Category Archives: Coaching philosophy

How Should We Define Success In Coaching?

source

Sometimes social media gets a bad rap for being a time sucker, which it can be. But most times, I find good stuff there.  Whether it be a good leadership article, a timely motivational quote, or (like this time) a great tweet from team building expert Jeff Janssen.

How can we be successful coaches?  Or maybe a better way to put it is how can we measure, at the end of the season or school year, that we’ve been successful?  Janssen has some ideas.

9 requirements of success:

  1. Purpose: Why do you coach? As I mentioned in my another post, loving the sport isn’t your purpose (it’s your passion)…why do you coach? Why do you have player meetings?  And stress about your practice plans? Why do you watch so much film? What is my why?  I believe that athletics creates better humans (I’m biased, I know) and I believe us coaches equip our athletes with the tools they’ll need to make the world a better place and I’m honored to have a part in it.
  2. Passion: Do you love your sport? Is there a fire in your bones for it?  Then that will translate over to your players and they’ll be infected by your zeal.
  3. Perspiration: I feel like this is obvious, but you should be working hard, Coach. Like, really hard.  You’ve got to work hard to create relationships with your players.  You’ve got to work hard to know the different personalities on your team and how to motivate them.  You’ve got to work hard to keep your team chemistry balanced.
  4. Plan: How will you handle the inevitable quarrels between teammates? How will you handle having to bench a starter?  How will you prepare your team to be clutch at the end of a competition?  How will you make sure they’re ready for post-season?
  5. Patience: Can you wait for your “potential player” to bloom? Can you try different ways of teaching your leaders how to lead? Can you trust the process?
  6. Persistence: I think it’s a great idea to write down your coaching goals. That way, when you hit the inevitable speed bump, you won’t be moved.
  7. People: Coaches don’t succeed alone. We need mentors and assistants.  We need recruits to buy into what we’re saying.  We need families who support the coaching staff in the background.  We need an administration who’ll advocate for us.
  8. Principles: Do you want to be a win-at-all-costs coach? Do you want to sacrifice your values in order to win more games?  I think a coach’s goal should be to win with honor.
  9. Perspective: My guess is our definition of success will change as we grow as coaches, as we gain a bit more life experience, and as we’re humbled by our profession.

It’s hard to feel successful.  It requires a lot of work.  Let’s get ready to put the effort in so that we can be whatever our version of success looks like!

Everyone Is A Critic

critic.blogpicsource

Coaching, much like parenting, is a thankless job. It seems that no matter what a coach does, there’s someone waiting in the wings to criticize the recruiting technique, in-game move, or the coach’s knowledge.

I’ll never forget being on a high after making it to NCAA’s with a talented team…only to have two players quit a few months later. Buzz kill.

What I’ve learned in my years of coaching is to be open to both criticism and praise, but to take them both with a grain of salt. So I was excited to read Leadership Freak’s blog post about handling a critic/critique.

He says that there are three possibilities for your critic’s actions:

  • Some jerks are actually trying to be helpful, they just suck at it. As I look back at various parents and players that I’ve had to deal with, I think most fall into this category.
  • The criticism has a grain of truth in it. My default position for criticism is to dismiss the person as illogical. Sooo, I run it by our assistant coach to see what he thinks.
  • Your critic is a jerk. This is most definitely the smallest percentage of critic that I experience (at least, that’s what I tell myself) and I count myself lucky.

The beauty of being in charge is being able to control yourself and your reactions. While I may be cussing them out in my head, this cucumber stays calm and cool when faced with coaching’s sometimes unfortunate interactions.

4 Possible responses to a coaching criticism

  1. Thank you for your observation. Don’t know how I feel about this one. Seems like a blow off to me.
  2. What makes you say that? I like asking questions to start off what I think may be a difficult convo. That way, I respond to concerns directly from the horse’s mouth rather than relying on what I’ve heard through the grapevine.
  3. How might I address this issue? It’s easy to complain, much harder to problem solve. Involve your critic in brainstorming possible solutions.
  4. Wow! I hadn’t thought of it that way. Just because someone sees a situation differently, doesn’t necessarily make them wrong. If our conversation is fruitful, then I should have gained some insight into why they’re upset/critical/not happy. Ending with this sentiment gives both sides a chance to explain where they’re coming from.

If you don’t want to get wet, then don’t swim. If you don’t want criticism, then don’t coach. Hopefully, this gave you some ideas on how to effectively manage the critics in your midst.

Teaching Our Female Athletes To Value Toughness

tough quotesource

One of the things I hear a lot from young players is they don’t enjoy their team experience.  Sometimes they’ll say they don’t like their coach, their team isn’t very good, but many times (too many!), in a moment of honesty, they’ll say their teammates are bitches or their coach is a bitch.  Usually, they’ll whisper that word…but they still say it.  I believe it’s our job, as coaches, to take this word out of their vocabulary.

Navigating the world of toughness and bitchiness is a life lesson we must teach our female athletes.  This post was inspired by this article from Fast Company.

4 ways we can help our women embrace toughness and success

  1. Be confident.  “No matter who you are in the world of business, there will be people who find your methods unattractive. That’s intimidating for anyone, male or female.”  Sometimes women make the mistake of thinking we can make everyone happy, this quotation says that when we stick to our guns and follow our morals, some folks will be upset by our behavior.  We’ve got to be confident enough in our tactics and our leadership styles that we can manage not always being well-liked.
  2. Learn to “speak guy”.  In her book, Gender & Competition—How Men and Women Approach Work and Play Differently, Kathy DeBoer talks about the differences in how men and women communicate.  One phrase stood out to me as I read the book: “Die before you cry.”  She explained that men don’t see tears as getting in touch with your emotions, but rather they see it as weak and out of control.  Don’t do it…at least at the office.  These are great lessons that will not only help our players on the court, but also in the real world.
  3. Embrace unpopularity.  Part of being the boss is being unpopular.  I often joke with coworkers who are chatting in my office that if I were the big dog, they’d be in someone’s office talking about what a bad job I was doing.  I think it’s important to acknowledge that we’re never happy with the boss…no matter how nice/understanding/amazing they are.  It’s the nature of the job.  What if we taught that lesson to our team captain’s so they’d be ready for the business world when they entered into it?
  4. Defining “bitch”.  “Assertive or competitive qualities are usually associated with men, and are thought to be essential for successful leaders. But for women, they can be a landmine.”  Being assertive and competitive are two of the qualities that will make women successful…on the field and off.  It’s also mislabeled as “bitchy”.  As the article says, if we’re being a mean and disrespectful person or if we’re elevating ourselves above our coworkers in a malicious way…then maybe we are being jerks and need to step back.  I hope my athletes never feel they have to apologize for being driven and goal-oriented.

Often, our athletes are afraid to lead because they have a bad stereotype in their heads about what a female leader looks like and how she acts.  Let’s help show them that women can be effective and successful leaders.

Jingle Bell Rock: 8 Christmas Wishes For The Athletes You Coach

Jingle-Bell-Rocksource

It’s crunch time people…only one more day to find that perfect gift for everyone on your list.  Though I suppose at this point, it doesn’t really have to be perfect, does it?  I do have a list of gifts that would be perfect for your team to receive this year.  Gifts that would make them better teammates and better players.  They may not know that they need these gifts though, so you’ll need to write up a wish list for them.  Here they are:

8 things you’d be fired up for Santa to leave under your player’s Christmas trees

1.       Confidence.  In themselves, in their abilities, and the future of the team.  It’s essential to any sort of success your team may have…and it’s got to be consistent.  Situational confidence is short-lived, to be crushed by the next loss or poor performance.  But genuine confidence?  Now that’s the good stuff!  It’s a belief held deep down within the athlete that they will ultimately be successful.

2.       Success. We love our athletes, don’t we?  And we want the best for them and hope that all of their hard work and focused intensity will pay off in the end with some sort of tangible success.  Whether it’s the non-starter who becomes a starter, or the starter who makes all-conference, or the all-conference player that receives national recognition…we all hope for a measure of success for our players.

3.       Self-motivation. In my mind, the best gift that Santa could leave!  Every drill, every game, every weight room workout is only as good as the amount of effort our athletes are willing to put in.  For those who are internally motivated to work hard in the off-season, during preseason, in the weight room…those are the athletes who will see tremendous improvement over the course of their careers.

4.       Hard work. There’s only one person who knows if your players are working to their full potential…that’s the players themselves!  We can put them into physically and mentally challenging situations, but it’s up to them to truly challenge themselves.  We all hope that we’ll have a team full of players that will never “dog it” in a drill or not push themselves in a practice, but we’ve got to trust them to take things seriously.  Those athletes who are willing to keep their foot on the gas pedal throughout the entire season will ultimately experience success.

5.       Leadership. The responsibility of being a team leader is exciting to some and daunting to others.  We’d love for our teams to be full of leaders and leaders-in-training.  Your current leaders could model to your leaders-in-training the proper ways to motivate and encourage people.  An openness and desire to lead is essential because I don’t think that you can thrust leadership onto someone, but rather it must be accepted.

6.       Teaminess. That’s a word that I’ve made up that describes the state of an individual who values their teammates and enjoys being in a team environment.  The teamy player puts their teammates first and is willing to sacrifice personal glory for the good of the team.  Teaminess is what occurs when a group of people come together with a common goal, a common purpose, and a common level of dedication.

7.       Skill. Hopefully Santa will leave a gigantic box of skill under our player’s trees!  Because all of the intangibles in the world won’t do the team much good if it’s not combined with skill.  But those intangibles should spur the player on to work at their skill level with a laser-like focus.

8.       Hunger. I’m sure we’ve all coached the athlete that was blessed with a tremendous heaping of skill, but junks it away with their laziness.  I’m not talking about that athlete, but rather the one who is very skilled and willing to work to better their already finely tuned skills.  The athlete who wants to win and be successful so badly that they can literally taste it.  The player who is being propelled by their desire to get better every single day.

Those are the things that I want for my players.  They’ve got a finite amount of time to accomplish great things and my wish for them is that they do everything within their power to attain their goals.

Follow These 8 Principles To Reach Success

Success1source

In a TEDtalk titled, Success is a Continuous Journey, Richard St. John talked about being on top of the heap…and then getting complacent, overconfident, and cocky.  Which led him losing all of his clients and the aforementioned success. He realized success is a journey and not a destination.  The talk is less than four minutes long, so he didn’t elaborate on his steps to success, but I will put my coach spin on things!

8 things we shouldn’t stop doing…especially once we’re successful

  1. Passion.  I haven’t met a coach who isn’t passionate about their sport.  I think it’s safe to say that enthusiasm for our sport is a necessity in order to reach any measure of success.
  2. Work. A few years ago, there was a popular book which said that good things would just come to you if you thought they would.  I’m all for positive thinking and visualizing and all of that good stuff…I think a positive mindset is critical in whatever field you’re in.  I’ve not met a coach who said, “we had the best season of my career and I didn’t do anything!”  Combining that positive frame of mind with a whole lot of hard work will yield results.
  3. Focus.  If each of us focused on learning something new about our sport or about coaching in general everyday, success would surely follow.
  4. Push. There will be tough times, there always are, but we can’t give up.  You can’t lose a couple of games and decide that maybe coaching isn’t for you. You can’t make a coaching mistake and decide that you’re a bad coach. Push through the bad times to the good that are surely waiting for you.
  5. Ideas.  Whether you’ve got a player who isn’t performing up to their potential or an opponent you’ve never beaten before, fresh ideas are a necessity in coaching.  It seems like players (and their problems) are like snowflakes…no two are the same!  We’ve got to be able to tackle on and off-court issues with an arsenal of innovative ideas.
  6. Improve.  We’ve got to be willing to get better.  I was talking to a “big time” coach a few months ago and he said there were days he felt like he knew nothing about our sport.  I’m sure that was his way of putting pressure on himself to keep getting better and pushing himself to keep learning.
  7. Serve.  Successful people serve others.  Whenever you read interviews of wealthy people, they generally talk about donating a considerable portion of their income to charity.  And most sports teams do some form of community service work or volunteering.  The teams may do it out of a sense of humanity/morality/trying to be decent, but teams can also learn what they can achieve together.  Beyond that, community service events are great team bonding experiences.
  8. Persist.  Jimmy V. said, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up!”  I agree.



With the fall season right around the corner, we can all use a few reminders to keep pressing on toward the goal.

 

Advice For New Coaches

failuresource

I was watching the local news last night and my favorite station was debuting a new meteorologist.  Just for background, I live in a smallish city, so we seem to be the testing ground for all new and untested TV personalities.

This poor guy was so bad, tripped over his words so often, and had so many awkward pauses that I turned the channel.  Not because I was upset that I couldn’t figure out what the weather was supposed to be…but because I was terribly uncomfortable for the guy.  Then I forced myself to turn back, because we’ve all been there.  We’ve all been new.  We’ve all been driving the struggle bus.  We’ve all failed.

It’s not that he didn’t know his weather-man stuff, I’m sure he does!  His trouble wasn’t with knowledge, it was with speaking actual words.  But lest you think I’m making fun of his failure, I most certainly am not.  I’ve got a story of epic failure, too…as I’m sure most coaches worth their salt do.

Dawn’s story of new-coach failure

My first coaching gig was with a club team.  I was super organized.  The team was well-prepared.  I’d done all the appropriate teaching, motivating, and leading.  We were ready!  As the team did our warmup (that I’d stolen from some of the best and most successful teams), the official came over and handed me a lineup sheet.

I’d never seen one before.  So I wrote down the six numbers of the people who were going to be starting.

When he did the obligatory check at the beginning of the game, he came over and said everyone was in the wrong place.  I had to use, like, six substitutions just to be able to start the game with the correct lineup.  The team was looking at me like, “what’s going on?” and I’m sure I had some stupid look on my face.

Whoops!

I couldn’t even think about coaching the team, because I was mortified at my mistake and my lack of knowledge.  But I did keep coaching that team and many teams after it.  That horrific mess of coaching was seventeen years ago.

Moral of the story

You’re going to screw up.  It’s pretty much guaranteed.  The only thing you don’t know is how that failure will present itself.  It could be like my poor meteorologist who couldn’t do the basics of human communication or like myself, who thought I had all of my I’s dotted and T’s crossed…only to get tripped up by a simple lineup sheet.

Sometimes failure is the only way to learn.  I can assure you that even to this day, I triple check my lineup sheet to make sure it’s correct.  Beyond that, we learn that we’ll live through the embarrassment of failure.  We learn that failure isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Michael Jordan said, “I’ve failed over and over again in my life, and that’s why I succeed”…wise words.

Coaches Corner: Next Level Coaching

adversitysource

Coaching is more than X’s and O’s…I’m pretty sure most folks reading this would agree to that. So what is it, if it’s more than the tangibles?

Coaching is about leadership, teaching our players how to work well within groups, to put the needs of the team ahead of personal desires. It is also about showing our athletes how to deal with the circumstances life hands us in a positive way.

I’ll start with an example of what not to do. I met with a recruit the other day and she told me the story of her club coach who was recently fired because he was constantly belittling, cussing at, and being unprofessional with the players. His tearful excuse with the team was his rough upbringing.

Now, without negating what is sure to be the truth of his tough past, part of our jobs as coaches is to show our players how to deal with adversity on a micro and macro level. Micro: a point by point level within a game. Macro: when life deals an extraordinary blow.

Melissa Wolter, the head volleyball coach at the University of West Florida, was able to model that macro level life situation for her team. She found out she had breast cancer at a very young age and used that adversity to become a better coach and mentor for her team.

4 ways coaches can use adversity to in a positive way

  1. Don’t change your standards. Wolter says that cancer didn’t change the standards she holds for herself or her players, but how she went about accomplishing them did. Our players are on teams because they want to be pushed and held accountable…adversity shouldn’t change that, but it could make you more relatable and human for your team, which would help build trust.
  2. Right any disconnects. According to Wolter, she was much more selfish in her pre-cancer life. More about the wins and accolades. In her post-cancer life, she’s much more about positively affecting young people’s lives. When we’re self-focused rather than other focused, our team won’t receive the best coaching from us.
  3. Motivate your team. After her cancer treatments, when she was back in the gym with her players, Wolter actually performed their off-season workouts with them. I haven’t spoken with any of her athletes from that time, but I can imagine that was both a humbling and motivational experience for them.
  4. Become a better coach. Wolter is more relational with her teams now because of the adversity they’ve dealt with together. She says she’s able to find joy in the intangibles of coaching instead of just the wins.



I can’t state enough how important it is for coaches to use the adversity in our lives to improve at our jobs. We can become better coaches, we can become better mentors, and we can become better leaders for our athletes if we let life’s journey mold us. The only thing it requires is that we take a critical look at ourselves, our coaching style, and what needs to be changed. What a valuable life lesson we can teach our athletes!

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

Coaches Corner: The DNA Of Good Coaches

DNAsource

When I first introduced Joel Walton, I told you that he’s a pretty personable guy. In the time I spent with him during the interview, I gathered that he’s a natural storyteller. Personally, I think being able to tell a good story is a vital characteristic in a coach. You can use it to motivate your team, connect your current team to a past team, or just get a laugh out of your players.

Check out these articles I’ve written on using storytelling with your teams, How To Use Storytelling To Motivate Your Team and Transforming Your Team Through Storytelling, to see if you’re ready to use this coaching tool with your team.

As I spoke with Walton, the head men’s volleyball coach at Ball State University, each story he told held another nugget of coaching wisdom…and without my asking, I saw that he’d given me another article to write. I’m not going to say that these tips are the only way to be a successful coach, but I think they’ll most certainly get you on your way.

5 secrets of good coaches

  1. Be able to tell a story.
  2. Be willing to look crazy. Walton talked about being willing to try tactics that may seem crazy to get a desired result. Every sport has norms…the way things have always been done. Can your team be successful doing things the same way everyone else does or do you have to be innovative?
  3. Be able to manage different personality types. No team is the same and no person on the team is the same so the ability to work with all kinds is pretty important.
  4. Be a teacher. Walton talked about Ball State’s history as a teacher’s college and how many of the alums who went through the program and became coaches learned teaching progressions. I don’t believe you’ve got to be an education major to teach sports, but you do need to learn how to teach skills and how people learn…it’ll make your life so much easier.
  5. Be willing to reach out. In telling me a story about working with one of his players, Walton told me that he made a point to contact the player’s high school coach to find out how he successfully connected with the player. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but of intelligence in my opinion.



So there you have it! Like I said before, there are many more things I could add to the list, but I think this is a very good starting point.

More from the Joel Walton series:
Coaches Corner: Joel Walton
Coaches Corner: On Handling Pressure
Coaches Corner: The DNA Of Good Coaches
Coaches Corner: Managing Various Personality Types

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

Compilation Of Knowledge From Coaching Legends

lets recapsource

I had some fun during March Madness.  I wrote a bunch of articles based on the thoughts of basketball coaching giants.  Check them out and learn from the masters.

The John Wooden series:
John Wooden won ten national championships in twelve years at UCLA.  I’d say that gives him the right to define what success within a team construct looks like!  He was also a successful coach off of the court, we know that from the reverence his former players give him.  I’m sure all of us are trying to create those types of relationships and programs…so why not study the master?

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

The Mike Krzyzewski series
Coach K has been tremendously successful on many levels: spanning decades, working with collegiate athletes at Duke University, working with professional athletes during the Olympics…you name it, he’s done it.  So when someone with that sort of resume tells us what the fundamental qualities of effective teams are, we should listen!

5 Qualities That Make Every Team Great
Creating A Connected Culture
On The Value Of Hard Work

The Pat Summitt series
She’s got over a thousand wins with Tennessee basketball.  Over a hundred NCAA tournament wins.  Thirty Sweet 16 appearances. 18 Final Fours.  And eight national championship.  In her entire career (which started in 1974), she didn’t have a double digit losing season!  I think it’s fair to say Pat Summitt was an amazing coach.

Using Feedback As Motivation
How To Teach Leadership
Goal Setting According To Pat Summitt

The Tara VanDeVeer series
Tara VanDerveer has won over 900 basketball games, Pac-10 conference coach of the year ten times, and two national championships.  So she’s pretty good.  Check out these articles based on the Stanford basketball coach’s thoughts.

Is Your Best Athlete Your Best Leader?
The Two Sides Of Every Coach

Enjoy!

The Two Sides Of Every Coach

two sidessource

Over the years, the image of VanDerveer has taken two forms, one warm and engaging, one not so much.  Her defining yin and yang appears to be toughness and tenderness. She demonstrates the former as needed; it’s the latter that people close to her often mention.—Game On

Tara VanDerveer has won over 900 basketball games, Pac-10 conference coach of the year ten times, and two national championships.  So she’s pretty good.

The quotation above highlights the necessities of coaching, whether you coach men or women.  You’ve got to be able to bring the hammer, but you’ve also got to care.  I’ve seen young coaches miss the boat on this one, trying too hard to be their player’s friend that they are unable to effectively coach their team.

3 types of young coaches

  • Young coach ignores obvious problems in order to be “fun”, “cool”, or whatever.
  • Young coach is sometimes super “fun” in practice and other times oddly strict…their teams don’t know what to expect.
  • Young coach is distant with players, not worried about being “fun”, but not able to connect with players on a personal level.



I’m pretty sure when I was first starting out, I chose the last of those options.  Fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve never been burdened by the desire to be perceived as “fun”, so I didn’t care that my team thought I wasn’t “cool”.  In my opinion, that’s the best option of those available, but I do think I could have worked harder to show my team I cared about them off the court.

3 qualities of tough coaches

  • Demand consistent effort levels from their athletes,
  • Set a high bar for excellence within their program,
  • Challenge their athletes to embrace the discomfort of getting better.



3 qualities of caring coaches

  • Let their players get to know them,
  • Take an interest in their players personally,
  • Stay in touch with former players.



Both sides of a coach are necessary.  You don’t want to be a soft touch whose athletes take advantage of them, but you also don’t want to be so hard on them that they don’t enjoy their sport anymore.  Finding the right balance is the key to a successful coach-player relationship.