Archive for the ‘Coaching career’ Category

When Will You Feel Successful As A Coach?

21 Mar

successful coachsource

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.—John Wooden

This will be a short one today, but (I think) a good one.

I was talking to a coaching friend the other day.  He told me that he knew he’d be a great coach once his current team made it to NCAA’s. Now this guy has won a national championship at another institution, so it’s not like he doesn’t know how to win.

His comment said a few things to me.

  • We coaches are way too hard on ourselves.
  • We coaches are internally driven to succeed.
  • We coaches like challenges.

As I said to him, clearly you’re a good coach because you’ve won a national championship.  But I get it, once you accomplish a goal as a coach, you’re on to the next one.  So what did he do after winning a national championship?  He took a job at a historically bad university with no history of success.

Coaches love challenges.  We love setting goals and meeting them.  It’s what drives us.

Whether your goal is to rebuild a team culture or rebuild a player’s confidence, go out and do it to the best of your ability.  Like the Wooden quote above says, success is the satisfaction of knowing you did your best.  Let’s be our best selves for our teams!

John Wooden’s TEDtalk:  The difference between winning and succeeding

Click here and you can get Coach Dawn Writes articles emailed directly to your inbox!  It’s free and easy…and I promise I won’t give your email to anyone else.

The John Wooden series:

John Wooden TEDtalk
Leading With Integrity
Wooden’s Three Team Rules
The Pressure Of Winning

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Posted in Coaching career, Leadership, TEDtalk


Leaving A Legacy Through Coaching

07 Mar

leave a legacysource

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I took that quotation from Leadership Freak’s post, 10 Ways to Build Powerful Legacy Now.  For the purposes of this post, let’s change out “life, lived, and lived” with “coaching, coached, and coached.”  I’m sure most of us coaches, no matter the level, imagine ourselves as difference makers.

Just like we want our teams and players to set goals that begin with the end in mind, we should also think about what we want our players to say about us when they’re finished.  What about our coworkers?  Our families?

5 ways coaches can build an amazing legacy

  • Develop and maximize your talent, strengths, and skills.  We’ve got to be lifelong learners.  I love being a dork about my sport.  I love learning from other coaches.  I can’t imagine a time when I’ll think I know it all.
  • Seize small opportunities. Big may follow.  This one is a good one…and a thought I actually heard from another coach.  He lamented that young coaches are too quick to turn down the entry level job.  His advice: take a job doing what you want to do.  Worry about it having cache when you actually have experience.
  • Think service not success.  When we only think of our own success, we take the heart out of coaching.  If we believe our jobs are to make our players better human beings, service has to come before success.
  • Relax. Don’t run around building a legacy. Run around making a difference.  This is my favorite one.  If we’re always thinking about what will be said about us in the future, we may not live in the present.  We’ve got to trust that if we’re the best coaches that we can be, the rest will take care of itself.
  • Elevate the needs of others over your own.  In my opinion, coaching should be an “other people” job…meaning it’s about other people.  It’s about developing your players.  It’s about being a good coworker.  It’s about equipping your assistants to be team leaders.  It’s also about figuring out how to be there for our families.  If we’re successful on all of those fronts, I think our legacies will be pretty amazing.

What do you think?  I believe coaches have the power to change the lives of others.  And those people will go out into the world and change the lives of others…and so on, and so on.

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Posted in Coaching career


The Importance of Sleep For Our Players

17 Jan


On a team long, long ago, I had a player with a troubled friend in her dorm.  This friend would have episodes which involved seizures and scary blackouts.  My player, ever the mother hen, felt it was her duty to stay up with her friend even though these episodes happened during the wee hours of the morning.  This would happen night after night.

No sleep for days.

And she expected to be able to function well in the classroom and in the gym.  She would tell me, “Don’t worry coach, I don’t need much sleep.”  Huh?

Not every scenario is as crazy as this one.  Some are just your players stay up too late doing homework.  Or they aren’t able to get uninterrupted sleep. Or they think they can party the weekend away and pay the homework piper on Sunday.

This should be important to us not only because we’re counting on our athletes to perform, but also part of our role in their lives is to teach them how to be functioning adults.

What’s the problem?

According to this Harvard Business Review article, Sleep Deficit: The Performance Killer, there are four parts to sleep that affect performance.  The first part is our natural drive to sleep.  We think we’re in control of it, but essentially, our bodies will force us to sleep if we put it off too long.  The second is the amount of sleep we get over the course of a few days.  The third is the part of us that says, “Oh, it’s light outside, it’s time to get up.”  Finally, there’s the groggy wakeup.  Apparently, we need about twenty minutes in the morning to get our bearings.

What can we do about it?

  • If we schedule morning practices, we’ve got to give them time to truly wake up.  If I go in the morning, I usually do some sort of conditioning first.  That way, they don’t have to tax their brains until later in the practice.
  • We’ve got to talk to them about how important sleep is to their performance.
  • If there’s a way to show them they’re not being heroic by staying up all night writing papers and studying, we’ve got to show them.
  • Sleep has to be equated to going to the training room, getting strong in the weight room, and watching film…it’s what we need to do in order to be good.

The article equated lack of sleep with drunkenness.  We wouldn’t tolerate our players being in a perpetual state of intoxication and we shouldn’t tolerate sleeplessness either.

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Posted in Coaching career


The Power of Taking Time Off

06 Jan


When I saw this TEDtalk called, “The Power of Time Off”, I was understandably intrigued.  Since I’ve just come off of a year-long break from blogging, speaking, and writing, I’m trying to figure out how to frame what I’ve gone through.  You should check out the talk, though it’s a bit long at just under eighteen minutes.

Certainly, taking a year off to hang out with my kid would be a valid reason, but I am looking for more.  I’m looking for a reason this break made me a better coach/writer/speaker/mother than I was pre-sabbatical.

Deciding what to give up

The first thing I should do is acknowledge that I didn’t give up my main source of income, namely being a coach and administrator at my college.  But I did give up the writing and speaking that I so enjoy…I truly benefit from connecting with and learning from other coaches.  There was most certainly the risk that everyone would forget about Coach Dawn and all of my cool writing about this amazing profession.

How did I decide what to give up?  I broke my life down into parts: work, family, “Coach Dawn”.  I don’t know whether or not it’s sad that I can break my life into just three parts, but it fit.  I can’t imagine telling my family that I’m going to take a year-long break from them, just as it would be unfathomable to tell my boss that I didn’t want to coach for a year.  So…Coach Dawn it was.

Stefan Sagmeister, the TEDtalk speaker, defines work as having three parts (this is so good, I could write a whole post just about this!):

  • Job: he needs it for money.  Coach Dawn does have a revenue aspect that was helpful.
  • Career: he’s interested in advancement and promotion. I can see myself, when I’m ready to move on to the next challenge, doing Coach Dawn full time…so this definition is spot on.
  • Calling: intrinsically fulfilling, he’d do his job for free.  I didn’t get into writing this blog for cash, but to connect with other coaches who are passionate about their profession…that makes this a good working definition for me.

Giving up Coach Dawn was tough, but I don’t know that “giving up” is the proper term.  I freed up space to focus on being better.  I had to decide whether or not Coach Dawn was worth my time and effort.  Was it helping or hurting my coaching? Going through the job/career/calling thing was helpful for me.

The big picture

Sure, I want to win games and championships, just like any other coach.  More than that, though, my sabbatical afforded me the time to think about my impact on the young ladies on my team.  It gave me time to wonder about my influence on my campus.  Most importantly, my time off gave me time to miss writing and speaking.

Try it!

Taking a break doesn’t have to take a year.  It can take a semester, a month, or a week.  I think this idea goes against the coaching culture: working less now to pay dividends in the future.  Is there something you can set aside that will free you up to draft a plan to become a better you?

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Posted in Coaching career, TEDtalk


A Moment Of Pause

31 Dec


Well folks, I’m about a week out (8 days, but who’s counting?) from my due date for our little bundle of joy’s arrival.  My husband and I are super excited to add to our family and are looking forward to this next chapter.

As I assess all of the things I must do in order to be a successful coach (I still have recruiting calls to make, a recruiting calendar that is daunting, and spring season for my team) and a successful mom (time, time, time!  love, love, love!), I’ve decided that the writing that I so enjoy has to take a backseat.  Once I get a handle on how to be both an awesome coach and mom, then I’ll add awesome blogger back to the mix.

I get asked lots of questions about the pregnancy, so here are…

Coach Dawn’s baby FAQ’s:

  • Do I know what I’m having?  Nope, we’re going to be surprised.
  • How do I feel?  Great…I’m having a baby!
  • Have we picked out a name? Not yet, we’ll be forced to soon enough though.
  • How will you decorate the nursery if you don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl?  Well this child has no choice but to be athletic…my husband played football at the college I work at and I coach volleyball there.  Thus the decorations will be sporty!
  • When exactly am I due (usually said with a worried look)?  January 8th…we’re almost there.  :)

Okay folks.  Happy coaching and I’ll see you later.

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14 Ways To Stay Motivated

26 Dec


When I first started coaching, I would go and chat with one of the veteran coaches in the office…just to soak up whatever knowledge he was willing to share with me.  He’d been coaching for over thirty years and I was in year two.  Quite honestly, I wondered how he stayed so fired up about the profession.  But he was…there was a glint in his eye that I’m sure hadn’t lost its luster in the entire thirty years he’d been on the sideline.

Of course, whenever I asked that very question, he would brush me off with a (not altogether untrue) joke.  “If you’re not scared to death of losing”, he’d say with a smirk, “then you’re in the wrong profession.”

While I’m sure some measure of his motivation came from fear of failure, I’d guess the bulk of it came from tried and true ways to stay motivated. had a great article about this, 14 Easy Ways to Get Insanely Motivated, it’s a quick read…check it out.

14 ways to stay motivated

Condition your mind.  Staying positive is huge.  We’ve got plenty of opponents who are trying to defeat us…let’s not defeat ourselves too!

Condition your body.  Staying healthy, eating right, working out…those are hard to do when we’re in season.  But we’ve got to try our best to take care of ourselves so that we can be available and energetic for our teams.

Avoid negative people.  If our heart sinks a little when we see someone coming, perhaps they’re negative.  Or if during lunch, we spend the entire time trying to pick someone else up (and they’re still grumpy), we might have to cut our losses and limit our time with those Negative Nellies.

Seek out the similarly motivated.  These are the people we can bounce ideas off of and they keep us fired up about what we do.

Have plans, but remain flexible.  We may think we know how we’re going to accomplish our goals, but staying flexible will keep us from getting down when things don’t work out how we thought they would.

Act with a higher purpose.  What’s your coaching philosophy?  If we do things that go against our philosophy, it will be pretty hard to be motivated.

Take responsibility for your own results.  How can we stay motivated if our success (or failure) is outside of our control?  When things are within our control, we feel that we have power over the situation.  And when we feel we have power, we can stay motivated.

Stretch past your limits on a daily basis.  For me, it’s been committing to reading and writing about my profession every day.  What will it be for you?

Don’t wait for perfection, do it now!  Perfection is unattainable, so if that’s what we’re waiting for…we’re going to be waiting for a long time.

Celebrate your failures.  When we see failure as a necessary step to success, we’re more willing to own our failures…and hopefully learn from them.

Don’t take success too seriously.  Sport is fickle.  We can beat the best team in conference one night and be feeling on top of the world…only to lose to a bottom dweller the next time out.

Avoid weak goals.  Weak goals start with “I’ll try to” or “I hope to”.  Strong goals begin with “I will”.  They are specific and have a deadline to them.

Treat inaction as the only real failure.  My motto: less talk, more do.

Think before you speak.  Don’t become the Negative Nelson that everyone else is avoiding in the office.  Stay positive, stay upbeat, stay motivated.

Not many professions have to live out their successes and failures in the public eye like athletics, which can make it hard to stay motivated sometimes.  Use these tips to get and stay motivated to guide your team to success.

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5 Gifts Santa Can Drop Off For Coaches

24 Dec


If you’re out shopping today, then you’ve missed the fun part of shopping…where everyone’s happy and smiling and singing carols.  Now people are stressed, desperate, and not quite as friendly.  But don’t you worry, I sent my list in to Santa for all of us and this is what you can expect to find under your tree tomorrow morning.

**5 things that I hope Santa leaves for me (and my fellow coaches!)
when he comes down our chimneys tomorrow**

  • Great athletes.  I’m sure I don’t have to expand on this, but I’ll quickly define what I mean by “great”.  Surely skill comes into play, as well as a high sports I.Q., a love of the game, a love of hard work, an understanding of and commitment to team, the ability to rise to the occasion, and a strong desire to be a leader.  And that’s just the start.
  • Understanding bosses.  Administrators that know we’re slightly crazy during season and put up with it, who know what our programs need before we even ask, that understand that they’ve got to fight for our teams and programs so that we’re adequately funded and supported.  Bosses who want success.
  • Awesome recruits. These folks have all of the traits of “great athletes” as described above…and they fit in with your team seamlessly.  Not only are they fired about your school and your team, they commit to your program early out of respect for the other people that you’re recruiting.
  • Perspective. Every win doesn’t mean you’re going to win a national championship and each loss doesn’t mean that your team is awful and doomed to failure.  Perspective shows us coaches that we are leaders and teachers of young people.  While the most immediate benefit of our instruction is sport skill building, we’re also building them into better human beings.  We’re teaching them how to win and lose with grace, how to take care of their bodies and eat healthily, how to value hard work, how to deal with the unfairness that will sometimes happen in life, and how to be a member of a group with a goal or cause that’s bigger than they are.
  • Passion. I hope you love what you do.  I hope that you can’t go to sleep some nights because you’re so excited about a new play that you know will work or the next competition.  I hope that your athletes make you laugh even when you want to be serious.  I hope that you jot down ideas about your team on napkins while you’re having lunch.  I hope that you love learning about your sport and your craft.  I hope you’re getting better every day.  I hope you love what you do.

I’m sure this is a list that we can all get behind, one that’ll make our teams better.  Merry Christmas folks and safe travels during the holiday season!

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Posted in Coaching career


3 Ways Women Can Be Effective Leaders

21 Dec


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 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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Thinking Critically About Our Teams

19 Dec


It comes naturally for coaches to think strategically about a specific game and how we can get the matchups we need in order to be successful. But what about thinking strategically about our programs?  Where are we behind the times in terms of equipment, transportation, budgets?  What type of recruits do we need to bring in to take our team a little higher during the next season?  Where are we, as the coach, lacking the information/knowledge/skill to be at our best and how can we acquire it?

These questions and more should be part of every coach’s life at some point during the year.

5 ways to think strategically

Anticipate.  For those of us who are nerdy about our profession, this is an easy one for us.  Whether it’s chatting with coaching friends who can help us figure out what the next new thing in training will be or figuring out how to mask your team’s weaknesses with innovative techniques…anticipation is huge.

Think critically.  To me, this means assessing your program.  At the end of the season, we’ve got to question everything:  our training, our recruiting strategy, our scheduling, our leadership.  Then we’ve got to give ourselves an honest grade and decide whether things need to change or go in a different direction.

Decide.  Perfection can never be the goal.  If we refuse to make decisions until we’re one hundred percent sure and have heard from absolutely everyone involved, then we may never solve our team’s problem.  Eventually we have to feel good enough about the information we have to step out and actually make a decision.

Align.  I’m sure that most of us would say that our teams are not democracies, where everyone gets a say in how the program functions.  I’m also sure that most of us understand that we still have to get our athlete’s and assistant coach’s input on certain issues.  We’ve got to make sure we’ve created an atmosphere where we can approach our players and get an honest answer from them and where our assistants feel free to disagree with us.

Learn.  I’ve talked before about personality assessments and how important they are when managing people.  I think it’s essential to learn our player’s (as well as our own) personality types so that we know how to approach them for feedback.  They are the folks who know what’s really going on behind the scenes, so we need their honest input as we’re putting together our list of things we need to put on the “strategic thinking” list.

How can we create space so that we have time to think strategically?

You may be thinking that this all sounds great, but who’s got time for all of this?  I’d say that we all do, but we’ve got to be organized before we can step back and get strategic.  Here are three things you’ll need:

A clear coaching philosophy.  Strategic thinking can happen at any time during the season, but most likely it’ll be in the off-season.  Knowing what we value as a coach (our coaching philosophies) will help guide us as we bat around difficult issues in our heads.

Strong leadership.  Perhaps we’ve got great captains or involved assistant coaches, whichever it is, they’ll be crucial as we step into the bat cave for a bit to figure out what the next steps our programs take should be.

A connected coaching staff.  For those of you blessed with full-time assistants…I’m jealous!  My assistant coach is also a professor on campus.  While he has another role, he is very connected with our players and often gets to see them in a light that I don’t.  Beyond that, the players know that he genuinely cares about them and their welfare.  Because of that, the burden of always being the person the players come to is lifted off of my shoulders…and I get to be strategic!

If we don’t take time to plan for the direction of our teams, I’m afraid we’ll be disappointed by where they end up.

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Managing Our Teams With Integrity

17 Dec


As coaches, we’ve got to see ourselves as mini-CEO’s.  I’m the CEO of volleyball here at my college, we’ve also got a CEO of baseball, and a CEO of swimming…you get the idea.  So when I saw this article (Maxims for PR Success) over at The Chronicle of Higher Education, I knew it’d be a benefit to us.

1.       Do what you say you’re going to do. Being reliable is underrated.  In my book, being a woman of my word is the highest priority.  Whether it’s getting paperwork in to the administrative staff, meeting with ladies from my team, or in communications with recruits…underpromise and overdeliver.

2.       Meet often with your supervisor. Maybe not “often”, but enough that they know what your vision is for your team and what your expectations are for the future.  Remember, part of their job is to have answers when benefactors have money burning a hole in their pockets…be at the front of your boss’s brain when that time comes.

3.       Be on time. Yes, your boss knows that you’re working on your practice plans during department meetings…but it’s another thing altogether if you’ve got a one-on-one meeting with them and you’re late.  We’re all busy, we’ve all got important things on our plates…but being late implies that your stuff is more important than their stuff.  Not cool, dude.

4.       Tell the truth. People will hold you to your words…so choose them carefully and stick to them.  This is at the heart of coaching with integrity.

5.       Circulate. Coaching is a time consuming endeavor, to be sure.  But there are other folks on campus who help keep it running…how about meeting some of those folks?  Not just the professors (though that’s important), but the student affairs staff, other co-curricular leaders (music, art, dance), or even the staff that keeps all of our campus space neat and tidy.

6.       Think on your feet. Spot problems before they happen, notice the generous donor in the stands and go chat with them, be ready when you’ve got someone’s ear who can help out your program.  There’s something to be said for being prepared to react quickly.

7.       Keep your ego in check. We love what we do and we think that we’re good at it…but we can’t do anything without the athletes, right?  It truly takes a village for our seasons to come to fruition.  From the higher ups who approve our schedules and budgets to the office staff who submit our paperwork to the appropriate folks, our programs are the products of a group effort.

8.       Improve your coaching. I started this off saying that we’re all CEO’s of our sport…our “brand” as people are saying these days.  Whether you plan to stay at your institution forever or you’re setting yourself up for the next big move…being the best you can be only benefits you.  There are no downsides to getting better.

9.       Embrace your institution, warts and all. The article says it better than I could:  “It’s not that you have to love everything about your college, or ignore its flaws. It is not believable to others, much less yourself, to pretend that your institution doesn’t need to improve in some areas. But if those flaws mean that you can’t wholeheartedly support your college’s mission, you will be doing both it and yourself a favor by moving on. When you find yourself becoming cynical or see your work as just another job, it is only a matter of time before your effectiveness begins to wane.”

10.   Stay current. Take advantage of professional development opportunities that are out there…whether it’s a convention, seminar, or even a free webinar.  Even if your department has cut its budget, there are plenty of cheap or free ways to learn.  Email or call another coach and chat about what’s new and exciting in your sport.  Sit in on a business class on campus.  There are many ways that you can proudly be a coaching nerd.

I’ve heard integrity described as “who we are when no one is looking”…but I also think it’s who we are when all eyes are on us.

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Posted in Coaching career