Category Archives: TEDtalk

Why Weakness Unlocks The Strength Within Teams

If you’ve got fifteen minutes, I’d highly suggest you listen to Caroline Casey’s TEDtalk, Looking Past Limits.  Not only is that an intriguing topic for those of us in the coaching field, Casey is also a fabulous storyteller.

A quick rundown of her story: She was legally blind since birth, though her parents never told her, but rather let her toughen up through battling past road blocks.  She excelled in life, eventually achieving a high profile job where her coworkers never knew her secret.  But that’s not the heart of the story, it’s what happens when she couldn’t hide her blindness anymore.

And that’s where my interest in her story begins…because I believe it can help us with our teams.  It’s a story of belief and vision.  We’ve got to believe in ourselves and combine that belief with a vision that is bigger than us.  Ignoring the obvious irony of a blind person talking about vision, let’s look at how vision is sometimes restricted and how we can free it up…and watch our teams soar!

The first title I came up with for this post was, “Why Vision And Belief Will Make Your Team Great”.  I liked that one a lot and think that it would have been good, but this one is closer to the heart of the story.  Once each team member is willing to admit their weaknesses, they’re on their way to becoming a strong and successful team.


3 Ways Women Can Be Effective Leaders


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.

How To Motivate Our Teams


Daniel Pink focuses on how we’re motivated in a TEDtalk called, “The Puzzle of Motivation“.  He spends a lot of time going into why we’re going at motivation all wrong and in an outdated way.  In example after example, he shows us that offering up rewards (or delivering the promise of punishment) doesn’t work in today’s world.  The talk is about eighteen minutes long…check it out!

His talk is coming from a business point of view, so certainly a lot different than the world of athletics.  The athletic “business model” allows for some behaviors that would be outside of the norm for an office setting, but I think we can learn from a lot of what Pink says.  Our athletes are growing up in this world where they want to be internally motivated and I think most of us can agree that a motivated athlete is an engaged athlete.

Pink says that traditional ideas of management (you get more money if you perform a task quicker, etc.) are great if you want compliance, but if you want engagement, self-direction works better.  And this is where I see the athletic world as being a bit different…because sometimes coaches do just want compliance.  If we see a weakness in our opponent that our team can take advantage of, we just want to players to do exactly what we say and not ask questions.

On the other side of the coin, we need our athletes to be able to identify trends within a game without us telling them every second.  Most sports don’t have tons of timeouts where we can relay information, so we rely on our players to understand what they’re seeing, remember the scouting report, and react to those things in an appropriate manner.

So how do we create this engaged (passionate, hard-working, accountable), yet compliant, player? If I knew, I’d be a gazillionaire! But I have some ideas.

  • Create trust.  And not just that the coaches know what you’re talking about, but that you care about your players and want the best for them.
  • Build in autonomy when possible.  We’ve done 30-day challenges in the off-season where each player was responsible for their own work.  As coaches, we focused on why this was important and how each person’s contribution was vital to our success.  Pink says we all have an urge to direct our own lives.  I think this is a great way to give them autonomy, but within a team construct.
  • Have amazing team chemistry. Huge!  If you don’t got it, go get it.  If you got it, fight like heck to keep it.
  • Empower leaders.  Pink talked about self-direction within the business world and I think a great way to bring that to athletics is a captain-led practice.  It teaches your captains how to lead, plus you’ll find out what drills the team likes and what things they think they need to work on…a win-win.

There you have it!  Let’s all get out there and motivate our teams.

Non-Verbal Communication

power posesource

“Our bodies change our minds
And our minds change our behavior
And our behavior changes our outcomes.

In a TEDtalk called Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are by Amy Cuddy, I learned that how we present ourselves is amazingly powerful.  And not in the way that you think.  It’s how you present yourself to yourself…not necessarily to others.  The findings of assuming powerful positions, like my man Frank Underwood up above, are pretty astounding.  I’d suggest you watch the talk, it’s about twenty minutes long and well worth your time.

It turns out that folks in studies who assumed high power poses for two minutes and then were put through an intense interview situation were seen as:

  • Passionate
  • Enthusiastic
  • Captivating
  • Comfortable
  • Authentic
  • Confident

Which all sound like the qualities we’re looking for in our athletes!  Apparently, powerful people are more assertive, confident, and optimistic than their less powerful peers.  They think more abstractly and take more risks, as well.  It turns out that power isn’t only about dominance, but how you react to stress.  The high-power pose people in the studies had hormonal changes from just two minutes of assuming their powerful positions.

Here are some examples of high power vs. low power poses:

power pose2source

I’ll add as a side note that checking your phone is also a low-power pose, because you’re making yourself smaller.  The high power poses are all about making yourself bigger and taking up space.

What if we had our teams take on high power poses before each competition?  The studies seem to show that their bodies will physiologically react to the pose with a more powerful view of themselves.  I’m willing to try it…are you?

The Disorienting Nature Of Both Success And Failure

Elizabeth Gilbertsource

This TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love is amazing in its simplicity.  She talks about coming to a place of comfort whenever the jarring of great success or great failure shakes our equilibrium.  Gilbert’s assertion is that both events, success and failure, upset us from our comfort zone and the only way to find our happy place is to return to that zone of comfort.

I think it’s a great lesson for our athletes to internalize.  I’m sure if we were to all talk to our teams and ask them why they play, it would be because they love the sport…they can’t imagine not playing.

So when they fail miserably in front of their friends and family?  Get back in the gym.  Or when they have an insanely good game and everyone’s telling them that they’ve finally taken that step into rarefied air?  Get back to work…go back to your love.

Check out her talk, Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating.  It’s about seven minutes long, well worth your time!

When Will You Feel Successful As A Coach?

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

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The John Wooden series:

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

The Pressure Of Winning


Never mention winning. My idea is that you can lose when you outscore somebody in a game. And you can win when you’re outscored. I used to say that when a game is over, and you see somebody that didn’t know the outcome, I hope they couldn’t tell by your actions whether you outscored an opponent or the opponent outscored you.—John Wooden

I understand this philosophy and I even hold it to a certain extent.  But I’m going to deviate (!) from my man Wooden here and say that I disagree.

Where I agree with his philosophy:

  • You can beat a team that you’re just better than and still play poorly.
  • You can play to the absolute best of your ability and still get beat by a team who is more talented than yours.

Where I disagree:

I used to not talk about winning very much, but rather the process of getting there (hard work, commitment, consistency, good mental mindset) and would always say the rest will take care of itself.  And that works for some teams, especially those that are internally driven to succeed.  But you will have teams, with good skill sets, who are not internally motivated and you will then need to provide the motivation or the pressure.  Whether it’s through punishments for not correctly completing drills or, and this is where I disagree with Wooden, through talking about winning.

There is inherent pressure in talking about winning.  It’s like talking about a diet that you’re on.  Once you start telling people you’re on a diet, then you don’t want them seeing you munching on cookies and sipping pop.  The whole point of talking about it is so that others can hold you accountable…right?  It’s the same with talking about winning.  There’s a pressure associated with talk of winning, with getting picked to win conference, or whatever accolade your team is “supposed” to accomplish.

My question is: what’s wrong with having that level of expectation?  What’s wrong with seeing the pressure, recognizing the pressure, and acknowledging the pressure?  The pressure doesn’t go away if you don’t talk about it!

And what if your team has low expectations?  What if, like in the example I used before, your team is an externally driven team?  What if they need you to raise their expectation level?  It will be uncomfortable, sure, but I believe it’s necessary.  For teams that don’t know how to win or haven’t had a history of success, the coach has to provide that incentive to take the next step.

To me, talking about winning is about holding your team accountable for their goals.  Writing down that you want to win on a poster, but never talking about it doesn’t seem like a good way to accomplish much.  For externally motivated teams, they may not even know what steps to take in order to go down a winning path.

It’s our job to tell them.


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

The John Wooden series:

John Wooden TEDtalk
Leading With Integrity
Wooden’s Three Team Rules
When Will You Feel Successful As A Coach?

Wooden’s Three Team Rules

Rules listsource

Are you one of those coaches with a page full of team rules?  Or do you not believe in team rules?  Or perhaps you fall somewhere in the middle.  Personally, I don’t have a lot of team rules because I don’t know if it’s possible to enforce a lot of rules…and why have them if they aren’t going to be enforced?

Check out John Wooden’s rules and see if they can be applied to your team:

  1. Be on time.  I’ve talked to coaches at every level and of many sports and they all are sticklers about time.  I’m not big on team rules, but it’s one of mine.  Maybe it’s because we spend so much time on practice plans and the athletes can screw it all up with one late appearance.  Maybe it’s a respect thing.
  2. Be neat and clean.  I think this one is the product of the time in which Wooden coached.  Though I do hear of some coaches, usually football or men’s basketball, where the coach will have a “no facial hair” or “no long hair” rule.
  3. No profanity.  I can count the number of times I’ve sworn in front of my teams on one hand.  Notice I said “in front of them”, I’m sure I’ve sworn under my breath during many a practice and game!  For our athletes, there’s nothing positive that comes from swearing:  officials don’t appreciate it, opponents think it’s obnoxious, and moms in the stands shouldn’t have to cover their kid’s ears.
  4. Never criticize a teammate.  I know the title of the post is three team rules and this is very obviously number four, but this is how he presented it.  Since he didn’t elaborate on it, I’ll put my spin on it.  Here’s the definition of criticism: the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.  Using this definition, which seems to put teammates on two different levels (the teammate who is right or doing things the right way and the teammate who is wrong) and that can never be good for team unity.

So what do you think?  Do these line up with your team rules?

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

The John Wooden series:

John Wooden TEDtalk
Leading With Integrity
The Pressure Of Winning
When Will You Feel Successful As A Coach?

Leading With Integrity


Your reputation is what you are perceived to be; your character is what you really are.—John Wooden

In a perfect world, our reputation and our character would be the same thing…or at least similar.  I’m sure we can all agree that we’re not as great as some folks think we are and we’re not as awful as others may believe about us.  The truth, as they say, is somewhere in the middle.  But speaking in generalities, I think we’d all like our reputation and character to be aligned.

I’ve heard integrity described as who you are when no one is looking.  What will you do when you can’t take credit for it?  Will you do that thing because you know you won’t get caught?

Obviously, we all make mistakes.  That’s not what I’m talking about…I’m talking about decisions.  Let’s think about a few scenarios that could put integrity into question:

  • You’ve got a team rule that if a player misses practice, they miss the next game.  Your best player missed a practice before the conference championship.  She’s not supposed to play.  Will you play her?
  • You’ve found out some negative information about an opposing coach, will you share it with a common recruit?
  • You’re heading out of town for a conference.  Will you leave a couple of days early and charge your institution?

What you decide to do in each of these instances will reveal your character.  I believe that we owe it to our teams, in fact, I’d say it’s our responsibility to our teams to do the right thing.

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

The John Wooden series:

John Wooden TEDtalk
Wooden’s Three Team Rules
The Pressure Of Winning
When Will You Feel Successful As A Coach?

John Wooden TED talk

John Woodensource

How did I miss this?  I hadn’t seen this TEDtalk until recently.  You all know how much of a John Wooden fan I am…I’ve written about him extensively.  There are many quality nuggets in this talk, check it out:

The difference between winning and succeeding

I’ve never done this before, but I’m going to leave it at that.  The talk is so interesting and he’s so amazing, just sitting there speaking without notes and absolutely killing it.  The video is just over seventeen minutes…well worth it!  Over the next couple of days, I’ll break down some cool themes from his talk:

  • Reputation vs. character
  • His definition of success
  • The three rules he had for his teams
  • On why he never talked about winning
  • Are your players reaching their full potential?

Coach Wooden is a treasure and those of us who follow in his footsteps would do well to listen to what he has to say.

The John Wooden series:

Leading With Integrity
Wooden’s Three Team Rules
The Pressure Of Winning
When Will You Feel Successful As A Coach?