Coaches Corner: What Does Enthusiasm Look Like?

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Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Maybe in your life, you get a chance to chat on the phone with incredibly successful Big Ten coaches, but it is quite the thrill for me.  Speaking to Kelly Sheffield, the head volleyball coach at the University of Wisconsin, was awesome.  He made me want to be seventeen years old again, so that I could pick the Badgers all over again.  He oozes enthusiasm.  For the sport.  For our profession.  For his athletes.  And for his institution.

I’d read an interview of his where he talked about his team practicing with intensity and enthusiasm.  So I asked him, what does that look like?  If I were to walk into his gym, what would I see that would make me think of those two qualities?

If you’ve been a reader for a while, you know that my man John Wooden was big on enthusiasm.  In fact, it was one of the cornerstones of his Pyramid of Success.  I’ve been on the enthusiasm bandwagon for a while now and it was nice to have a big-time coach affirm that I’m on the right track.

What tangible qualities does enthusiasm produce?

  • From the players: Connection.  He’s not just talking about hanging out and having fun with one another…it’s more than that.  It happens when there’s a mistake in a drill. The players must immediately connect so that it doesn’t happen again.
  • For the fans: Inspiration.  I went to a major Division One volleyball game a few years ago and the place was electric.  The students were fired up, the band was rocking, and the teams were playing at an absolutely amazing level…the energy was palpable.  A few years later, I went to watch that same institution play and it was crickets in their gym.  The players were flat so, in response, so was the crowd.
  • From the coaches: Passion.  I’m going to talk about this in the next post, but coaches have to bring consistent energy.  If I walked into Sheffield’s gym, I’d see engaged coaches who are actively working with their athletes, not just standing there observing.



Clearly skill and knowledge are important, but enthusiasm can unlock the door to bigger and better things for our athletes.

Check out the Sheffield series:
Coaches Corner: Kelly Sheffield
Coaches Corner: Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
Coaches Corner: The Roles Of Player And Coach
Coaches Corner: Four Things To Think About When Considering A New Job

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!