know your own team, the more in tune your hunches will be.  I don’t recommend blindly following every thought you might have, some of my thoughts are pretty far-fetched.  But when your gut is pointing you in a direction, often times you’ll be best served to follow.  So get to know your team.  Know not only who they are, but what they’re about, and how they respond to different situations.  Be ready to make the move that feels right.

·        Principle Three: Expect Good Fortune

To me, this is all about being positive. Be that coach with the smiling face.  Be that coach giving encouragement.  Be that coach that is expecting your team to win.  Volleyball is a confidence sport; a team with confidence plays so much better!  A few years back, we were playing a team that was much more talented than us.  Midway through the match, after we had lost the first set, but were leading in the second, their coach began to get surly, began to “ride” the players and “get in their face” with negative comments.  While I believed we had a good chance all along, it was at that moment I was sure we were going to win.  What you believe, your players will also believe.  So make sure you’re believing good thoughts and voicing them expressively.

·        Principle Four: Turn Bad Luck Into Good

On the volleyball court, this means have a contingency plan.  In fact, have several contingency plans and test them often in practice.  We’re going to encounter our share of misfortune along the way.  So, imagine such scenarios and develop plans to offset them.  What if one of your primary passers can’t pass tonight.  Or worse, what if your star pin hitter tweaks her ankle and is out for the match.  What will you do?  Imagine as many as you can and practice the practical ones.  It’s not luck when a player off the bench is ready to go, or you focus on an alternative option.

There’s more to it, probably much more, but this is certainly enough to get you started.  It will all boil down to this…if you know your opponent, know your team, stay visibly positive, and be prepared for as much as you can, then your team might start to look lucky.  But we’ll all know, it’s not all luck, it’s good coaching.

Before I close, I’d like to thank Coach Dawn for her consistent posts, and allowing me to add one of my own.  I am amazed at how well she plans them and simply keeps them coming.  For me, so much of what she’s writing is right on target.  Exactly what I would think, only she puts it into words so well.  Keep reading Coach Dawn Writes!! There’s a ton of great stuff here.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Best of “luck” to you on the courts!

A Navigational Map for Coaching Female Athletes–Excerpt


Not that I’m all about tooting my own horn (but toot, toot!), I’ve contributed a chapter to a great book called, They’re Not Boys–Safely Training the Adolescent Female Athlete, due out in Spring 2011.  It’s written by Warren Potash and is linked on his website, Learn To Train Safely.  The book is about the tangibles of nutrition and physical training of female athletes…but my chapter is about coaching female athletes.

Here’s an excerpt from my chapter, “A Navigational Map for Coaching Female Athletes”:

I don’t know the profile of the typical person who will read this book. Maybe you’re a mom or dad who wants to make sure that your daughter achieves all that she is capable of during her athletic career. Or maybe you’re a coach who has never coached female athletes before…and you’ve heard lots of horror stories about working with girls. Or you could be an athletic trainer looking for an additional tool to add to your rehab tool belt. Whatever your job in life, I’m sure you’re reading this book because there are female athletes in your life that you care about.

I can tell you, without a doubt, that coaching female athletes has been the joy of my life. I’ve spent almost 20 years in women’s athletics. I played volleyball at the University of Wisconsin and have coached at the club, middle and high school, collegiate Division I and III levels.

Female athletes are fierce competitors, hard workers, and amazing teammates…when they are coached properly.

So let’s begin with the end in mind, as Franklin Covey says, and talk about our ideal female athlete…and then how a coach can go about creating that person…

You can click on this link to my chapter in They’re Not Boys–Safely Training the Adolescent Female Athlete.

Book Review: Quiet Strength—The Principles, Practices, & Priorities of a Winning Life


“I don’t yell a lot.  In fact, yelling will be rare.  When I get mad, I usually talk at the same volume I’m talking now.  And when I get really mad…I whisper.  So if my voice at this level won’t get your attention and you believe you need someone to yell at you to correct you or motivate you, then we’ll probably need to find you another team to play for so that you can play your best.” –Tony Dungy

How often do you hear a quotation like that coming from a coach…and a football coach at that?!  Many of us grew up watching or being coached by old school coaches…and “quiet” wouldn’t be a word used to describe most of them.  But in Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy, he talks about his methods and how those techniques ultimately won him a Super Bowl.

The rundown: I think that the title of this book could have been “Quiet Confidence” as well.  Think about the inner strength and confidence Dungy must have had in himself and his way of doing things that he was able to buck the tradition and be a football coach on his own terms.  What an awesome lesson for us to learn!  To have confidence in your calling as a coach when the results aren’t turning out how you’d like.  To have confidence in your coaching style and philosophy when others tell you that you can’t be successful with your methods.  This book details Dungy’s career from player to Super Bowl champion…and all of the ups and downs in between.  But the one thing that is a consistent theme throughout the book is his commitment to his coaching style.

Recommended for: All coaches.  We put ourselves in such unbalanced situations during our seasons…in terms of our family time, our nutrition, our sleeping patterns. On a certain level, I believe we thrive in those situations…but only short term.  The idea of this book though, is that our coaching lives shouldn’t be separate from our faith, from our families, from who we are as people.  If you’re looking for a book that gives example after example of someone living a life of integrity (oftentimes when he wasn’t outwardly rewarded for it), then you’ll enjoy Quiet Strength.

Not recommended for: Dungy makes no apologies for his Christian faith and it’s a strong theme that runs throughout this book.  If that would be offensive to you, this book probably isn’t for you.

So if you’re still stressing about a gift for that coach in your life (Christmas is next week, you know), this would be a welcomed package underneath the tree.

Do you have a coaching nerd in your life who just loves to learn more and more about their sport and their craft?  Then I’d bet that they love to read books!  Keep checking back as I talk about three books that are great for coaches:  Gender & Competition by Kathy DeBoer, Mind Gym by Gary Mack, and Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy.

Book Review: Mind Gym—An Athlete’s Guide To Inner Excellence


I believe in training my team’s brains…showing them how they are in control of their situation and their view of their situation.  Mind Gym by Gary Mack is a great book for individuals and teams to challenge themselves to develop their mental games.  While it may not supply your athletes with new and unique ideas about the mental aspects of sports, it will give them real life examples of folks who’ve been successful using the techniques mentioned in the book.  It’s also a bulletin board’s friend, because it’s full of great quotations…here are a few:

“Successful people take responsibility for themselves and their game.  They understand that it’s not the event but how they respond to it that’s most important.”

“Motivation depends in a very large part on goal setting.  The coach must have goals.  The team must have goals.  Each individual must have goals—real, vivid, living goals.  Goals keep everyone on target.”

“Failure is the best teacher in the world…you get to learn from what happens to you—both good and bad—in a real-live game situation.”

“Consistency separates good athletes from great ones.  The best athletes win consistently because they think, act, and practice consistently.”

“Sports is more than a contest of physical ability.  Sports also test courage, which comes from the Latin word meaning heart.  And it’s the human heart where the hero within us lives.”

The rundown: Mind Gym is a short book with short chapters that are pretty easy to read.  The author is a sports psychologist who has worked with many professional athletes to push them past their own personal mental barriers.  While he does supply some mental exercises that athletes can use, I think the best parts of the book are the stories and testimonials from the athletes themselves.

Recommended for: It’d be a great team book.  Every year, I pick a book for my team to read as a group and this one would be awesome…especially if you know that the mental side of the game will be a weak point for your team.  It’s full of good examples from professional athletes and most importantly, it’s an easy read that won’t overwhelm your players with their other studies.

Not recommended for: It’s not a deep book that will challenge your coaching philosophy…but rather a book that says what you’re probably already saying to your team.  Don’t buy it thinking you’re going to get all sorts of bright ideas, but rather a support system to your current coaching system.

I enjoyed this book because it’s something that my athletes can keep with them that shows them how to control their thoughts and win the mind game.

Just by clicking here 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.

Do you have a coaching nerd in your life who just loves to learn more and more about their sport and their craft?  Then I’d bet that they love to read books!  Keep checking back as I talk about three books that are great for coaches:  Gender & Competition by Kathy DeBoer, Mind Gym by Gary Mack, and Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy.

Book Review: Gender & Competition—How Men and Women Approach Work and Play Differently


In 2000, I took my first collegiate head coaching job.  While I was fired up about coaching and volleyball…I was pretty clueless about what it took to be successful as a leader of young women.  That same year, I went to my coaches convention where Kathy DeBoer was the keynote speaker and it was an eye opening experience to say the least.   Her topic was “Improving the Competitiveness of Your Female Team” and she’s expanded that two-day seminar into a great book, Gender and Competition: How Men and Women Approach Work and Play Differently. Here’s a bit about her book:

The rundown: The book is filled with stories from her coaching days and missteps she made with some of her female players, but also stories from her time in athletics administration.  At the heart of the matter is a generation of female coaches who may not have had female coaches themselves who then try to coach as they were coached by men…and the utter disaster that follows. Of course I’d suggest that you read the book, but basically it comes down to women having different expectations from other women than they do from men.

That’s one side of the story.  The other side is how to motivate female athletes for greatness.  DeBoer says that culturally, young girls view winning and losing as opposite of the “closeness that females value” and avoid it in play activities.  As you read this, your eyes will be opened to the type of environment that you can create to help your female team embrace competition.

Recommended for: Coaches of female athletes…whether male or female.  It gives good insight into why our athletes are the way they are and what they need from us to push them to be great.

Not recommended for: People who insist that there aren’t gender differences, because that’s the basic premise of the book.  As DeBoer says, “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.”

Great book and it’d make a great gift for the coach in your life…or for yourself to read over winter break.

Do you have a coaching nerd in your life who just loves to learn more and more about their sport and their craft?  Then I’d bet that they love to read books!  Keep checking back as I talk about three books that are great for coaches:  Gender & Competition by Kathy DeBoer, Mind Gym by Gary Mack, and Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy.

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


This is the second of three posts that I’ve put together for a myth busters series about women and athletics. Read Part One here and Part Three here.

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.

The Coach As GPS: Step by Step Directions to Goal Setting


There is always a huge gap between the birth of a dream and the achievement of that dream.
Put Your Dream To The Test

Every team starts out the year with high goals…things they’d like to have accomplished by season’s end.  What every team does not have is the desire, tenacity, and motivation to keep pursuing the goal when (cliché alert!) the going gets tough.  Let’s discuss how to keep our teams and our athletes on track in this third of a three-part series (click here to read parts one and two) while examining the last five questions from the book, Put Your Dream To The Test by John Maxwell.  I believe that guiding them through this goal setting process can help them to accomplish individual and team goals put them on the path to having a successful season.

The People Question:  Have I Included the People I Need to Realize My Dream?
“Convincing others of the significance of your dream can happen only if you are convinced of the significance of your dream.”  This question is for people who need to build a team around them in order to be successful, but our athletes come with a ready-made team!  Now all you’ve got to do is remind them that the goal can only be accomplished through daily work.  Everyone’s fired up at the beginning of the season, but what about when you’ve suffered a heartbreaking loss, or midterms are kicking their butts, or it’s just harder than they thought?  That’s when we can remind them that they’re not alone and that they’re in it together.

The Cost Question:  Am I Willing to Pay the Price for My Dream?
“All dreams are outside our comfort zone.  Leaving that zone is a price we must pay to achieve them.”  What’s the price, you ask?  Criticism: what if one of your players thinks that she can be in the WNBA and has decided to make that one of her goals?  When she tells people, they may try to dissuade her from pursuing that goal…not to be mean or negative, but in protecting her feelings.  Fear: using our same example, that’s a big out-of-her-comfort-zone goal…and it’s scary.  If she’s not willing to work through being afraid that she’s bitten off more than she can chew, then she should get a smaller goal.  Hard work: athletics is hard work on its own.  Adding a big, huge goal heaps a whole lot more work to their plate…are they willing to pay that price?

The Tenacity Question:  Am I Moving Closer to My Dream?
“The only guarantee for failure is to stop trying.”  Your athletes have to be finishers, not just starters.  It’s really that simple.  As Dory from Finding Nemo says, “just keep swimming.”  Don’t quit, don’t give up.  As long as they keep putting in work everyday, their goals are getting closer and more real.

The Fulfillment Question:  Does Working Toward My Dream Bring Satisfaction?
“If you want the pursuit of your dream to be sustainable, it needs to bring you satisfaction.”  Maxwell says that there’s a gap between stating the goal and achieving the goal…and it only gets bigger with a larger goal.  If your athletes appreciate the process of working toward a goal, they will discover how tough they are.  And that toughness will serve them well and keep them from wavering.

The Significance Question:  Does My Dream Benefit Others?
“Start doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly, you are doing the impossible.” I think the answer to this question is two-fold.  For the individual, the team will benefit from their goals.  For the team, future teams will benefit from the current team’s goals.  And I just love this quotation!  If our athletes and teams just do what is necessary…at least they’re working toward the goal.  What is necessary?  Coming to practice and working hard, supporting their teammates, and giving their all in each and every drill at each and every practice.  And if they do what is possible, then they’ll challenge themselves…because how do they know what they’re capable of or what is possible for them if they don’t try new things?  If they do what is possible everyday, all of a sudden those things that they thought were impossible are possible.  And they just keep pushing the envelope and keep getting better and those goals are getting closer and closer.

That’s the end of our goal setting series and I hope you found at least one thing that you can put into action with your team right away.  Every team and every person will have different goals, but we coaches can have one plan to guide them along that goal setting process.

The Coaching Sherpa: Guiding Your Team Through The Goal Setting Process


Nobody becomes motivated by something he kinda, sorta believes in. –Put Your Dream To The Test

Having goals isn’t enough.  Really wanting something isn’t enough.  We have to get our athletes to believe in their goals, to clearly see them…and not only that, to work hard at them.  Once they’re at that point, it’s our job as their coach to sit down and figure out a plan to help them achieve their goals.  In this second in a three-part series (click here to read part one and here for part three), I’ll examine the first five questions from the book, Put Your Dream To The Test by John Maxwell, and how we can challenge our athletes to be their very best selves and accomplish their goals.

The Ownership Question:  Is My Dream Really My Dream?
“You cannot achieve a dream that you do not own.”   Every now and then, I’ll be on the phone with a recruit and she’ll blame her current coach for not playing her enough or say that the coach plays favorites, or some other excuse as to why she’s not seeing the playing time she feels she deserves.  The Ownership Question says that there are no excuses and it’s the same with our athletes.  If one of your players sits down in your office and says that they want to be an all-region player (and you believe that she could actually do it), she can’t then undercut that goal with lack of belief and excuses.  She’s got to believe that despite the obstacles, she can be successful.

The Clarity Question:  Do I Clearly See My Dream?
“If you’re going to dream, you might as well dream big.”  Put simply, clarity makes a general idea very specific.  Instead of saying, I really want to have a great season this year, ask your player to elaborate.  That’s when “a great season” becomes “a season where she starts every game.”  Or if she wants to be a player that other teams fear, her goal can be “earn first team all conference honors.”  Whatever her goal is, clarity will bring with it a priority list.  If she wants to be the best triple jumper in conference, she probably shouldn’t put “working on long distance running” at the top of her priority list.

The Reality Question:  Am I Depending on Factors within My Control to Achieve My Dream?
“Believing in a dream isn’t enough.  Desperately wanting it isn’t enough.”  The fact is, our athlete’s goals and reality have to meet…and reality says that achieving the goal will not be easy.  Not only do they have to be talented but they have to be prepared to work hard.  Without hard work, all the dreaming and goal-setting in the world will fall flat.  John Wooden made industriousness (hard work) a cornerstone of his Pyramid of Success…meaning without it, success is shaky at best and unlikely at worst.

The Passion Question:  Does My Dream Compel Me to Follow It?
“Anytime you try to accomplish something of value, you will face adversity.  Passion can help you get through it.”  Whatever your athlete’s goal, it should keep them up at night, because they’re just so excited about it.  As a matter of fact, that’s how you should present it to them before you meet with them:  tell me the one goal you have that makes your heart start beating faster when you think about it… what do you see when you close your eyes and think about this season?  They should feel compelled to pursue their dream, that way when things go sideways (and they will!), your athlete will remain focused and motivated.

The Pathway Question:  Do I Have a Strategy to Reach My Dream?
“There is no magic power in having a dream.  You can’t just wait for it.  You have to work for it.  And you need to have a strategy that gives direction and focus to that work.”  When we sit down with our athletes and they tell us their goals, we have to formulate a plan together.  The first step is identifying the goal and after that, it’s being honest with them about where they are right now.  If they want to win the conference swim meet in their event, they need to know what times make finals and what times have won in the past…and where they fit into that mix.  Then the two of you need to come up with a plan to get them from where they are now to where they want to be in the future.  And they’ve got to be willing to work daily to reach that goal.

We’re halfway there!  I’ll finish up this goal setting series next time where I’ll tackle the last five questions that our athletes need to answer in order to achieve their goals.

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A High Stakes Game: Setting The Goal Is Just The Beginning


A dream is an inspiring picture of the future that energizes your mind, will, and emotions, empowering you to do everything you can to achieve it. –Put Your Dream To The Test

I think we’d all agree that a major part of our job as coaches is to get our teams to dream big, to set goals, and to guide them through the process of measuring and achieving them.   Whether it is for the individual or the team as a whole, goal setting is a fun (and scary) part of the season for our athletes.  Every team starts off the season with the goal of winning it all and I believe that we have the tremendous opportunity to manage their definition of success and to help them accomplish their goals.  Over the next series of three posts, I’d like for you to join me as I explore goal setting through the lens of the book, Put Your Dream To The Test by John Maxwell.

I thought this book was great because it challenges you to be sure that your dream, or goal for our purposes, is really yours.  I’m sure we’ve all had the athlete on our team that just said what she thought we wanted to hear.   When you ask whether or not she wants to win the big game or earn her way into the starting lineup, she says yes.  But with a question mark instead of an exclamation point.  That’s clearly not her goal and we have to work to find out what motivates her to come to practice everyday.  The tagline to the book is “10 Questions to Help You See It and Seize It.”  These questions are designed to challenge the resolve of a goal, here they are:

  • The Ownership Question:  Is My Dream Really My Dream?
  • The Clarity Question:  Do I Clearly See My Dream?
  • The Reality Question:  Am I Depending on Factors within My Control to Achieve My Dream?
  • The Passion Question:  Does My Dream Compel Me to Follow It?
  • The Pathway Question:  Do I Have a Strategy to Reach My Dream?
  • The People Question:  Have I Included the People I Need to Realize My Dream?
  • The Cost Question:  Am I Willing to Pay the Price for My Dream?
  • The Tenacity Question:  Am I Moving Closer to My Dream?
  • The Fulfillment Question:  Does Working Toward My Dream Bring Satisfaction?
  • The Significance Question:  Does My Dream Benefit Others?

I’m going to explore each of these questions and how we can relate them to our team’s goal setting process, so be sure to keep stopping by.  Before I finish up this post, I wanted to mention the four things that could make your team resistant to goal setting.  We all assume that our team has high goals (that they truly believe in!) and that they are singularly focused on accomplishing them…but that’s not always the case.  They may not tell you, but some folks have been jaded:  by other people they’ve seen fail, by their own personal failures, by settling for less than the best (good is the enemy of great), or by low self-esteem.  It’s our job to address those issues and ideally get rid of them so that our athletes can be their very best selves.

Join me next time when I discuss the first five questions and how we can use them to lead our teams in achieving their goals.

Read Part Two

Read Part Three