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Coaches Corner: Next Level Coaching

13 Jun

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!

 
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Posted in Coaches Corner, Coaching philosophy

 

Coaches Corner: Women Coaching Women

09 Jun

woman coachingsource

I enjoy coaching women. Not because they’re dramatically different than coaching men, but because I never had a female head coach as an athlete and I think that’s too bad. Think about the ruckus it causes when a woman coaches men in anything. Then think about the complete lack of commotion it causes when men coach women. Men expect to be coached by men…and women kinda do, too.

That’s starting to change, though. Nowadays, women and girls can realistically have a different expectation of leadership and they can rightfully assume that it will look like them. Women coaching women isn’t necessarily an easier or tougher path than some other combination of genders, but the higher up in sport you get, the harder it is to find women coaching women or girls. I don’t really want to get too in-depth with that (you can do an internet search for “Acosta Carpenter report” for hard numbers), but suffice it to say the women’s coaching profession is like a pyramid, with the majority of females in high school and Division three…and the numbers get progressively smaller as you go up levels.

So what do you do if you find yourself leading an amazing group of women? Coach ‘em up! When I spoke to Melissa Wolter, head volleyball coach at the University of West Florida, she gave me a list of things she is sure to do that have helped her successfully lead women over the years.

3 advantages of women coaching women

  1. Identify with them. Wolter says she doesn’t play this card too often, but that it sometimes comes into play. You may decide, as a coach, that there are no excuses on your team (Got big boobs? Double up on sports bras! Having your period? Better have what you need!), but your athletes will never be able to pull the “coach just doesn’t understand” card with you.
  2. Connect on a woman-to-woman level. As a female, you’ve been where they are and understand the quirks unique to being a woman in athletics…and how your athletes can parlay that experience into a phenomenal future. This is bigger than point number one, this is guiding them from one place to another…from girl to woman, from student to professional.
  3. Show and gain trust. Wolter says that once you gain your player’s trust, they’ll run through walls for you. I’ve sat in front of many an athlete who complains about not liking her teammates, her coach, or the drama that her team is having. All of that goes back to trust and the lack of it she’s experienced in her young life collaborating with other females. A coach would do well to put the time in to show her players the benefits of trusting her teammates.



I hope more and more women get into coaching. It’s a great profession and your ability to change and influence lives is what gets us all up in the morning.

More about coaching female athletes
The Joys Of Coaching Female Athletes
3 Ways Women Can Be Effective Leaders
The 3 R’s Of Coaching Female Athletes
Wanna buy my book?

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!

 
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Posted in Coaches Corner, Female athletes

 

Coaches Corner: Creating A Successful Team Culture

06 Jun

team culturesource

“Winning becomes the byproduct of doing all of the little things right.”
—Melissa Wolter, University of West Florida

Melissa Wolter has a very clear idea of what that quotation above means. It turns out that they’re not necessarily little things, but certainly not X’s and O’s things. Many times, I’ll chat with a young coach and they’re all fired up about their sport and can’t wait to impart knowledge. Which is a good thing…but they don’t always understand there is so much more to coaching than stepping between the lines.

Are you going to have a book full of team rules or a few core principles? What values do you want your program to be known for? How will you use your coaching staff? How will you empower your players to be leaders?

Here are Wolter’s three areas of importance when creating a successful team culture:

Team rules

  • Be on time. Being on time is a sign of respect: for your teammates and for your coach. Beyond that, it’s upholding a commitment…a great life lesson.
  • No swearing. Knowing Wolter, this is a personal value that she holds dearly. If you’re a coach out there that doesn’t mind your players swearing, just remember that part of our job is to prepare them for the real world and at the very least our athletes should have enough control over themselves that they can turn the swearing on and off when required.
  • Always give full effort. If you want to see any coach lose it, don’t work hard. Effort doesn’t require skill. An athlete may have a ceiling on their skill level, but never on their effort level.
  • Communicate. In my opinion, this is the most important of Wolter’s rules. Everything hinges on communication. Think about any problems you’ve had with past teams…I’ll bet they all stemmed from either a lack of communication or miscommunication.



Respect

  • Self.
  • Institution.
  • Team.



Encompassing all of these bullet points is doing the right thing: go to class…be active in class, work out on your own, work hard in practice, do the right thing when it would be easy to do the wrong thing. If our athletes do those things, they’ll respect themselves, the school, and the program.

Coaching staff

  • Players have input. Even the most control-freaky of coaches can do this one. Years ago, I heard a coach say he gave his team input over where they went out to dinner after a game. He really didn’t care and the players appreciated having a say…a win-win!
  • Connect on and off the court, gain trust. This is player to player, coach to coach, as well as player to coach. Wolter says that once you gain trust, your players will run through walls for you.
  • Encourage problem-solving among players. Rather than coaches always stepping in, Wolter empowers her players to stretch their leadership wings.



Want more articles about creating a culture? Here you go!

Creating A Connected Culture
Creating A “No Excuses” Culture On Our Teams
6 Steps To Creating A Passionate Team Culture

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!

 
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Posted in Coaches Corner, Team chemistry

 

Coaches Corner: Keeping Your Team Motivated During The Off-Season

04 Jun

hard worksource

“Championships are won between January and August.”—UWF volleyball

When I spoke with Melissa Wolter, head volleyball coach at the University of West Florida, about creating a winning culture, it was pretty insightful. I’d watched a video she’d put up on Facebook showing her team getting after it in the weight room in the off-season. It stuck out to me because I’ve been on a personal mission to relay the importance of off-season work to my team. The quote at the beginning of the article is based on a fall sport’s schedule, so you can adjust it accordingly.

I wanted to know what Wolter does, besides scholarship monies, to keep her team motivated during the off-season. I was floored at how intentional she and her staff are with keeping the off-season fun while the team works very hard. It’s easy to see why she’s had, and sustained, so much success over the years.

6 ideas to help keep your athletes motivated during off-season workouts

  • Minute to Win It games.
  • Random Act of Kindness video.
  • Karaoke contest.
  • Thank team for their effort.
  • Leave motivational notes in their locker.
  • Text players after a good practice.



As you can see, some of the things are for the entire group, while others are for individuals. Wolter says she introduces new ideas every couple of weeks in order to keep things fresh. For me, motivation is such an interesting topic and something we should always be on the lookout for…even adding one more thing to your repertoire could make a big difference.

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!

 
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Posted in Coaches Corner, Team chemistry

 

Coaches Corner: Melissa Wolter

02 Jun

Melissa Woltersource

Melissa Wolter is the head volleyball coach at Division II University of West Florida. She’s also an amazing lady and someone I’m proud to call friend. When I contacted all of the coaches to ask if they’d be willing to chat with me, I told them it shouldn’t take longer than twenty or thirty minutes. Wolter and I were on the phone for over an hour…conversation flows naturally between she and I.

We’ve been there for one another through sickness, death of parents, marriage, divorce, and everything in between. But the constant in our relationship is coaching. We both love it. We both have benefitted from it and I’d hazard a guess that we both can’t imagine our lives without the profession. We love coaching and the strategy, philosophy, and execution it entails. We’re a perfect pair!

Wolter is quite a decorated coach: She’s a four-time conference coach of the year and has guided her team to eight straight NCAA tournament appearances. During her time at West Florida, Wolter has coached six All-Americans, ten All-Region players, three conference All-Decade Team members and five conference Players of the Year. Her career conference record is 115-17, a ridiculous .871 average.

Some things to look forward to from our interview:

  • Creating a successful team culture.
  • Being an other-centered coach.
  • Ways to keep your team motivated in the off-season.
  • On females coaching female athletes.



Looking forward to meeting you here next time!

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!

 
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Posted in Coaches Corner

 

Coaches Corner: Managing Various Personality Types

30 May

personalitytestsource

“So much of who a player is based on their personality.”
Joel Walton, Head Volleyball Coach, Ball State University

There are so many different ways to assess personality. I met a young lady a couple of days ago who said she was a North, based on her assessment. I’ve gone to seminars where I’ve been labeled a Green, a Type A, and a D. Maybe you’ve been told you’re a Lion or a Golden Retriever or even an ENTJ.

So many assessments, so little time. If you’re interested in some of the nuts and bolts of personality tests and how to use them with your team, check out some of the articles I’ve written on the topic: Why Personality Assessments Could Be The Key To Your Team’s Success, 7 Personality Traits Of Top Coaches, How Knowing Your Personality Type Will Help You Manage Your Team, and Using personality tests to increase your team chemistry.

When I talked to Joel Walton about managing personalities on his team, he had his players broken down into two different groups.

Quiet athletes. I loved what he had to say about these guys. He says coaches give quiet players confidence and comfort within a team construct. Then he said something that I know I’ve been guilty of: it would be wrong to have an expectation of a quiet player that makes them uncomfortable or puts them in an unsuccessful position. Good stuff, huh?

Vocal athletes. Walton says the best players he’s had over the years have been hard to manage. All of us coaches say we want vocal leaders, but what if they’re vocal about things we don’t agree with or appreciate? The very reason this type of athlete is successful is the very reason they’ll give you gray hairs. Everything is a contest and a chance to measure themselves against others.

Walton has been coaching long enough that I’m sure he knows all of the particulars of personality types and assessments, but I enjoyed his unique breakdown of how personalities emerge within teams and how we can manage them.

More from the Joel Walton series:
Coaches Corner: Joel Walton
Coaches Corner: On Handling Pressure
Coaches Corner: Creating Enduring Confidence Within Your Athletes
Coaches Corner: The DNA Of Good Coaches

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!

 
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Posted in Coaches Corner, Personality tests

 

Coaches Corner: The DNA Of Good Coaches

28 May

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!

 
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Posted in Coaches Corner, Coaching philosophy

 

Coaches Corner: Creating Enduring Confidence Within Your Athletes

26 May

confident teamsource

“All teams are confident at the beginning of the season.”—Joel Walton

I’ve just finished up a weekend of recruiting and it’s always fun for me to watch teams in action. Whenever I’m on the road, I play a little game of guess-who’s-going-to-win-the-game. How do I decide? The team that reacts poorly to adversity is always my bet to end up on the losing side of the equation. Their lack of confidence comes across as poor body language, snipping at one another, or no communication at all.

When I spoke with Joel Walton, head men’s volleyball coach at Ball State University, I asked him about instilling confidence in his players. He said that confidence is something that good teams have…so maybe our confidence efforts should be corporate rather than individual.

Team confidence, according to Walton, is a function of the makeup of the team successes they’ve had and the length of time they’ve played together. We can’t do anything about the time our teams have been together, but we can work on those team successes in practice and get a bunch under their belt before games start.

What lack of confidence looks like:

  • Uptight. Tense, anxious, on edge, impatient, angry…those are all synonyms for “uptight”. And none of those sound like a player who will be able to perform a task well.
  • Verbal sparring between players. I’ve only experienced this a couple times in my time as a coach. Once my team reached that point, it was a “back to the drawing board” moment. My only caveat to this statement is sometimes things get heated in practice and we, as coaches, can manage the situation. If players snip at each other during a game, then you’re in trouble.
  • No communication. I don’t only mean talking, but motivating their teammates, making some sort of physical contact (high fives, fist bumps, etc.)…all of these things are missing on teams that lack confidence in their ability to execute.



I don’t know if there’s a solution to this (and I’m sure we’ve all been on the bench when things go sideways with our teams), but putting our teams in stressful situations in practice should help them learn how to deal with stress…and also how their teammates deal with it. I’m also a believer in pointing out poor behavior—whether it’s a sport or mental skill—right when it’s occurring.

More articles on confidence:
How To Cure A Slump Of Confidence
3 Keys To Unlock The Confidence That Will Lead To Your Success
How To Build Long-Lasting Confidence Within Your Team
3 Ways The Effective Leader Builds Confidence Within Each Team Member
Using The Movie Inception To Build Confidence In Your Athletes

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!

 
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Posted in Coaches Corner, Mental game

 

Coaches Corner: Recap

23 May

generic coachsource

I figured it was time to recap some of the articles I wrote after conversations with these successful coaches. I don’t know about you, but I love talking shop and was amazed at how open these big-time coaches were to chatting with me.

Looking back at these posts is so amazing, not only because these coaches had great insights to share, but also because I know there are more coach interviews coming up that I know you’ll enjoy just as much as these.

Kelly Sheffield, Head Volleyball Coach, University of Wisconsin
Coaches Corner: Kelly Sheffield
Coaches Corner: Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
Coaches Corner: What Does Enthusiasm Look Like?
Coaches Corner: The Roles Of Player And Coach
Coaches Corner: Four Things To Think About When Considering A New Job

Vanessa Walby, Head Volleyball Coach, Washington University in St. Louis
Coaches Corner: Vanessa Walby
Coaches Corner: On Changing A Culture
Coaches Corner: The Power Of Female Mentorship

Christy Johnson-Lynch, Head Volleyball Coach, Iowa State University
Coaches Corner: Christy Johnson-Lynch
Coaches Corner: 3 Ways To Overcome Challenges
Coaches Corner: Building Trust With Your Athletes

Ron Sweet, Head Volleyball Coach, Wofford University
Coaches Corner: Ron Sweet
Coaches Corner: Turning Around A Losing Program
Coaches Corner: Coaching Female Athletes

 
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Posted in Coaches Corner

 

The Disorienting Nature Of Both Success And Failure

21 May

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!

 
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Posted in TEDtalk