Category Archives: Coaching community

Coach Dawn’s Motivating Female Athletes Presentation

A few years ago, I spoke at the USA Hockey ADM (American Development Model) coaches clinic and gave my Motivating Female Athletes presentation.  Over time, the presentation has evolved and I always manage to tailor each talk to the particular group I’m speaking with, but the bones are pretty much the same.

This first section (which is about fourteen minutes) is a place I’ve been doing lots of research lately.  It talks about the socialization of females and begins the conversation about building team chemistry.

I hope you like it and let me know if you’d like to have me speak to your group!  You can check out different topics here.

You Should Know About: ESPN W

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I don’t remember how I stumbled upon ESPN’s site devoted to its female fans, but I’m sure happy I found it!  ESPN W is a mix of Women Talk Sports, ESPN, and a fitness magazine…a happy combination for female lovers of sport.  Check out my review of the website and then hop on over there and check it out for yourself!

The site is broken down into three main sections, each with its own particular flavor:

News & Opinion: Unlike a lot of sites devoted to the female sports fan, ESPN W actually talks about men’s sports…which I like.  I enjoy all sports, not just female athletics.  This is where you can find articles about what’s happening in the world of sports, whether it be the NBA playoffs or the Triple Crown races.  While all of the columnists are women, they vary in their slant.  Some may give straight forward analysis, while others may focus on a little talked about aspect of mainstream athletics…like how NFL moms handle draft day.

Features & Profiles: This section is more devoted to the female professional.  Sometimes it’s a roller derby team, other times it’ll be a high ranking female executive for a professional team, and still other times they focus on the mainstays of professional women’s athletics: track & field and gymnastics.

Training: This is personally my favorite section of the website.  It’s broken down into three sections: nutrition, workouts, and athletic events around the country that we can be a part of.  I’m pretty sure Nike and Gatorade are sponsors of the site, which I think are good things because there’s lots of research behind what they do.  Have you ever been to the Gatorade Sports Science Institute’s website?  It’s literally packed with info and they bring a lot of it over to ESPN W!

So go check it out and see what you think…I’m sure you’ll like it!

I’m on the computer too much, I’ll admit to that…there’s so much information out there and I want to soak it all in.  I enjoy reading about coaching and seeing what other folks are doing.  Over the next few days, I’ll highlight four websites that you may not have heard about, but deserve way more love! Coach & Athletic Director, Women Talk Sports, ESPN W, and Alliance of Women Coaches.

You Should Know About: Women Talk Sports

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In part two of my “You Should Know About: series, I will highlight the Women Talk Sports website.  Here’s their mission statement:  With the goal of promoting and empowering female athleticism, WomenTalkSports.com is an online network that connects the best blogs relating to women’s sports. The site aims to raise the level of awareness of women in sport by providing comprehensive sport coverage, spotlighting outstanding achievements, and working with sporting associations on advocacy issues and empowering programs. I think it’s a great site and hopefully after you read through this post, you’ll think so too!

4 reasons that Women Talk Sports is a super cool website

  1. Lots of different sports are highlighted. I’m just going to list a few and you’ll just have to pop over and see what they’ve got for you.  Here we go: Swimming, Diving, Water Polo, Basketball, all sorts of water sports, various types of cycling, Equestrian, Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Hockey (Field & Ice), Lacrosse, motor sports, MMA, racing in all of its forms, volleyball, soccer, track & field…and more!
  2. They’ve got a lot of professional athletes as contributors. WTS is more of an aggregate of information than a creator, the site gathers a bunch (over 500!) of professional female athletes on one easy-to-find page.  You can search by name or you can search by sport…it’s pretty impressive.
  3. They understand that it’s about more than sports.  Athletics in general, and women’s athletics in particular, are more than just the sport…and WTS understands that.  They address tough topics like politics, racism, sexism, and LGBT issues, but they also talk about the lighter side of sports: fashion, connecting with fans, and fantasy sports.
  4. I write there. It’s the same stuff you read over here, but I figured in the interest of full disclosure, I needed to let you know.  There aren’t a lot of coaches on there…as a matter of fact, there’s just two of us.  Me and LSU’s assistant women’s basketball coach.  Check out his website, it’s very good.  It’s (obviously) pretty basketbally, but he writes about leadership quite a bit as well.


There aren’t many places you can find hundreds of folks talking about women’s athletics…and Women Talk Sports is one of those places.  Take a few moments to check out the site, I’m sure you’ll love it!

I’m on the computer too much, I’ll admit to that…there’s so much information out there and I want to soak it all in.  I enjoy reading about coaching and seeing what other folks are doing.  Over the next few days, I’ll highlight four websites that you may not have heard about, but deserve way more love! Coach & Athletic Director, Women Talk Sports, ESPN W, and Alliance of Women Coaches.

3 Ways To Become A Creative And Innovative Leader

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“Chance favors the connected mind.”—Steven Johnson

We tend to think that great ideas are the result of grand epiphanies or “a-ha” moments.  Not so, according to this TED talk by author Steven Johnson called, “Where Good Ideas Come From”.  The video is about seventeen minutes long and, in my opinion, very engaging.  I know we’re all looking for ways to get better in order to be the best we can be for our teams and I think this video is packed with great ideas for us.  You surely should go and check out the video, but just to whet your appetite, I’ve written about three ways we can apply his ideas to our coaching lives.

Do these three things to watch your ideas go from good to great

1.      Stay away from Negative Nelsons/Nellies. Gotta love ‘em…those negative influences in your life.  They’re the folks that pull out their rifle and shoot down all of your great ideas before you can complete your sentence.  They may be awesome people and they may not mean any harm…they may actually be very valuable in some other facet of your life. But when it comes to cultivating new ideas?  They shouldn’t be your first stop because they’ll have ten reasons why your idea won’t work and will wonder aloud why you’re even trying.

2.      Surround yourself with colleagues.  Johnson says that great ideas come from our network of past experiences, we “stitch them together”, and voila…innovation!  A lot of times, we think we’ve got to get in a room, shut the door, and be by ourselves so that we can think.  Johnson’s research says just the opposite.  He says that our history is full of great ideas that got their beginning in a bar or coffee house with a bunch of folks sitting around throwing ideas off of each other.  What does that mean for us?  It means that when we go to a professional development event, we should talk to people, see what they’re thinking…they may spark an idea within us.  Or do a pop-in on one of your coworkers to bounce ideas around.  I love the way Johnson puts it because I see that as the role of this blog: connecting vs. protecting ideas.  Sure, by protecting your idea, no one else may know it; but by not connecting, you’ll never know how great your idea could’ve been.

3.      Trust your gut. Like I said before, most good ideas don’t come from “eureka” moments, but from an idea you had that was allowed to grow.  Johnson calls these “slow hunches”. You’ve got an idea, and you’ve been kicking it around in your head, but you’re not sure it’ll work…that’s a slow hunch.  We’ve got to get intentional about connecting with our colleagues and having these amazing brainstorming sessions that lead to innovative ideas.  There are some cutting edge companies that build this type of atmosphere right into their framework, allowing their employees to take innovation work breaks.  They let those employees receive eighty percent of their salary and their only job is to think and bounce ideas off of each other….that’s how big this is!  These companies know that sharing ideas, even mistakes, will eventually turn your slow hunch into the next big thing.

I loved this talk!  I hope you had a chance to sit down and listen to it, I believe it can change the way we think about how we approach coaching.

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Coaches Clinic In A Box—Bringing Coach Dawn To Your Group

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I came up with the idea of a coaches “traveling clinic” after numerous amazing interactions with folks who read this blog from all over the globe. The clinic is an opportunity to meet face to face and dig deeper into what it means to coach and how to excel, achieve, and win at a consistent level.

I’ve written before about steps that successful coaches take and getting better is one of those steps.  Anytime we can get together and talk about how to make our teams better…then we’re getting better.

I’d love for you to shoot me an email at coachdawn[at]hotmail[dot]com to set up a clinic wherever you are…with topics you choose, but here’s an example:

Sample clinic agenda
8:30 – 9 am…Registration
9 – 9:30 am…Introduction
9:30 – 11 am…The Intangibles: Team Chemistry, Goal Setting, & Leadership, Oh My!
11 am – 12:15 pm…Incorporating John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success into your coaching philosophy
12:15 – 12:30 pm…Break
12:30 – 1:30 pm…Working lunch: Q & A with coaches
1:30 – 3 pm…Why personality testing can increase the competitiveness of your team
3 – 3:30 pm…Closing

Since I’m coming to you, your group won’t have to incur the expense of traveling to lovely Wisconsin to hear me speak…I’ll be wherever you are with a clinic tailored to your needs.  Whether you’re the director of a club, an athletic department, or the head of a coaching association…this traveling clinic will be great for your group!  Get in touch with me so that you can get on my calendar before the open slots fill up.

3 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Professional Development Events

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Today is Valentine’s Day.  It’s all about love and warm feelings, right?  So what better time to talk about the volleyball coach’s convention, which combined two of my loves: coaching and volleyball.  Since I’m an unabashed coaching nerd, I love going to clinics, and conventions, and seminars because I know that they’ll make me better at what I do.  But you can’t go in without a plan, you’ve got to get your mind right so that you can get your money’s worth out of your professional development event.  Here are the…

3 ways to rock your professional development event

  • Meet people.  Typically the folks at your coach’s convention, conference, or seminar are pretty fired up about your sport or else they wouldn’t be there.  I wouldn’t say that I’m big on “networking”, but I do have fun talking volleyball with other volleyball coaches…and professional development events are great opportunities for that.  The easiest way to meet new people is to chat up whoever is sitting next to you in your class.  They’re probably wearing a name tag or whatever…that makes it even easier.  And Lord knows coaches love to talk!  So don’t just hang with your crew…meet some new folks, get their emails, and get in contact with them right away when you get home.
  • Go to class. Being social is fun and a great way to meet people like I was talking about above.  But don’t forget why you’re there…to learn!  So if you’re so tired from “being social” that you can’t wake up until noon and you’ve missed half of the classes…maybe you’re meeting too many people!  I’m not necessarily one of those folks who wait to chat with the presenter after class, but I will shoot them an email when I get back home and let them know that I enjoyed their talk.  Not only does that help me to make a connection, but I’m sure they appreciate getting the feedback.
  • Be open to learning. I’m pretty sure that every time I go to a professional development event and run into someone I know, at least one of them will tell me that they haven’t learned anything.  Really?  I find that hard to believe.  You may learn how the top ten teams are training…of course, your team may not be able to perform at their level, but you learned it.  You may learn a different way of saying the exact same thing that you’ve been saying for years, that’s success!  In my mind, if I sit at an hour presentation and learn just one thing, it’s been successful.  If I listen to someone and it triggers a “next level” thought that I can apply to my team, then it’s well worth my time.  Learning requires an open attitude…just like we expect from our athletes.  We don’t know it all and we sound silly when we act like we do.  We can always learn.


There you go…three steps to a successful professional development event.  Have fun and keep learning!

This week is devoted to my thoughts from the AVCA Convention, which was held in December. Why this week?  Because it’s Valentine’s Week and that’s all about love.  And I love coaching and I love volleyball, so this was the perfect time for it!  Topics for the week: getting the most from convention/professional development, the FCA breakfast (an early morning!), and girl drama.  Stay tuned!

Fave Friday!: My Favorite Five From Coach Dawn Writes

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Everywhere you look today, you’re going to see Top 10 lists for this or that.  But I know that you’ve got big plans for the evening and don’t have time to sit around reading about my favorite ten posts from Coach Dawn Writes.  So in the interest of letting you get ready for that exciting shindig you’ve been invited to, I’ve got my five favorite posts that you may have slept on this year.

5 Coach Dawn Writes posts that deserve more love!

1.       This post is like a mini manifesto and the basis of the entire blog.  It’s about becoming a coaching nerd, studying up on your craft, and just immersing yourself in getting better at what you do.  I know that there are lots of coaching nerds out there.  They look like volleyball coaches, soccer coaches, basketball coaches, field hockey coaches…you get the picture.  They love their sport, they love teaching their sport, they love learning about their sport and their craft.

2.       Being a coach of female athletes has been an amazingly wonderful experience.  I love creating a community of like-minded young ladies and motivating them to be successful.  Over the course of time, though, I’d heard a lot of chatter about girls not being competitive or about the need to treat women with kid gloves and I came up with this article.  It’s about how to properly motivate female athletes for success…for now and in their future.

3.       It’s fun to talk about leadership, because I believe it’s what we do.  We are leaders, we build leaders…sports is all about leadership.  So when I saw an opportunity to pair leadership with my favorite childhood cartoon, I jumped at the opportunity!  As a kid, there were many Saturday mornings spent with me plopped in front of the television, watching Voltron…this great cartoon about mechanical robots charged with protecting their nation.  Anyhoo, there’s a strong leadership and team roles connection to be made, so check out my post about Voltron and leadership here.

4.       We all have folks on our teams whose personalities don’t fit together all that nicely and we’re quietly watching to make sure things don’t blow up on us.  I believe a good team should have all types to be successful, but having those different personalities can be challenging for the person who has to manage them…that’s you coach!  But having your teams take a personality test can help everyone get to know their own strengths and weaknesses as well as understand why certain folks act the way they do.  I favor the DISC method and I wrote a bit about it here.

5.       I loved this when I saw the original!  I wrote about the five stages of a coach’s career after seeing the bullet points on another coaching blog.  I think they’re pretty accurate (at least thus far) and it’s fun to think through what stage that I think I’m at…even more fun to ask another coach where they think you are in the continuum.

Well, that should do for now folks.  Have fun tonight and have a wonderful beginning to what is sure to be a fabulous new year!

And here’s one more click that will make your life easier.  Click here and you can get Coach Dawn Writes articles emailed directly to your inbox!  This way, you can read it on your phone while you’re out and about.   It’s free and easy…and you won’t get spammed.  Scouts honor.

Eight Is Great: Coach Dawn Writes’ 8 Most Popular Articles

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Are you on winter break from work and looking for something to do?  Well, it’s your lucky day, because I’ve got the top posts from Coach Dawn Writes ready for you…right here at your finger tips! I based the list on how many times they’ve been clicked and came up with a lot of info about leadership, teamwork, personality tests, setting goals, and youth sports all in one place.  So get comfortable, grab a cup of coffee, kick your feet up and check out these articles.

8 posts that were super popular with the readers this year

  • #8: Coming in at number 8 is a post that was retweeted and Facebooked quite a bit.  How To Spot a Loser And Keep Them Off Of Your Team was clearly one that resonated with a lot of folks.  This is one of those that crosses from athletics into real life…a loser on the court will more than likely be a loser in the office cubicle as well.
  • #7: I love cartoons and I love John Wooden’s teachings…and apparently I’m not the only one!  How Watching Toy Story 3 Can Teach The Essentials Of Teamwork was very popular.  I’m not one of those folks who has to get dragged kicking and screaming to see a kids movie…I love ‘em and think they’re always filled with good teachable moments.  I highlighted loyalty, friendship, and cooperation in this post.
  • #6: Probably my favorite post thus far!  Take These 3 Steps To Become An Effective Leader talks about how we need to take time to be by ourselves in order to be the best leaders for our teams.  We sometimes feel as if we’re always ripping and running, but that’s not the way to generate new ideas or solve that big problem.  Go check it out for the three action items (no more multitasking, be by yourself, and develop real friendships) that will take your leadership to the next level.
  • #5: I’m all about team chemistry and how it leads directly to success.  As a matter of fact, I think that great team chemistry can take an average team and make it good…and a good team and make it great!  That’s what I talked about in Building Rapport With Your Team: It’s Easy As 1-2-3-(4-5).  And while we all spend lots of time and effort getting our players to mesh, it’s just as important that you and your team have good chemistry.  Like the saying goes, it starts at the top…and you’re at the top, so get to building bridges coach!
  • #4: There are some movies that stand the test of time, that you can go back to and watch over and over again…and Hoosiers is one of them.  It’s an annual tradition for me to kick back with a bowl of popcorn and see what’s up with my boys from Hickory.  I’ve used this movie with teams before with a pretty good amount of success and that’s what Effective Use Of Films For Goal Setting was all about.  Not about getting your team all fired up about beating a lofty opponent, but how to raise your team’s happiness ceiling…the point at which they’d be happy with the result.
  • #3: This post is the Superman to #8’s Lex Luthor, The 10 Essential Characteristics That Winners Must Possess was an instant success.  We all want to be winners and we want our players to be winners and this post outlined qualities found in most winners, based on the book Values of the Game by Bill Bradley.
  • #2: Ahh, college…good times.  I played collegiate volleyball (waaay) back in the day and my coach had created a few antagonistic relationships with a few of the players.  How To Lose Credibility With Your Team In 3 Easy Steps details how a seemingly innocent pre-game meal got turned sideways.  I don’t want to give the story away, so click on the link to find out what happens when baked ziti and volleyball players cross paths!
  • #1: *drumroll please!*  In a clear case of me not knowing everything (even when I think I do!), I almost didn’t publish this article because I wasn’t sure that it really had a strong connection with coaching or team building or any of the other things that I talk about on this site.  But 4 Reasons Our Children Should Play Sports (Or My Love Letter To Athletics) has turned out to be the most popular post that I’ve written thus far.  Perhaps it strikes a chord with those of us coaches who remember when people played sports because they loved it…not because their parents forced them or that they thought they may get an athletic scholarship down the line.  If you believe in the power of athletics, this one is a must read!


Now click away people…and enjoy!

7 Websites That Will Make You A Better Coach

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It’s that time of the year, where everywhere you go you’re hearing about the “top ten” this and the “best of” that…so I figured I’d hop on the bandwagon.  I am admittedly addicted to all things electronic and social media, so I’ll just go ahead and call myself an expert about this stuff.  My bookmarks tab is quite long (well beyond the seven that I’m about to talk about!), full of blogs and websites about coaching, team building, business, and volleyball.  I don’t want to say that these are the best of the best, but most of them have tons of information on them and should you desire to use your winter break for bopping around on the Internet, this should give you a good start.

  • First, I stop off at Twitter. I know folks think that Twitter is full of updates about what people had for breakfast that morning, but it’s actually got a lot of useful information on it.  What’s helped me with Twitter is separating people into lists…I’ve got lists for athletics, business, motivational, education, and a few more.  That way, I can go directly to something that I’m looking for rather than having to sort through everyone’s tweet updates.
  • Then there’s usually something on Twitter gets me interested in the Harvard Business Review’s blog, so I go on over there.  I think there are a lot of ties between the business and sports worlds with their emphases on team, so I often find a lot of good stuff here.  Twitter address: @HarvardBiz
  • After bopping around on HBR’s website, I typically head over to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website.  Some of their articles require a subscription, but most don’t.  As college coaches, we’re part of the higher ed stratosphere, so we’ve got to know what folks are talking about on campus.  Twitter address: @chronicle
  • If I’m looking for an inspirational story that will get the gears in my brain moving, I head over to The Talent Code’s blog.  This is the blog of the author of The Talent Code and he’s got great takes on practice, coaching, and what makes people great.
  • Then it’s down to business…that means volleyball people!  First I check on D3vball.com because it’s kind of a one-stop shop for all things Division III volleyball.  It’s a pretty interactive website that allows you to search by team or conference to see what’s going on all over the country.
  • And in the off-season when I’m thinking of good strength and conditioning ideas for my team (because we don’t have a S & C coach here), I check out two websites…Learn2TrainSafely and Training For Volleyball.  I’ve spoken with the guys who run both of those sites and know that they’re pretty fired up about training correctly and safely.  The Learn2Train site has a lot of nutrition stuff on there and is focused on training the female athlete, so that’s cool.  And Training For Volleyball (affiliate link) is more video driven, which is nice if he’s talking about something that’s new to you.


So click away and I know you’ll find some good info out there!

Two Front Teeth? A Coach’s Opinion On What Administrators Should Want For Christmas

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It’s official.  Christmas is this week and if you’re like me, you’re still not finished shopping.  But that’s neither here nor there.  Since it’s that gift giving time of the year, I wanted to talk about what I thought administrators (Presidents, Provosts, Principles, Athletics Directors) should be putting on their list for when they go to sit on Santa’s lap.

6 things that should be on every administrator’s “wish list” for their Athletics department

1.      No part time coaches on staff. Yes, it’s true.  There are still places where there are part time head coaches on staff.  As an administrator, how can you realistically look those athletes in the eye and tell them that you care about them, their sport, and their experience if their coach has to work another job just to make ends meet?

2.      Every sport adequately funded. I’m not saying equally funded, but every sport should be given the appropriate amount that will allow the team to schedule competitively, travel safely and efficiently, and purchase equipment appropriately.

3.      Well paid coaching staffs. Fans want successful teams.  Administrators want successful teams.  Coaches want successful teams.  But do you know what would help ensure that success?  Paying your coaching staffs!  And not just the head coach, but allow them to bring in one or two assistants that will be rock stars and then you can sit back and look like a genius when all of the wins start piling up.

4.      Facilities to be proud of. Nice facilities are a win-win for everyone.  The Athletics Department wins because their athletes are able to train in luxury and potential student-athletes are impressed by the facilities.  Plus, your coaches will enjoy coming to work even more when they feel the financial support of their institution.  And of course the students, faculty, and staff will enjoy the upgraded facilities and the ability to get a quality workout right on campus.

5.      Respect from general campus body. I’ve never sat down with a coach of any sport at any level that really felt like the academic side of the world “got” what happens on our fields and in our gyms.  The life lessons that occur are immeasurable (working hard when you don’t necessarily feel like it, faith in an uncertain future, balancing work loads, building team spirit, etc.) and applicable to real life situations.  Hopefully administrators are out pounding the proverbial pavement to make sure that their coaches and athletes get the respect that they deserve from the academic folks.

6.      Equality for athletics and academics. The athletic and academic worlds aren’t as far apart as some would like to think.  As a matter of fact, I’d say that we have similar goals: to prepare our students for life beyond college.  Academics give them what they need to earn a degree in order to obtain a job and athletics gives them the skills to be a high-functioning employee once they receive that job.  We’re on the same page…so why doesn’t it seem that way?

I’m sure you’ve got things on your list that may be appropriate for your school, but I felt like this was a good start.