Tag Archives: Coaching career

The 5 Stages Of A Coach’s Career

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Let me tell you what I think about coaches: we’re crazy in our preparation and dedication, we work long hours and love it, we give up our nights and weekends, we mentor our student-athletes, we demand big things from them and even more from ourselves, we’re passionate in our belief in our team and our love for our sport, we believe in the power of sport to have a positive and long-lasting impact in our athlete’s lives.  So when I saw “The 5 Stages of Your Career” over at Bob Starkey’s blog, I wanted to expand on it over here.  It’s interesting to figure out what stage you’re in and those that you’ve already gone through…or have you circled back around to some you thought you were finished with?  Check them out and see what you think.

The 5 Stages of Your Career

1.       Survival: Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
Coaches, you remember what this stage felt like don’t you?   Or maybe you’re in the middle of this stage now and feel like you’re flailing.  I remember being beyond clueless…that’s back when I thought I just needed to know volleyball to be a volleyball coach!  Turns out also I needed to formulate a recruiting plan, balance a budget, create practice plans, order equipment, manage assistant coaches, and make in-game adjustments.  Color me unprepared, but thank goodness for a veteran coach who took me under his wing.

2.       Striving for Success: You Want Folks to Recognize You Can Coach
Your motivation?  Winning, plain and simple.  You’re obsessed with conquering the competition and put in hours and hours of your time to make it happen.  Being the best is what drives you and to be the best, you need the tangible accolades that go along with that:  lots of W’s in the win column, all-league awards for your team, and maybe a coach of the year for you.

3.       Satisfaction: You Relax, Set Another Goal, & Want To Get Better
Now that you’ve achieved a few of your goals, you can relax and know that you’re a good coach and you have the respect of your peers.  You attend conferences to network and visit with old friends as much as you do to learn some new things…you’re getting established.  Each year you set new goals to accomplish that will push you and your team forward…you’re focused.

4.       Significance: Changing Lives For The Good
At this stage you’re more concerned with how you impact your teams and your legacy than you are with personal glory…after all, you’ve already accomplished a lot.  Now you want to make sure your teams understand the value of sport and hope that you’re teaching them how to be better people, not just better players.  With all of your experience and years in the game, you’re very knowledgeable.  And because of the success you’ve had in your career, this is the stage where people solicit your opinion and ask for your help with their coaching conundrums.

5.       Spent: No Juice Left, Can’t Do It Any More
The busses, the trips, preseason, recruiting, the hustle, the grind…you’re over it.  You’re ready to hang with the family and actually make it home before nine o’clock at night.  And your weekends?  You want them back.  Not even the prospect of that super sweet and talented recruiting class that you just brought in is enough to bring you back into the fold.  As much as you love your sport, you’re just not that fired up about the season this year…it’s time to hang it up.

So what stage are YOU at?

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Coaches Corner: Recap

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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

Coaches Corner: The Power Of Female Mentorship

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When Vanessa Walby decided that she wanted to be a coach for a living, she went to her former college coach and said, “I want to be just like you.” She wanted to develop young women and she wanted to build something great. That sounds like a typical story until you find out that her college coach didn’t just pat her on the back and say good luck. She sat Walby down and they came up with a detailed plan for how she would accomplish her goals.

Now that’s mentorship!

When Walby started the newest chapter in her coaching story, she called her former coach. Amazingly enough, the coach not only remembered coming up with the plan, but reminded Walby that she was right on track.

This wasn’t by happenstance. Walby reached out to established coaches and asked them for guidance. This is probably a lesson we can all learn from…not to sit back and expect things to come to us. After speaking with her, Walby seems to have one foot planted in the past and the other firmly planted in the future…and it all seems to steer her present decisions.

Past.  Walby has an interesting history. She played for Kris Russell, arguably one of the best Division III volleyball coaches of all time. She’s currently at Washington University, which had another coaching great on its sidelines in Teri Clemens. She’s surrounded by all of this volleyball amazingness…is it a wonder she’s been so successful? She’s got crazy desire and passion along with an amazing support system.

Future. When you talk to Walby about why she loves coaching or her favorite parts of the profession, she’s very passionate about the impact she believes she can have on her players. Like most of us, she loves watching her athletes come in as nervous and unassuming freshman and leaving as confident seniors ready to take on the world.

So what can the rest of us learn from her story?

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for mentorship. I’ve found coaches to be amazingly approachable and open to sharing their knowledge, but you’ve got to ask. They’re not just walking down the street asking people if they want to know more about coaching.
  • Then use your mentor. Walby used her connection with her college coach to meet all sorts of coaching hot shots.
  • Do a good job. I’m not saying we’ve all got to be nationally ranked in order for it to be worth your mentor’s time, but you’ve got to put your best foot forward. The mentor stuck their neck out for you, so you’ve got to return the favor by working hard and being prepared.



If you’d like to advance your career, get out of a rut, or just get better at what you do where you are, maybe a mentor would help you meet your goals. Can’t hurt to try!

The Vanessa Walby series

Coaches Corner: Vanessa Walby
Coaches Corner: On Changing A 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!

Coaches Corner: Four Things To Think About When Considering A New Job

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Kelly Sheffield believes in where he is right now. He believes that he can win at the University of Wisconsin and he believes he can convince talented volleyball players to join him there. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Well, who wouldn’t believe in a Big Ten school?” True enough, but his move to Wisconsin and the elite levels of volleyball wasn’t, in my opinion, a no-brainer. He was very successful at his previous institution and that success showed no signs of waning.

So I asked him about it. What advice would he give to coaches who think they’re ready to take that next step? How did he know the time was right to leave the comfort of his successful situation for the unknown of Wisconsin?

Before Sheffield answered, he was sure to give me a parenthetical note: If you’re a new coach and just trying to break into the coaching ranks…take any job. Just start coaching, you haven’t earned the right to be picky.

Are you ready to take another job?

  • Be honest with yourself. Coaches have to be honest about what will make them happy and not just do what they’re supposed to do. The move has to be good for you, your family, and your career.
  • Do you believe in your potential new location?   Will your boss advocate for you? Will the institution fund success or mediocrity? Can you see success in your mind’s eye or do you view the job as a stepping stone?
  • What goals does the administration have for the program? If you sit down in your interview and lay out how you can bring a conference/national championship to the institution and then the folks interviewing you say they just want a team above .500, you have different goals. With a major difference in objectives, you will be destined to figuratively bang your head against a wall.
  • How will your working relationship with your direct boss play out? They are the folks who will advocate for you and your program. There’s a finite amount of money within athletic departments and your boss has to be on your side when it comes to program needs.



Good luck to those of you thinking of making a location, or maybe even career, change. Hopefully, these words of wisdom can help clarify your decision.

Check out the Sheffield series:
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


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!

Creating A Connected Culture

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When members of a group of any size, from a basketball team to a business organization, share a vision that makes them feel proud, feel valued, and feel that they have a voice to express their ideas and opinions, it creates a connection, a bond, a feeling of unity or esprit de corps.
Why Coach K Coaches Like a Girl

Okay, I don’t like the title of the article I quoted above.  First of all, girls aren’t typically coaches, women are.  Second of all, it’s repetitious (coach, coaches).  Lastly, comparing a grown person to a child of another gender is rarely a compliment.  That being said, I get it.  It comes across as a slight or maybe even a slam against Coach K when, in actuality, the author paints “coaching like a girl” is a positive.

He’s being provocative.

The author does a great job of describing why Coach K’s been successful…attributing it to the female presence in his life.  I don’t know how true or accurate that is and I certainly don’t think you have to be a woman to create a connected team.  What I really enjoyed about the article was his formula:

Vision + Value + Voice = Connected Culture

Vision:  I believe this has to be two-fold.  Vision for each individual player: an athlete will put up with not playing, with being pushed mentally and physically, with a whole lot…as long as they see how it fits into the grand plan.  And of course we’ve got to have a vision for the program.  That vision will influence how we recruit, how we plan practices, how we schedule opponents…everything.

Value:  Our players invest a lot of themselves into our program.  Their time, their heart, their passion, their egos.  We ask a lot of them and they give us a lot, the least we can do is make sure they know we appreciate what they’re putting into the program.

Voice:  This doesn’t mean that you always do what your players ask of you, but they should feel comfortable in their belief that their opinions will be heard and considered.

Giving our teams a vision of the future of the program, combined with valuing their effort and giving them a voice is a great way for us to create a team culture that will withstand the normal ups and downs of a season.

5 Qualities That Make Every Team Great

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“There are five fundamental qualities that make every team great: communication, trust, collective responsibility, caring and pride. I like to think of each as a separate finger on the fist. Any one individually is important. But all of them together are unbeatable.”—Mike Krzyzewski

Coach K has been tremendously successful on many levels: spanning decades, working with collegiate athletes, working with professional athletes during the Olympics…you name it, he’s done it.  So when someone with that sort of resume tells us what the fundamental qualities of effective teams are, we should listen!

5 traits of great teams

Communication.  We all know it’s great to encourage communication within our teams…I’m sure that is something you already know.  That’s not where it stops though.  Of course we need to have effective communication between coaches on staff and also between coach and player.

Trust.  Our athletes need to trust that we have their best interest at heart, that we’ll be fair—not equal—but fair.  We, as coaches, need to be able to trust that our athletes are working to the best of their ability.  That’s part of the coach-player agreement, right?  We’ll do our best to turn them into the best version of themselves (in terms of our sport) and they’ll do their best to believe in and follow our plan for them.

Collective responsibility.  This is the old “there’s no I in team” idea.  I believe one of the fundamental truths of team is that the individual has a responsibility to the team.  That responsibility is to put team first.  Putting team first can look like a lot of things: off-season workouts, excelling in the classroom, etc.

Caring.  About one another, about the team, about the program.

Pride.  In their personal effort, in their team, in the collective struggle to maintain excellence over a period of time.

The last sentence of the Coach K quote is interesting.  Is it hyperbole or is he saying it with conviction?  I’d lean toward the latter.  Whenever I’ve had a poorly functioning team, they have fallen short in one of these areas.

When Will You Feel Successful As A Coach?

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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 3 Types Of Great Coaches

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I’m a big fan of the book, The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle.  Because of that, I follow his blog, because I can always find good stuff there.  The Best Kind of Coach is a great post that talks about the power of great coaches.  Check out his different types while keeping in mind that they all have the potential to be great.

Behavior
Coyle calls this the “old-school” coach.  I had some shut-up-sit-down-do-what-i-say-and-we’ll-win-games coaches in my life.  The upside to these types of coaches is the players know where they stand and know exactly what is expected of them.  The downside is the players may be afraid of their coach.  Also, there’s a rigidity of thought and system with this type.

Knowledge
Coyle calls these Teacher Coaches.  I think I’d fall into this category.  I always tell my team that my time on the court is over, so they are my chance to keep playing at a high level…by getting the knowledge out of my head and into theirs.  When I first got into coaching, I remember calling my old high school coach, who was a behavior coach.  Frustrated, I told him that my players had a million questions and wouldn’t just do what I said because I said to do it.  He agreed about this new (at the time) generation of athlete and he said that’s why he got out.  Now I enjoy explaining the hows and whys of my sport.  And I enjoy an athlete who wants to delve deeper into how they can become better.

Soul
Coyle says these coaches have an innate ability to see people in ways that they do not see themselves.  They do this in three ways: they connect, they communicate their belief, and they work to make that belief come true.  I wonder if this is what happens when teams get a new coach and all of a sudden a team that was underachieving turns into a powerhouse.  In that situation, there’s clearly more to the story than X’s and O’s.  That’s part of it, sure, but what (or who) makes those same players who were losing games believe that they shouldn’t be losing?  That they have what it takes to win?  And win on a large scale?

I suppose we’d want to be a combination of all of these, in a perfect world.  So what kind of coach are you?

Feedback That Gets Results

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“I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.” —The Simple Phrase that Increases Effort 40%

That’s it.

That’s the magical feedback.

4 reasons this works

  1. Authentic.  We can’t give this particular feedback to every player on our teams, just the ones we really believe can help the team achieve its goals.  I’d imagine we would lose our credibility if the impact players heard us deliver this line to a teammate who was clearly not a player of influence.
  2. Crystal-clear signal of social trust.  It makes the receiver a part of a group (impact players) and shows them they are special.
  3. Belonging.  This phrasing shows the player that they not only belong to the group, but are an important piece.  Beyond that, it shows them (and their teammates whom they’re bound to tell) that the coaches have high standards for the team.
  4. High expectations.  Plain and simple, if you say this phrase, you’ve got to make sure you give the player a task that can be accomplished.  Challenging, but realistic.



Check out the article, it’s very good.  As coaches, we’re always looking for ways to connect with our players and to show them we care about them.  This seems like a good place to start.

The Importance of Sleep For Our Players

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On a team long, long ago, I had a player with a troubled friend in her dorm.  This friend would have episodes which involved seizures and scary blackouts.  My player, ever the mother hen, felt it was her duty to stay up with her friend even though these episodes happened during the wee hours of the morning.  This would happen night after night.

No sleep for days.

And she expected to be able to function well in the classroom and in the gym.  She would tell me, “Don’t worry coach, I don’t need much sleep.”  Huh?

Not every scenario is as crazy as this one.  Some are just your players stay up too late doing homework.  Or they aren’t able to get uninterrupted sleep. Or they think they can party the weekend away and pay the homework piper on Sunday.

This should be important to us not only because we’re counting on our athletes to perform, but also part of our role in their lives is to teach them how to be functioning adults.

What’s the problem?

According to this Harvard Business Review article, Sleep Deficit: The Performance Killer, there are four parts to sleep that affect performance.  The first part is our natural drive to sleep.  We think we’re in control of it, but essentially, our bodies will force us to sleep if we put it off too long.  The second is the amount of sleep we get over the course of a few days.  The third is the part of us that says, “Oh, it’s light outside, it’s time to get up.”  Finally, there’s the groggy wakeup.  Apparently, we need about twenty minutes in the morning to get our bearings.

What can we do about it?

  • If we schedule morning practices, we’ve got to give them time to truly wake up.  If I go in the morning, I usually do some sort of conditioning first.  That way, they don’t have to tax their brains until later in the practice.
  • We’ve got to talk to them about how important sleep is to their performance.
  • If there’s a way to show them they’re not being heroic by staying up all night writing papers and studying, we’ve got to show them.
  • Sleep has to be equated to going to the training room, getting strong in the weight room, and watching film…it’s what we need to do in order to be good.



The article equated lack of sleep with drunkenness.  We wouldn’t tolerate our players being in a perpetual state of intoxication and we shouldn’t tolerate sleeplessness either.