How To Connect With Your Athletes Everyday

I used to call this a “stop and chat”, but apparently there’s an actual name for this management technique called Management By Walking Around, or MBWA.

What is it exactly?

  • Stop and talk to players face to face.
  • Get a sense how things are going.
  • Listen to what is on player’s minds.

Why is it successful?

Years ago, I worked with a track coach who said it was his goal to talk to each athlete every day…even if only for a few moments.  Connecting with our athletes is a win-win.  We feel good about where our team’s mindset is and the players feel that we care.

If you do it correctly, you’ve been MBWAing all season, so the team won’t be startled when you stop and chat with them.  This strategy will pay dividends when and if something big happens within the team that you need to get to the bottom of or you’ve got an important game and you need to be able to have a convo without it being a big deal.

If you want to read more about Management By Walking Around, check out this article.  Investing our precious time into our players will reap benefits down the line.

Coach Dawn’s Motivating Female Athletes Presentation

A few years ago, I spoke at the USA Hockey ADM (American Development Model) coaches clinic and gave my Motivating Female Athletes presentation.  Over time, the presentation has evolved and I always manage to tailor each talk to the particular group I’m speaking with, but the bones are pretty much the same.

This first section (which is about fourteen minutes) is a place I’ve been doing lots of research lately.  It talks about the socialization of females and begins the conversation about building team chemistry.

I hope you like it and let me know if you’d like to have me speak to your group!  You can check out different topics here.

Creating Your Coaching Personality


I stumbled upon an interview I gave with Barry Lovelace after my AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association) presentation.  He’s a trainer in Pennsylvania, so if that’s in your area, go and check out his website so that you can see the innovative workouts he does.

Anyhoo, he asked me about how coaches should draw the line between a personal relationship we may have with our athletes off the court and the (more than likely) demanding and hard-driven relationship we have with them on the court.

Check out this short three minute video…and also the many faces of Coach Dawn!  (To say I’m expressive is being polite.)  If you’re interested in bringing me to your group to speak, check out the “About Coach Dawn” section at the top left.

How To Recognize Leaders Who Can Handle Crisis


Cultivating leaders has been on my mind lately.  I’m trying to make sure that I do my best to create the best and most amazing leaders that I possibly can…I want my athletes to be rock stars!

What does an awesome leader look like?  According to this post, great leaders follow their values, are confident in crisis, and are well connected on the team.

During the course of a normal season, with its ups and downs, every team requires a leader who can handle crisis.  That crisis could be a teammate dealing with a death in the family, interpersonal drama on the team, or even key injuries.  Check out the different ways leaders can help or hurt when your team is going through a tough time.

Problem Leaders

Awesome Leaders

  1. Value themselves above others.  They always seem to find someone else to blame for their problems and the problems of the team.
  2. Lack confidence, so they’re defensive.  Problem leaders feel that things are out of their control (“Susie doesn’t like me”, “Coach won’t play me because she hates me”, etc.) and will lash out to associate blame with anyone besides themselves.
  3. Don’t connect well with their teammates since they’re always looking for someone to blame for their problems.  This “leader” will say things to their coach like: “Susie’s not working hard enough in practice, that’s why we’re losing” or “Amy is doing who knows what on the weekend, that’s why the team isn’t playing well.”
  1. Value others and are compassionate.  Even in those cases where blame can be put on a teammate, an awesome leader doesn’t blame and never tries to do publicly what should be done privately.
  2. Remain calm and focused because they are confident.  They aren’t the start of gossip or negative energy on the team…and when they hear it, awesome leaders can nip it in the bud.  They are able to handle team issues with a sense of calm and poise.
  3. Are very connected to their teammates even while holding a position of leadership.  Awesome leaders see themselves as part of the solution, so they don’t complain to their coach after the fact…they talk it out with their teammates right then and there.  Since they’ve made such good connections with their teammates, their critique is well-received.

As we talk to our teams about picking captains or recognizing leadership traits in one another, this would be great information to give them.

How Do You Pick Your Team Captains?


I’ve done it all when it comes to team captains.  The team picks.  The coaches pick.  A combination of both of those.  I’ve even gone without captains.  I believe in team leadership and the athlete’s ability to manage each other and keep each other motivated through the normal highs and lows of a season.

But how do we stack the deck in the favor of team captains who will, you know, actually be good leaders?  According to How To Build A Team That Works by Tony Robbins, there are some things we can help our teams look for when voting and characteristics our captains can aspire to once they’re voted captain.

Some questions we can prep our team with before they vote for captains:

  • Can they do the job? Do they have the respect of their teammates?  Because if their teammates aren’t willing to follow them…can they actually be called a leader?
  • Will they do the job well long-term? No matter the sport, the season is long. No matter how well your team is doing, you’re going to have some downs that go along with the ups.  No matter how motivated the team, they’re going to have flat practices.  Can your team captains help the group through the tough times?
  • Are they the right team fit? I talked before about personality types and how important it is to know your team’s dominant personality and what it could be missing. If you’ve got a strong group of leaders who aren’t keen on getting the younger athlete’s opinions, you may want to stack the deck for your more collaborative personalities.

Here are qualities of good team leaders:

  • Envision an Outcome: Can they help the team come up with season goals and keep the group on track?   A lot of us coaches think this is all up to us, but I’d disagree.  We’re not with our teams more than we’re with them.  We need the captains to help us here!
  • Understand Others: Here I go beating the personality type drum again, but this is crucial. People are different and respond to situations differently.  Our team leaders can help us with team conflicts by understanding this dynamic.
  • Inspire Others: I’ve had players who inspired their teammates through their words, they could get everyone fired up for conditioning…which is almost a miracle. And I’ve had athletes who were inspirational without opening their mouth.  They basically shamed everyone into working hard because they worked so hard.
  • Understand Themselves: I don’t want captains who are pretending to be someone they’re not.  For example, you don’t want your quiet leader trying to lead a rallying cry at game time.  They’ll be stressed out and they won’t come across as believable to their teammates.  My general advice for captains is, “Do you”, with the caveat that they’re doing all of these other things.

Giving our athletes the tools they need to be leaders worth following has got to be a top priority for coaches.

Coach Dawn’s Guide To Motivating Female Athletes Is Available For Purchase!


I wrote my book because I saw a need for coaches of female athletes to be excited about working with female athletes.  Up to that point, every post I’d written about coaching female athletes received such a strong (and positive) response.  If you’ve not had a chance to purchase the book, I hope you’ll think about it.  The second edition also comes with a Pyramid of Success powerpoint. It’s only 56 pages long, so it’s a quick read that you’ll be able to apply to your team right away.

As you can tell from the picture, I’m very excited that my ebook is finally available for purchase!  I’m new at all of this selling business, so it’s been a bit of a process to figure everything out.  It was all worth it, though, because I’m confident that there’s good information that you’ll use in Coach Dawn’s Guide To Motivating Female Athletes.

I’ve written before about how important I think professional development is for folks with our jobs.  I mean, how can coaches not want to learn more?  And if you learn one thing from my book (and I think you’ll a lot more!), then it’ll be well worth the $10!  It’s a 56-page guide with tangible tips, action items, anecdotes designed to help your team excel…and because it’s a PDF, you’ll be able to start reading immediately!

I’m super excited about all things ebook, right now!  I’m excited about that snazzy cover, I’m excited about figuring out how to set everything up, but mostly…I’m excited that I can get more info out there about how to get the best from your female athletes!  I don’t want to rewrite what I said before, so you can click here to read what I wrote when it was an upcoming book rather than a published book.

Add to Cart

I hope you’ll buy the book and enjoy it…and tell all of your friends about it (hint, hint)!  $10 and it’s all yours…enjoy!  Once you complete your purchase, you’ll immediately be able to start reading the book.  Just click on the “Add to Cart” button and you’ll be well on your way.

I pre-launched the book with the folks on my subscriber list last week and I’ve been overwhelmed by the response.  Lots of people are looking for this information and enjoying the book…hopefully you will too!

5 Ways To Help Our Teams Find Self-Esteem


I’m a huge fan of TEDtalks.  I watch them, I show them to my team.  I think everyone should be watching them.  Well, it turns out that TED has a website with written articles and it’s just as good!  So when I saw 5 ways to build lasting self-esteem, I thought this would be great to talk about in relation to our teams.

Here are some ways we can help our athletes when their self-esteem needs a boost:

  1. Use affirmations correctly. “Grit” has been in the news lately as a way to help children succeed, but I think folks of all ages can use it.  For a player who’s struggling with self-esteem, saying “I’m the fastest runner on the team!” won’t ring true and won’t actually motivate or encourage them.  But saying, “Surely, I’ll succeed if I keep running these workouts as hard as I can!”
  2. Identify competencies and develop them. This one is about digging in to a skill they’re good at and keep working at it.  Not that we don’t want to create well-rounded athletes, but we’ve got to give them enough reps (and compliments) at their particular skill that they feel confident…even when the occasional mistake happens.
  3. Learn to accept compliments. People with low self-esteem aren’t receptive to compliments will have a million reasons why the compliment isn’t true.  Learning to simply say, “Thank you”, will take our athletes down the road to higher self-esteem.
  4. Eliminate self-criticism and introduce self-compassion. If you’re not helping your athletes with their self-talk, that’s a great area of growth.  The best way to start is just to ask them what they’re thinking when they’re having a bad spell.  Odds are, they’re saying negative things (“Don’t miss this free throw again” or “Please don’t pass me the ball”) instead of gritty things like, “Even Michael Jordan missed some free throws!”
  5. Affirm your real worth. When this player who needs the self-esteem boost is feeling particularly low, maybe they could even write a list of why they’re good at their sport. As cheesy as it sounds, it forces them to articulate why they do what they do.  An effective spinoff of this strategy is to have their teammates write the list for them.

According to the article, “when our self-esteem is higher, we not only feel better about ourselves, we are more resilient as well, we are also less vulnerable to anxiety, and we release less cortisol into our bloodstream when under stress.”  And those things will help them perform better…and increase their esteem!

Using Personality Tests To Increase Your Team Chemistry


As coaches, I think we all know that we’ve got different personality types on our team and I’m sure we’re all pretty conscious about how those personalities will interact.  When we bring recruits on to campus and we sit down and chat with them, we wonder about their “fit” with our teams…how their personalities will mesh with the current players.  Sometimes we don’t want to rock the boat and try to recruit like-minded players.  Other times, we want to shake things up a bit…whether it’s bringing more toughness or more fun…we know that the team needs a different makeup.

But do you think that your team recognizes that some folks are just made differently than them…with a whole different perspective on things?  I’ve used personality testing in the past with pretty good results, because the team gets to hear about themselves and also put the people that they know into categories.  The testing is pretty informative and can help them with their relationships outside of their team as well.

There are lots of personality tests out there: Myers-Briggs, colors, animals, and DiSC…and that’s the one that I use.  DiSC breaks the personalities down into four different categories.

D’s are dominant.  They’re what folks would call Type A personalities.  They like to get immediate results, make quick decisions and love to manage trouble and solve problems.  They’re decisive and competitive…natural born leaders.  That’s the good stuff.  The down side to D’s are that they are too self-reliant, the one’s who hate group projects in the classroom (can you see how that could negatively impact your team?!), and can be so blunt that they’re hurtful to others.

i’s are your people of influence.  They’re the one’s who everyone gravitates toward, the life of the party.  They’re your players who will pull the team aside in practice and fire them up if they feel that the effort isn’t where it should be.  They’re the folks who will immediately walk up to the newbies on your team and make them feel right at home.  i’s just need to remember that life isn’t all play and no work…that they’ve got to get down to business at some point.  And they try so hard to be everyone’s friend and not to hurt feelings that their teammates may not feel a true connection with them.

S’s are Steady Eddie’s.  They’re quiet, but very loyal and love the teaminess of teams…the one’s who stay on your team even though they know that they’ll never get any playing time.  They are skilled at calming an explosive situation and calming the scene down while others are freaking out.  S’s need to learn to assert themselves in group situations so that their teammates don’t overlook their contributions.  Since they can be overthinkers, S’s should learn the difference between the time for thinking and the time for acting.

C’s are your conscientious workers.  They’ll drill all day long and never feel as if they’ve gotten it down…they’re perfectionists.  C’s are good in the film room because they’re so analytical.  Come game time, they’ll know the opponents tendencies without a doubt.  Their downside is that they ask so many questions that they may drive their coach to drink!  And they have such high standards for themselves and their teammates that they may be destined to fail.

As you were reading this, I’m sure you were thinking of your team and where they fit.  Obviously, having a strong mix of folks is pretty key…but most important is that your team understands to positives and negatives of their personality and how they can be perceived by others.  Also, it’s pretty huge for us coaches to know the rough mixes.  Your D’s are going to think your i’s are screwing around too much and that your S’s need to toughen up.  Your i’s will constantly get their team in trouble for getting practice off-track with their incessant yapping.  Your S’s will either toughen up or continually get their feelings hurt by the too-blunt D’s and the hard-to-read C’s.  Speaking of C’s, should you deign to change the lineup or change a play without significant notice, get ready for their world to be spun off kilter and they’ll be pretty useless to you for a few plays.

Do you use personality tests with your team?  How do they respond?  At what point in the season do you administer your test?

2 Tips To Break Big Goals Into Smaller Milestones


“One of the difficulties with achieving great things is knowing how to get there.”– To Achieve a Major Goal, First Tackle a Few Small Ones

By the time our seasons roll around, we need to have our vision for the season cemented.  Teams that make it to NCAA’s, or have All-American players, or other team accolades can probably work backwards (Weeks? Months? Years?) to a point where an intentional action toward a goal started.

The author of the article linked above says there are two critical things necessary to achieve a big goal:

  1. It is hard to envision the specific tasks that actually need to get done to achieve a big goal. I think this is critical as we think about our athletes.  They want to win conference and everyone’s fired up about it when you have a team meeting to talk about goals.  We’ve got to help them hammer down to smaller, measurable milestones.  In our conference championship scenario, a few smaller goals could be: 100% completion of the team’s off-season workouts, commitment to team-building activities, no missed classes during the season, come in early/stay late 3x/week.
  2. For very large tasks you often do not get feedback on your success until many of the pieces of that project are in place. The ironic life of coaching says that we may not know if our team has fully bought in to what we’re selling until we’re in the middle of the season.  It’s critical that coaches identify a clear communication strategy to make sure that every player knows what we value and what we expect about and from our team.  It’s also imperative that we continue to bring the big goal back as a focal point for the team.  We can’t just bring it up at the beginning of the season and think we’re good.

Equipping our teams with the tools to achieve goals will help our seasons be more competitive and more successful.