Tag Archives: Coaching career

The 3 Types Of Great Coaches

sports coachsource

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.

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.

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.

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


“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


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.

The Power of Taking Time Off


When I saw this TEDtalk called, “The Power of Time Off”, I was understandably intrigued.  Since I’ve just come off of a year-long break from blogging, speaking, and writing, I’m trying to figure out how to frame what I’ve gone through.  You should check out the talk, though it’s a bit long at just under eighteen minutes.

Certainly, taking a year off to hang out with my kid would be a valid reason, but I am looking for more.  I’m looking for a reason this break made me a better coach/writer/speaker/mother than I was pre-sabbatical.

Deciding what to give up

The first thing I should do is acknowledge that I didn’t give up my main source of income, namely being a coach and administrator at my college.  But I did give up the writing and speaking that I so enjoy…I truly benefit from connecting with and learning from other coaches.  There was most certainly the risk that everyone would forget about Coach Dawn and all of my cool writing about this amazing profession.

How did I decide what to give up?  I broke my life down into parts: work, family, “Coach Dawn”.  I don’t know whether or not it’s sad that I can break my life into just three parts, but it fit.  I can’t imagine telling my family that I’m going to take a year-long break from them, just as it would be unfathomable to tell my boss that I didn’t want to coach for a year.  So…Coach Dawn it was.

Stefan Sagmeister, the TEDtalk speaker, defines work as having three parts (this is so good, I could write a whole post just about this!):

  • Job: he needs it for money.  Coach Dawn does have a revenue aspect that was helpful.
  • Career: he’s interested in advancement and promotion. I can see myself, when I’m ready to move on to the next challenge, doing Coach Dawn full time…so this definition is spot on.
  • Calling: intrinsically fulfilling, he’d do his job for free.  I didn’t get into writing this blog for cash, but to connect with other coaches who are passionate about their profession…that makes this a good working definition for me.

Giving up Coach Dawn was tough, but I don’t know that “giving up” is the proper term.  I freed up space to focus on being better.  I had to decide whether or not Coach Dawn was worth my time and effort.  Was it helping or hurting my coaching? Going through the job/career/calling thing was helpful for me.

The big picture

Sure, I want to win games and championships, just like any other coach.  More than that, though, my sabbatical afforded me the time to think about my impact on the young ladies on my team.  It gave me time to wonder about my influence on my campus.  Most importantly, my time off gave me time to miss writing and speaking.

Try it!

Taking a break doesn’t have to take a year.  It can take a semester, a month, or a week.  I think this idea goes against the coaching culture: working less now to pay dividends in the future.  Is there something you can set aside that will free you up to draft a plan to become a better you?

I’m baaack!


Here is the reason I’ve been away for a year and I think I made a pretty good decision on that one! She’s super cute, right? But now I’m back and I can’t wait to talk coaching with all of you again.

Stay tuned as I talk about coaching female athletes, creating successful team environments, and (of course) how we can all get better at our craft.

A Moment Of Pause


Well folks, I’m about a week out (8 days, but who’s counting?) from my due date for our little bundle of joy’s arrival.  My husband and I are super excited to add to our family and are looking forward to this next chapter.

As I assess all of the things I must do in order to be a successful coach (I still have recruiting calls to make, a recruiting calendar that is daunting, and spring season for my team) and a successful mom (time, time, time!  love, love, love!), I’ve decided that the writing that I so enjoy has to take a backseat.  Once I get a handle on how to be both an awesome coach and mom, then I’ll add awesome blogger back to the mix.

I get asked lots of questions about the pregnancy, so here are…

Coach Dawn’s baby FAQ’s:

  • Do I know what I’m having?  Nope, we’re going to be surprised.
  • How do I feel?  Great…I’m having a baby!
  • Have we picked out a name? Not yet, we’ll be forced to soon enough though.
  • How will you decorate the nursery if you don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl?  Well this child has no choice but to be athletic…my husband played football at the college I work at and I coach volleyball there.  Thus the decorations will be sporty!
  • When exactly am I due (usually said with a worried look)?  January 8th…we’re almost there.  🙂

Okay folks.  Happy coaching and I’ll see you later.

14 Ways To Stay Motivated


When I first started coaching, I would go and chat with one of the veteran coaches in the office…just to soak up whatever knowledge he was willing to share with me.  He’d been coaching for over thirty years and I was in year two.  Quite honestly, I wondered how he stayed so fired up about the profession.  But he was…there was a glint in his eye that I’m sure hadn’t lost its luster in the entire thirty years he’d been on the sideline.

Of course, whenever I asked that very question, he would brush me off with a (not altogether untrue) joke.  “If you’re not scared to death of losing”, he’d say with a smirk, “then you’re in the wrong profession.”

While I’m sure some measure of his motivation came from fear of failure, I’d guess the bulk of it came from tried and true ways to stay motivated.  Inc.com had a great article about this, 14 Easy Ways to Get Insanely Motivated, it’s a quick read…check it out.

14 ways to stay motivated

Condition your mind.  Staying positive is huge.  We’ve got plenty of opponents who are trying to defeat us…let’s not defeat ourselves too!

Condition your body.  Staying healthy, eating right, working out…those are hard to do when we’re in season.  But we’ve got to try our best to take care of ourselves so that we can be available and energetic for our teams.

Avoid negative people.  If our heart sinks a little when we see someone coming, perhaps they’re negative.  Or if during lunch, we spend the entire time trying to pick someone else up (and they’re still grumpy), we might have to cut our losses and limit our time with those Negative Nellies.

Seek out the similarly motivated.  These are the people we can bounce ideas off of and they keep us fired up about what we do.

Have plans, but remain flexible.  We may think we know how we’re going to accomplish our goals, but staying flexible will keep us from getting down when things don’t work out how we thought they would.

Act with a higher purpose.  What’s your coaching philosophy?  If we do things that go against our philosophy, it will be pretty hard to be motivated.

Take responsibility for your own results.  How can we stay motivated if our success (or failure) is outside of our control?  When things are within our control, we feel that we have power over the situation.  And when we feel we have power, we can stay motivated.

Stretch past your limits on a daily basis.  For me, it’s been committing to reading and writing about my profession every day.  What will it be for you?

Don’t wait for perfection, do it now!  Perfection is unattainable, so if that’s what we’re waiting for…we’re going to be waiting for a long time.

Celebrate your failures.  When we see failure as a necessary step to success, we’re more willing to own our failures…and hopefully learn from them.

Don’t take success too seriously.  Sport is fickle.  We can beat the best team in conference one night and be feeling on top of the world…only to lose to a bottom dweller the next time out.

Avoid weak goals.  Weak goals start with “I’ll try to” or “I hope to”.  Strong goals begin with “I will”.  They are specific and have a deadline to them.

Treat inaction as the only real failure.  My motto: less talk, more do.

Think before you speak.  Don’t become the Negative Nelson that everyone else is avoiding in the office.  Stay positive, stay upbeat, stay motivated.

Not many professions have to live out their successes and failures in the public eye like athletics, which can make it hard to stay motivated sometimes.  Use these tips to get and stay motivated to guide your team to success.

5 Gifts Santa Can Drop Off For Coaches


If you’re out shopping today, then you’ve missed the fun part of shopping…where everyone’s happy and smiling and singing carols.  Now people are stressed, desperate, and not quite as friendly.  But don’t you worry, I sent my list in to Santa for all of us and this is what you can expect to find under your tree tomorrow morning.

**5 things that I hope Santa leaves for me (and my fellow coaches!)
when he comes down our chimneys tomorrow**

  • Great athletes.  I’m sure I don’t have to expand on this, but I’ll quickly define what I mean by “great”.  Surely skill comes into play, as well as a high sports I.Q., a love of the game, a love of hard work, an understanding of and commitment to team, the ability to rise to the occasion, and a strong desire to be a leader.  And that’s just the start.
  • Understanding bosses.  Administrators that know we’re slightly crazy during season and put up with it, who know what our programs need before we even ask, that understand that they’ve got to fight for our teams and programs so that we’re adequately funded and supported.  Bosses who want success.
  • Awesome recruits. These folks have all of the traits of “great athletes” as described above…and they fit in with your team seamlessly.  Not only are they fired about your school and your team, they commit to your program early out of respect for the other people that you’re recruiting.
  • Perspective. Every win doesn’t mean you’re going to win a national championship and each loss doesn’t mean that your team is awful and doomed to failure.  Perspective shows us coaches that we are leaders and teachers of young people.  While the most immediate benefit of our instruction is sport skill building, we’re also building them into better human beings.  We’re teaching them how to win and lose with grace, how to take care of their bodies and eat healthily, how to value hard work, how to deal with the unfairness that will sometimes happen in life, and how to be a member of a group with a goal or cause that’s bigger than they are.
  • Passion. I hope you love what you do.  I hope that you can’t go to sleep some nights because you’re so excited about a new play that you know will work or the next competition.  I hope that your athletes make you laugh even when you want to be serious.  I hope that you jot down ideas about your team on napkins while you’re having lunch.  I hope that you love learning about your sport and your craft.  I hope you’re getting better every day.  I hope you love what you do.

I’m sure this is a list that we can all get behind, one that’ll make our teams better.  Merry Christmas folks and safe travels during the holiday season!

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 ted.com 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.

Thinking Critically About Our Teams


It comes naturally for coaches to think strategically about a specific game and how we can get the matchups we need in order to be successful. But what about thinking strategically about our programs?  Where are we behind the times in terms of equipment, transportation, budgets?  What type of recruits do we need to bring in to take our team a little higher during the next season?  Where are we, as the coach, lacking the information/knowledge/skill to be at our best and how can we acquire it?

These questions and more should be part of every coach’s life at some point during the year.

5 ways to think strategically

Anticipate.  For those of us who are nerdy about our profession, this is an easy one for us.  Whether it’s chatting with coaching friends who can help us figure out what the next new thing in training will be or figuring out how to mask your team’s weaknesses with innovative techniques…anticipation is huge.

Think critically.  To me, this means assessing your program.  At the end of the season, we’ve got to question everything:  our training, our recruiting strategy, our scheduling, our leadership.  Then we’ve got to give ourselves an honest grade and decide whether things need to change or go in a different direction.

Decide.  Perfection can never be the goal.  If we refuse to make decisions until we’re one hundred percent sure and have heard from absolutely everyone involved, then we may never solve our team’s problem.  Eventually we have to feel good enough about the information we have to step out and actually make a decision.

Align.  I’m sure that most of us would say that our teams are not democracies, where everyone gets a say in how the program functions.  I’m also sure that most of us understand that we still have to get our athlete’s and assistant coach’s input on certain issues.  We’ve got to make sure we’ve created an atmosphere where we can approach our players and get an honest answer from them and where our assistants feel free to disagree with us.

Learn.  I’ve talked before about personality assessments and how important they are when managing people.  I think it’s essential to learn our player’s (as well as our own) personality types so that we know how to approach them for feedback.  They are the folks who know what’s really going on behind the scenes, so we need their honest input as we’re putting together our list of things we need to put on the “strategic thinking” list.

How can we create space so that we have time to think strategically?

You may be thinking that this all sounds great, but who’s got time for all of this?  I’d say that we all do, but we’ve got to be organized before we can step back and get strategic.  Here are three things you’ll need:

A clear coaching philosophy.  Strategic thinking can happen at any time during the season, but most likely it’ll be in the off-season.  Knowing what we value as a coach (our coaching philosophies) will help guide us as we bat around difficult issues in our heads.

Strong leadership.  Perhaps we’ve got great captains or involved assistant coaches, whichever it is, they’ll be crucial as we step into the bat cave for a bit to figure out what the next steps our programs take should be.

A connected coaching staff.  For those of you blessed with full-time assistants…I’m jealous!  My assistant coach is also a professor on campus.  While he has another role, he is very connected with our players and often gets to see them in a light that I don’t.  Beyond that, the players know that he genuinely cares about them and their welfare.  Because of that, the burden of always being the person the players come to is lifted off of my shoulders…and I get to be strategic!

If we don’t take time to plan for the direction of our teams, I’m afraid we’ll be disappointed by where they end up.