Category Archives: Coaching community

The making connections series: alumni


This is the third in a three-part series focusing on creating meaningful connections and this post will focus on your alumni base.  Whether you’re involved with a high school, club, or collegiate level team…you have alumni and they more than likely have very fond memories of their time with your organization.  The key is engaging them in meaningful contact and conversation and not always being worried about what’s in their wallet.

Come together: We all have natural gathering points that we should focus on.  For high schools and universities, Homecoming is a great time to focus on…have an alumni game and a reception for your sport’s alums and encourage them to bring their families.  Everyone loves to catch up…why not have them catch up at your event?   For club directors, the beginning of club season could be a gold mine for bringing former players back into the fold.  Have them speak at your parent’s meetings, if they can’t be there…maybe their parents can be.  I can’t imagine you have any parents in your system that aren’t more worried about their child’s experience than her playing time…your parent alums can speak on that subject.

Strategic scheduling: How about scheduling games near your biggest alumni base of support?  If you’re a northern team, but have a big influx of folks from the west coast, why not schedule a weekend out there and notify your alums & parents out west?  Find your most boisterous and well-connected alum and put them in charge of rounding other alumni up and having some sort of gathering where they can catch up with their classmates and also meet the new team members and coaching staff.  They will appreciate being able to see the team in action and you will get a real connection with supportive alumni.

Connecting for the financially strapped: I’m sure you know what I’m about to say, but I’ll say it anyway.  Send your alums electronic newsletters and link them to your team’s webpage.  Create a Facebook fan page so that your alumni can “like” your team…or a Twitter account so that they can follow you.  Maybe you could pick a home game to honor your alums, bring them out and have them announced, then have some sort of meet & greet thing afterward.

I started off this post saying that your alumni need to believe that you want to be in contact with them even if they don’t donate a penny.  That being said, all of the work you put in to create good will should pay off with a more financially involved and supportive alumni base.  Most folks are still giving to churches and charities because they have a reason why…we’ve got to give our alums a reason to give and show them that their support is both needed and appreciated.

What is your club or college doing to connect with its alums?  I’d love to hear what folks are doing!

Making Connections: community
Making Connections: campus

Teaching our athletes to embrace power: part 2


The last post introduced a Harvard Business Review blog post which talked about women being wary to hold power.  (Women and the Uneasy Embrace of Power)  Let’s finish the discussion today with the author’s “actions required to attain power.”  We, as coaches, have the awesome opportunity to equip our female athletes with what’s necessary to be in powerful positions later in life.  To be President’s and CEO’s and well, Big Shots.  Here’s what they need to learn:

And while men, too, are sometimes uncomfortable with the actions required to attain power — building relationships with useful others, displaying confidence, engaging in self-promotion, being willing to work long hours — women, as a rule, tend to be less willing to make the trade-offs required to attain positions of power.

Building relationships with useful others Not just others, but “useful” others.  According to this post, women typically dislike hierarchical relationships, so ladies probably aren’t super fired up to strategically target people for what they can do for them…but we should be!   I believe that it’s both what you know and who you know.  If you’ve got the next big thing, but only you know about it…how does that benefit you or others?

Displaying confidence This is one area that I do believe athletes are a little ahead of the game.  Think about the sprinter who has to believe that she has superior skills than the rest of her competitors.  Or the gymnast who is out there on an island, with no teammates to hide behind, performing her event knowing that she is being judged (quite literally) on every little detail.

Engaging in self-promotion Even for the most confident of us, this is probably the biggest hurdle.  But it is just a hurdle…meant to be leaped over, conquered, and dominated.  As leaders of women, we must get across to our athletes that promoting themselves does not mean that they are demeaning anyone else or their accomplishments.

Being willing to work long hours Our athletes are already putting in long hours with their sport and sacrificing their personal time for the benefit of the team.  How do we get our athletes to flip that switch so that they are just as dogged in their pursuit of success for themselves in the business world?

I suppose the biggest factor in women accomplishing these things on a greater scale and being okay with wielding power is having a supportive partner who’s willing to take up the slack at home while she’s off schmoozing at a party and selling people on the fact that she should be the next athletic director at their college or university.

How do we go about doing this?  Making sure our athletes are comfortable having and exerting power and that they believe that they can do those things while maintaining a family and a home when they’re older?

Read Part 1

The making connections series: community


Most organizations do community service, it’s not a new idea.  There will always be folks who need help and similarly, there’ll always be groups that would like to help them.  But is there a way to strategically serve your community while creating real connections with groups that will serve you in the future?  Whether that’s through attendance at events or financial support of programming projects.  I think so and I’ve got a couple of ideas.  I’m sure many of you are doing these things or even better…I’d love to hear what’s going on out there.

Free clinic Either for young kids or coaches, this is an easy way to get your team to stretch its wings of service.  Pair the clinic up with an afternoon game and you’ve got instant fans.

Girl/Boy Scouts This is usually pretty easy, because they’ve got a group leader who is the point person and who will also travel with them.  Have them meet with a few of your athletes and then have some sort of Field Day type activity where they get to run around and have a great time.  They’ll remember, and their parents will appreciate, the time you took out for them.

Writing contest Have the local boys and girls in your community write an essay about why service is important and what types of service they’ve done that year and have prizes for the top three.  Invite everyone who wrote a letter to a game, recognize them at some point in front of the crowd, and hand out your prizes.  Again, instant fans and you’ll show a commitment to educating future generations.

Community garden These are all the rage now.  How about your athletic department or your club  create a garden with the goal of donating the fresh goods to your local food shelter or women’s center?  Not only will your players learn what it takes to grow something themselves, they’ll feel that much better donating something that they put so much time and energy into.  Take your video camera out there and tape them weeding and planting and snipping and picking…then put it up on the school’s website.

Adopt a Needy family, old lady, widower…you get the idea.  Most churches or shelters have lists of families and people that need more sustained help.  What if your club or athletic department decided to adopt a local needy family?  And the football and volleyball teams helped them clean and seal their basement.  And the basketball and swimming teams helped them clean out and finish their attic.  And the baseball and lacrosse teams painted their house and weeded their flower beds.  What if representatives of your teams showed up at their door at Christmas-time loaded up with gifts to put under their tree?  That’d be pretty neat, huh?

Those are some ideas and I’m sure you’ve got more.  And of course there are the more traditional methods of community service: ringing the Red Cross bell during the holidays, visiting senior citizen homes, chatting with terminally ill kids, etc.

What is your program doing to make strategic contacts through service in your community?  Where have you been successful?

Making Connections: campus
Making Connections: alumni

The making connections series: campus


This is the first in a three-part series on creating meaningful connections and this post will focus on your campus.  I’ve yet to meet a coach who thinks that the faculty at their school really respects what their student athletes are doing…that they really “get it”.  I’ve also never met the coach that feels that their job is completely understood and valued by their coworkers on the academic side of the world.  But, is it my fault that I don’t know what’s going on in the Microbiology department?  On my own, I’m probably not going to look for that info.  But if I got to know a couple professors and they hosted a “Microbiology for Dummies” seminar and made it something I could kinda grasp…then I’d be interested and more apt to follow up on the haps in their department.

And it’s the same for us coaches.  We’ve got to be willing to leave our offices, stop watching video, and be ambassadors for our athletes, our teams, and our department.  Have a “day in the life of a student athlete” session at your next (interminably long) meeting so that folks on the outside understand the juggling act our athletes must master.  Or maybe a “how did they get here?” session on recruiting…I think the academic types would be interested in what it takes to make sure that their classes are full.  And of course it’d be pretty important to highlight your superstar soccer goalie who just happens to be on the Dean’s List.  All of these things help people to realize how the athletic department not only adds value to the campus, but helps it fulfill its mission statement.

From a practical standpoint, create meaningful relationships with faculty is pretty key to getting them to leave their offices and support teams.  Find out which professors are sporty…do they like to run or play racquetball or lift weights?  Well then ask to join them!  Is there a college book club or similar gathering that you could attend and put your brainy face on and chat with the academic types?  Creating Faculty Friends is pretty important to bridging the gap between academics and athletics.  Lots of schools have the “coach for a day” program, where a faculty member sits in on pregame meetings, sits on the bench during the game, and is generally a member of the team for a day.  That’ll help with the perception that we just roll the balls out and hope for the best.

I’d love to hear what other folks are doing on their campuses!  There can never be too much interaction between academics and athletics…after all, it’s what our student athletes do everyday.  Next up in the Connections series will be community involvement.

Making Connections: alumni
Making Connections: community

Book review: high hopes


The rundown: this book is about how Barnett turned Northwestern football around from being not so good to winning a Rose Bowl.  I really liked this book because it was about changing not only a team, but a program culture entrenched in mediocrity.  Since I played my college ball at Wisconsin, I remember just how bad Northwestern was before Garnett and how shocking their Rose Bowl run was to everyone.  He details choosing a coaching staff, how to have positive captains meetings, how to build belief in those who’ve never believed in their program, and how to define a successful program rebuild.

Recommended for: coaches who are taking over teams with historic losing records or those in the midst of trying to rebuild a flailing program.

Not recommended for: a team book.  There’s a lot of good coaching tips and insight in the book, but not a lot of team building or bonding.

Alrighty folks, that’s that.  And as always, let me know if you’ve got any book suggestions I should add to my reading list.

Coaching nerds unite! Study up on your craft


“Those nerds are a threat to our way of life.” –Stan, Revenge of the Nerds

When I met the lady who would eventually be the maid of honor in my wedding, we bonded over our general nerdiness concerning volleyball.   When we talked to each other, it was while peppering.  When we decided to attend the AVCA convention together, we mapped out our session schedule so that each of us would see different presentations to better maximize our learning.  At that same convention, we talked about our volleyball goals while setting the volleyball back and forth.  We were a coaching match made in heaven.

That’s the mental image I had in my head when I started this blog.  That it would be a community of coaches who just couldn’t get enough of learning how to be better at what we do and share their secrets that have been fruitful for them.  I believe to my core that there are a lot of coaches out there doing a lot of really good things…we’re just not connected.  What if all of us coaching nerds had one gathering spot (here!) where it would be okay to admit that you’re obsessed with being better and learning more?  Where it was okay to admit that you’re excited about your job and about your team?

So let’s all of us coaching nerds unite here at Coach Dawn Writes and challenge those who aren’t quite as nerdy to raise their nerdiness quotient.  Our teams and our craft will be all the better for it!