Category Archives: Collaboration

Why Collaboration Trumps Cooperation On Teams

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“Collaboration is hard.” –The Science of Teamwork

When I was a student, I greatly disliked group projects.  There were many reasons, mostly stemming from my big-headed idea that I could do better all by myself.  Then I figured out that everyone in the group was thinking the same thing!  What we were really doing, according to the article I linked above, was cooperating, not collaborating.

What’s the difference?  Cooperating means identifying a common goal and proceeding on an individual path which fits under the umbrella of the goal.  Cooperation means the goal can be accomplished singly and then fit together neatly at the end.  Cooperation, according to the article, means that each individual can be praised for their particular effort.

Collaboration is hard, but necessary, if our teams are to accomplish anything great.  Collaboration is messy and sometimes emotional because it necessitates that give up their personal desires for the greater good of the team.  So how do we take our teams from cooperating to collaborating.

3 ways to encourage collaboration on our teams

Give up individual goals.  I know that we all talk to our players about their particular goals for the season…and that’s a good thing.  But it’s not the first thing.  If the team wins a national championship, but that player didn’t accomplish all of her goals, I’d hope she would see the season as a resounding success.

Emotional give and take.  When I was a player, me and a friend (who also happened to be a teammate) where fighting for the same starting position.  Both of us had to be adults about the decision that was going to be made…one of us would start and the other wouldn’t.  And it would be for the good of the team.  As hard and emotional and challenging as the situation was, it was worth it because it wasn’t about us, but about the team.

Work in new ways that may not be comfortable.  I would guess that all coaches are in the business of challenging our players.  We challenge them to try different skill techniques.  We challenge them to be vocal leaders.  We challenge them to think more critically about our sport.  And all of that challenging isn’t comfortable for them…but they do it (or at least they should) for the good of the team.  They understand that their coach wouldn’t ask them to do anything that wouldn’t also greatly benefit the team.

While it’s harder to receive individual accolades using the collaboration method, it’s crucial for our teams to embrace the challenge.

From Apathetic To Peak Performer

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I enjoy Twitter.  I like reading great quotations, reading interesting articles, and seeing what people are finding interesting at the moment.  I follow Lolly Daskal and she does these massive tweet chats…so massive that her hashtag (#leadfromwithin) sometimes trends globally.  Daskal is a business consultant focusing on leadership, team performance, and culture change among others.

In one of her tweet chats, she asked her followers what makes peak performers different.  She got lots of responses and these are the five things Daskal says make peak performers stand out.

Peak performers have H.E.A.R.T.

Honor.  Peak performers hold their teammates in high regard.  They are selfless, choosing to let others take credit for successes.

Excellence.  They’re good at what they do.

Authenticity.  The players are less concerned about what they’re “supposed” to do, but stay true to themselves.  Their teammates never feel like they’re putting on a front for the coach and are well-respected by players and coaches alike.

Results.  There should be tangible results if someone is to call themselves a peak performer.  Either wins, faster times, records set…however your sport is measured.

Tenacity.  Success requires a certain determination to push on no matter the circumstances.  It also requires players to hold tight to the goals and dreams for the season.

Odds are, if you’ve got a peak performer or two, the rest of your team is drawn to them…the H.E.A.R.T. will draw them in.

3 Ways To Encourage Collaboration On Our Teams

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“Collaboration is hard.” –The Science of Teamwork

When I was a student, I greatly disliked group projects.  There were many reasons, mostly stemming from my big-headed idea that I could do better all by myself.  Then I figured out that everyone in the group was thinking the same thing!  What we were really doing, according to the article I linked above, was cooperating, not collaborating.

What’s the difference?  Cooperating means identifying a common goal and proceeding on an individual path which fits under the umbrella of the goal.  Cooperation means the goal can be accomplished singly and then fit together neatly at the end.  Cooperation, according to the article, means that each individual can be praised for their particular effort.

Collaboration is hard, but necessary, if our teams are to accomplish anything great.  Collaboration is messy and sometimes emotional because it necessitates that give up their personal desires for the greater good of the team.  So how do we take our teams from cooperating to collaborating.

3 ways to encourage collaboration on our teams

Give up individual goals.  I know that we all talk to our players about their particular goals for the season…and that’s a good thing.  But it’s not the first thing.  If the team wins a national championship, but that player didn’t accomplish all of her goals, I’d hope she would see the season as a resounding success.

Emotional give and take.  When I was a player, me and a friend (who also happened to be a teammate) where fighting for the same starting position.  Both of us had to be adults about the decision that was going to be made…one of us would start and the other wouldn’t.  And it would be for the good of the team.  As hard and emotional and challenging as the situation was, it was worth it because it wasn’t about us, but about the team.

Work in new ways that may not be comfortable.  I would guess that all coaches are in the business of challenging our players.  We challenge them to try different skill techniques.  We challenge them to be vocal leaders.  We challenge them to think more critically about our sport.  And all of that challenging isn’t comfortable for them…but they do it (or at least they should) for the good of the team.  They understand that their coach wouldn’t ask them to do anything that wouldn’t also greatly benefit the team.

While it’s harder to receive individual accolades using the collaboration method, it’s crucial for our teams to embrace the challenge.

X Is For X-Factor: The Secret Of Success

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Please join me for a fun series.  My mission, and I’ve chosen to accept it, is to write a post based on each letter of the alphabet.  The English major inside of me is very excited about this project…and my inner nerd is even more fired up!  Keep checking back as I tackle the intangibles of sport…from A to Z.

 

X-Factor:  “An unknown or hard-to-define but important special property.”

Much like Judge Potter Stewart famously said about another “x” word (x-rated movies), I may not be able to intelligently describe what the x-factor is…but I know it when I see it!  Young folks might call it swagger.  Coaches may call it confidence.  If asked, John Wooden may have called it poise.  Whatever it is…I know it when I see it.  So rather than talk about what the x-factor is, let’s talk about what it looks like.

If you’re a …, then the x-factor looks like…

Player.  Years ago, I had a player on my team who was tall, but she wasn’t my tallest player.  She was good, but not my best player.  She could hit, but she wasn’t my best hitter.  She was a good defender, but her technique (despite my efforts) wasn’t stellar.  She wasn’t a lot of things, but she was a winner.  Whether it was practice or live competition, this young woman elevated herself and those around her to play at a high level.  She played with a focused intensity that simultaneously frightened and motivated her teammates.  Her x-factor: Confidence in who she was as a player and an unapologetic requirement for those around her to step up.

Administrator.  God bless those folks who want to be athletic directors and hold other administrative positions within athletic departments.  I used to think that I wanted to be an administrator until I saw what their jobs entail.  Every institution is different, of course, and will require a different x-factor to be successful.  If you operate a club team, your x-factor might be an ability to shamelessly promote your club and your members.  If you work at an elite prep school, your x-factor would entail the amazing ability to put out fires from entitled athletes and parents.  The ultimate x-factor for an administrator would be to find the right institutional fit for you and your skill set.

Coach.  I like watching coaches coach their teams.  It doesn’t have to be my own sport, I just enjoy watching the different ways in which coaches can manage their program.  Back in the day, I was friends with a soccer coach who was a goofball type of guy.  His teams were successful and, quite honestly, I’d attributed his team’s success to players coming in with a high level of skill rather than his “coaching ‘em up”.  Since I’m a coaching nerd, I asked to watch one of his practices to see what he was doing.  It was wonderful!  His drills weren’t anything different than any other soccer coach would use, but his manner with the players was masterful.  His players hung on his every word and responded enthusiastically to what he said.  He ran an organized practice (just like I’m sure we all do), his players were quite skilled (like most of ours are), and I could tell he knew his stuff (as I’m sure most coaches do)…but there was something different about his practice.  His x-factor: He was connected with his team.  They spoke the same language and they had a high level of respect for him.

Every now and then, we run into someone who impresses us…though we just can’t put our finger on why.  That person just might have the x-factor.  I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it!

What To Do When Your Program Does Not Have A Strength And Conditioning Coach

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By now, you know that this blog isn’t about the X’s and O’s of sports, but rather the intangibles like leadership and team chemistry.  So why am I writing a post about strength and conditioning?  For three reasons: 1) because I believe that strength and conditioning is what separates good teams from great ones, 2) because we all don’t have someone whose job it is to get our athletes into their best possible shape, and 3) because we care about our athletes’ welfare and want them to stay as healthy as reasonable over the course of their careers.

Back in the day, I was super fired up about strength and conditioning.  As a matter of fact, if I hadn’t started coaching volleyball, I’d be a s & c coach right now…I’ve always loved the science of how the body works.  So I appreciate what a good strength and conditioning coach can do.  I met Barry Lovelace through a good friend on Facebook and we’ve been chatting ever since.  He loves working with athletes just as much as I do and is very good at it.  Whether it’s club teams or Olympians…he’s worked with them all.  He also works with non-volleyballers, like softball and baseball players.

You can check out some of his videos on YouTube to see what he’s all about and when you’re ready to take it to the next level, you can buy some of his stuff from his website, Training For Volleyball.  For the highest level, I’d suggest you get in contact with him so that he can come and train your athletes in person.  Quite simply, he can train your athletes to jump higher, get a stronger core, and improve their quickness and reaction time.  Sounds good, right?

I suspect at some point, Barry and I will start working together to take over the training world a la Pinky and The Brain.  He’ll train the athletes’ bodies and I’ll train the coaches’ minds.  Until we combine forces though, you should check out his website and let me know what you think.

If you knew that you could give your team a leg up on the competition…wouldn’t you do it?  You can start now by checking out how Barry’s training would transform your team.

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.

Athletics CAN effectively collaborate with academics…here’s how

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Our institution, like many I am sure, has increased its conversations about interdepartmental collaboration and challenged us to look for natural intersections amongst our peers.  As a member of our Athletics Department, that’s exciting to me because I (in the same vein as the amazing John Wooden) see my job as a teacher of sport.  And as an educator, I look forward to the opportunity to work with professors and link their field of study with mine…volleyball.

In my mind, the possibilities are endless!  Let me share a few of my ideas for collaborative projects between athletics and academics.

Physics: A natural connection!  Motion through space, energy, force…I’m excited just writing about it.  What if you could get a Physics professor to come to your practice and measure the amount of force is generated when two padded football players collide?

Religious Studies: The beginning of the season is all about faith, right?  Every team believes in something that they don’t see…that if they work hard, that they’ll receive the benefits of said work.  Hook up with folks in your Religious Studies department and have them chat with your team about leaders in the past who dreamed and believed and hoped in things that had not yet come to fruition.

Women’s Studies: Have a professor come in and talk to your team about the history of women in athletics…about how we got to where we are now.  I’d bet your young ladies would be interested to hear about days when ladies who played basketball couldn’t cross half court lest they get too tired.

English: There are many, many books written by coaches, as well as strategic manuals about there.  Maybe you could ask your favorite English professor to bring in a couple popular books and lead a discussion of its content.

Languages: The World Cup just passed and that would be an incredible time to bring in a Spanish, or German, or Italian professor to a practice.  They could enlighten your team on the culture of whatever nation their language represents and elaborate on the popularity and importance of soccer with that particular group of people.

Sociology: I just read an article about a woman who is believed to be the first female head coach of a varsity football team, that would be a great kicking off point for a discussion of traditional gender roles in our society.  Or how about bringing in a Sociology professor to chat with your athletes about race and athletics?  Sure to be an exciting discussion!

I’m going to stop there, but there are more intersections out there if we keep looking.  The first step to collaborating with our academic peers is to find the natural intersections between fields and I hope that I’ve helped you see a few of them.  The next step is going out and making connections.  Not only would this promote collegiality between peers, think of the money the Athletics Department could save by using their very valuable resources right there on campus rather than bringing in folks from the outside.

Have I missed any other collaboration opportunities?  Has your program been doing this already?