Posts Tagged ‘Team chemistry’

Coaches Corner: The Roles Of Player And Coach

21 Apr


As I mentioned before, I’m a Badger alum, so I watch their volleyball team with a more attentive eye than other programs.  Because I know the type of team Kelly Sheffield inherited, I am more than amazed at the turnaround he spearheaded.  So I asked him about some of the critical things he and his coaching staff did that helped to create a much more successful team.  Check out what he had to say.

The coach’s role

  • Consistency.  Sheffield says his team should never worry about what kind of mood he’s in.  Monday’s the same as Thursday, after a win is the same as after a loss.
  • Knowledge.  I think it goes without saying that we’ve got to know what we’re talking about and staying up to date on the latest training methods.
  • Energy and enthusiasm.  That looks like lots of player feedback, coaches engaged with athletes…not chatting with one another.

The player’s role

  • Connect with teammates.  Sheffield expects high energy and enthusiasm from his athletes.  If he’s bringing it, he expects to see it from players as well.
  • Put personal traits aside.  He says that it’s tough to be an introvert in a team sport.  I wrote about some techniques to work with the introverts on your team a while back, you should check it out.  Studies say that 75% of folks are extroverts, so it’s easy to see why those traits are valued in leaders.
  • Be an active participant in their own rescue.  If something’s going wrong—on or off the court—the player has a responsibility to seek help.  Whether it’s coming in for extra reps on their own or, if it’s a classroom issue, seeking out tutors.  Whatever it is, coaches aren’t psychic, players have to help us out.

Success is sometimes a moving target, but these tips should help us all to start down the right path.

Check out the Sheffield series:
Coaches Corner: Kelly Sheffield
Coaches Corner: Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
Coaches Corner: What Does Enthusiasm Look Like?

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 roles


Is Your Best Athlete Your Best Leader?

07 Apr

best leadersource

When your best players are your hardest workers, you have the chance to be very good.
—Tara VanDerveer

When your best players aren’t vocal leaders.  This is a common problem.  I don’t know how many times I’ve commiserated with another coach about a player who has out-of-this-world talent, but won’t speak up in practice or games.  I’ve tried telling the player that the team needs them to speak up, I’ve tried explaining that the burden of being the best is that their teammates look up to them, I’ve tried it all.  Usually it doesn’t work.  If that person gets picked as a captain (which they usually do), I try to pair them up with someone who will actually talk.

When your best players undermine you.  This one is rare…but it happens.  Your best player smiles in your face, “yes, Coach” and all that, but is tearing you down behind your back.  I’m not talking about the regular, “It sucks that Coach made us run today, that’s crap!”, all players say things like that.  I’m talking about the player who questions your coaching technique, coaching moves, or coaching decisions.  As annoying as it is for players to come to us with questions about those things, it’s catastrophic when they do all of those things in secret.  Even worse, we usually don’t find out about it until it’s too late.

When your best players are lazy.  This is the rarest of them all.  Can they really be your best player if they’re lazy?  Semantics.  Your best player (stats leader in important categories) doesn’t go hard in practice or games, but still manages to be better than her teammates.  You can try to guilt them into working harder by telling them their teammates look up to them.  You can try to force her into exertion through physical punishment, but if they’ve gotten this far by being lazy…they can trick you into thinking they’re working hard.  No matter what your captain policy is (you pick, the team picks, combo), this person most definitely can’t have a leadership position on your team.

When your best players are your hardest workers.  Heaven has opened up and shined on you and your team.  Effort is catchy.  Hard work is catchy.  Desire is catchy.  Belief is catchy.  These players, these high energy/hard working types, infect the rest of the team with their energy.  Their teammates may walk into the gym after a tough day of class wanting to slack off, but this player just won’t allow it.  The team may be losing late in the game, but this player won’t let their teammates stop believing.  These players earn their teammates’ respect by the way they carry themselves each and every day.

Your best players are leaders, no matter what.  They may lead negatively or they may lead positively…but they are ALWAYS leading.  Be sure to have high-quality players in leadership positions on your team.

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Posted in Leadership, Team chemistry


Creating A Connected Culture

26 Mar

connected culturesource

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.

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Posted in Coaching strategy, Team chemistry


Wooden’s Three Team Rules

17 Mar

Rules listsource

Are you one of those coaches with a page full of team rules?  Or do you not believe in team rules?  Or perhaps you fall somewhere in the middle.  Personally, I don’t have a lot of team rules because I don’t know if it’s possible to enforce a lot of rules…and why have them if they aren’t going to be enforced?

Check out John Wooden’s rules and see if they can be applied to your team:

  1. Be on time.  I’ve talked to coaches at every level and of many sports and they all are sticklers about time.  I’m not big on team rules, but it’s one of mine.  Maybe it’s because we spend so much time on practice plans and the athletes can screw it all up with one late appearance.  Maybe it’s a respect thing.
  2. Be neat and clean.  I think this one is the product of the time in which Wooden coached.  Though I do hear of some coaches, usually football or men’s basketball, where the coach will have a “no facial hair” or “no long hair” rule.
  3. No profanity.  I can count the number of times I’ve sworn in front of my teams on one hand.  Notice I said “in front of them”, I’m sure I’ve sworn under my breath during many a practice and game!  For our athletes, there’s nothing positive that comes from swearing:  officials don’t appreciate it, opponents think it’s obnoxious, and moms in the stands shouldn’t have to cover their kid’s ears.
  4. Never criticize a teammate.  I know the title of the post is three team rules and this is very obviously number four, but this is how he presented it.  Since he didn’t elaborate on it, I’ll put my spin on it.  Here’s the definition of criticism: the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.  Using this definition, which seems to put teammates on two different levels (the teammate who is right or doing things the right way and the teammate who is wrong) and that can never be good for team unity.

So what do you think?  Do these line up with your team rules?

John Wooden’s TEDtalk:  The difference between winning and succeeding

The John Wooden series:

John Wooden TEDtalk
Leading With Integrity
The Pressure Of Winning
When Will You Feel Successful As A Coach?

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Posted in Pyramid of success, TEDtalk


Conflict Should Not Be Taboo

10 Mar


In a great post, When Ideas Collide, Don’t Duck, a CEO talks about creating an environment where conflict is seen as a good thing.

As I processed what he discussed regarding conflict, I thought about the number of times I’ve heard players on teams I’ve coached tell me that “everyone gets along” and all of players love one another.  That always makes me nervous.

Here are some red flags to look for regarding team conflict

  • They say there’s no conflict.  Really?  No conflict?  I never believe it and I always try to dig deeper.  Now, if a freshman says it, they may be telling the truth because they don’t know any better.  Everyone else?  They’re telling a version of the truth.  There may be no conflict because they are burying, hiding, or otherwise not addressing conflict.  Avoidance has a limited shelf life.
  • Upperclassmen don’t listen to underclassmen.  I’m not saying that all folks on a team should be equal.  I give a leg up to a person who’s been on a team for a while.  All things being equal, I value an upperclassmen’s opinion a bit more than a newbie just because the older player understands our competition level and what it takes to be successful in our league.  That being said, upperclassmen have to create an environment where the young’uns feel they can approach the oldies but goodies.
  • Everyone’s happy with their role.  Again I say, really?  So I’ve got four point guards or three setters or five goalkeepers…and the folks sitting on the bench are happy there?  Either I’ve recruited the wrong folks or these players aren’t being honest.  Teams are by their nature conflicts of interests.  There is internal competition within a collaborative group.  That alone should initiate conflict.

I’ve written a lot about conflict here and hopefully we all know that we can encourage our teams to embrace conflict as a way to get better.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with conflict…it can actually boost our teams up a level.

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Posted in Team roles


Clear The Way For Excellence

24 Feb


“It’s not enough to accentuate the positive. You have to eliminate the negative.”
Bad is 5X Stronger Than Good

How is your team doing?  Are you stuck in a rut?  Can’t figure out why you aren’t moving forward?  What if you’ve got negativity going on? What if a select, but powerful, few of your players are sabotaging the success of the group with their Debbie Downer view of the world?

What to do?

Face it head on.

4 things we must eliminate from our teams to experience success

  1. Bad practices.  This was from a business blog, so I don’t think he meant sports practices.  Poor team culture and ineffective norms will hold even the most talented teams back.
  2. Nasty people.  I strongly believe that our role as coaches is to help guide young people as they’re navigating the world of adulthood.  That being said, there have been a couple of times in my career where I’ve waited too long to get rid of the bad apple.  One rotten apple truly can spoil the bushel.
  3. Destructive attitudes.  “Quickly deal with lack of cooperation, rudeness, laziness, or self-serving behaviors. When you see bad, shine a light on it.”  Sometimes we coaches chicken out and take the easy road rather than having that uncomfortable conversation.
  4. Negative beliefs.  Does your team really believe in your vision for the program?  If they don’t, it’s time to figure out how to get them on board or how to replace them.

Negativity breeds negativity.  One player quits, it opens the door for another.  One teammate complains about the coaching, the rest suddenly think the coach is the real problem.

Eliminate the negative attitudes and people and clear the way to success.

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Posted in Team chemistry


Maintaining Close Relationships With Your Team

19 Feb


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.

How to MBWA with your team

  • Make it part of the routine.  The team should know when they come into the gym that you’re probably going to be talking to them, it shouldn’t be weird or awkward…just part of being on the team.
  • Just you, not the other coaches.  If your whole coaching staff approaches one of your players, I’d imagine they’d start racking their brains, trying to figure out why you were coming toward her with a posse!
  • Chat with everyone.  Seems obvious, but be sure to talk to each person on the team.  Super stud and practice player alike.  That way you can’t be accused of being unfair.  Well, you can, but it won’t be true.
  • Ask for suggestions.  This one is an easy one for a MBWA before a game, because you can always ask for suggestions for places to eat dinner.  It’s super important for them (for some reason) and the team’s gotta eat.
  • Follow up with answers.  If you’re doing a MBWA and one of the athletes asked a question you don’t know the answer to, you’ve got to be sure to get back to him with the answer.
  • Don’t criticize.  There’s plenty of time for that!  Keep it light…this is about relationship building!

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.

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Posted in Coaching strategy


From Apathetic To Peak Performer

12 Feb


I enjoy Twitter.  I like reading great quotations, reading interesting articles, and seeing what people are finding interesting at the moment.  I follow Lolly Daskal and she does these massive tweet chats…so massive that her hashtag (#leadfromwithin) sometimes trends globally.  Daskal is a business consultant focusing on leadership, team performance, and culture change among others.

In one of her tweet chats, she asked her followers what makes peak performers different.  She got lots of responses and these are the five things Daskal says make peak performers stand out.

Peak performers have H.E.A.R.T.

Honor.  Peak performers hold their teammates in high regard.  They are selfless, choosing to let others take credit for successes.

Excellence.  They’re good at what they do.

Authenticity.  The players are less concerned about what they’re “supposed” to do, but stay true to themselves.  Their teammates never feel like they’re putting on a front for the coach and are well-respected by players and coaches alike.

Results.  There should be tangible results if someone is to call themselves a peak performer.  Either wins, faster times, records set…however your sport is measured.

Tenacity.  Success requires a certain determination to push on no matter the circumstances.  It also requires players to hold tight to the goals and dreams for the season.

Odds are, if you’ve got a peak performer or two, the rest of your team is drawn to them…the H.E.A.R.T. will draw them in.

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Posted in Collaboration


Leading The Resistant Player

27 Jan


I’m sure we’ve all coached a player who has been tough for us.  It can be for many reasons.  It could be because they’re not friendly with their teammates.  It could be because they’re only concerned with how the team can help them. Or it could be because no one has taken the time to point out how their actions impact the team.

I always fall on the side of the last explanation.  I like to think that players aren’t being bad teammates because they’d rather be bad teammates.  I like to think that they don’t understand they’re driving everyone crazy and it’s my job to guide them along the way to being a great teammate.

Don’t know if you’ve got a resistant player?  Check out these scenarios:

Coach: Let’s go over our new offense for the season.
Resistant player: My high school coach ran a different offense and we always won.
Coach: *sigh*

Coach: I need everyone to sign this birthday card for Susie.
Resistant player: Me and Susie don’t get along, do I need to sign?
Coach: *sigh*

Coach: The sky is a beautiful blue today!
Resistant player: Technically the sky isn’t really blue.
Coach: *sigh*

These resistant players not only represent gray hairs on our heads, but also opportunities to mentor a young person.  I like to think of players as flowers.  We don’t know if we’re planting the seeds of teamwork in them (and therefore much less likely to benefit from the beautiful flower in their future) or if we’re weeding an already well-tended garden.  The earlier we are in the process, the more frustrating that player will be.

4-step intervention process for the resistant player

First: talk to them.  It could be that they don’t understand how they’re coming across to teammates and coaches.

Second: take something away from them. If you’ve talked to them (and talked to them), maybe you’ve got to take away playing time or a leadership position to show them you mean business.

Third: empower them to stay or go.  You can present it to them like this: Look.  I know you’re sick of me talking to you about this and, quite frankly, I’m getting tired of saying the same thing.  Do you really want to be on the team?  If they say yes, give them parameters for remaining in good standing with the coaching staff.  If they say no, well, that’s the downside of giving them the choice.

Fourth: don’t let them off the hook.  It’s easy to think that your job is over after step three, but if you don’t stay vigilant, you’ll be back to step one again.

We don’t manage the resistant player with tough love because we like confrontation or being grumpy.  We do it because we believe it’s what’s best for them in the long run.  I’d go as far as saying we’d be hurting their player development if we didn’t stay on them.

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Posted in Coaching strategy


8 Qualities Of Great Team Leaders

24 Jan

follow the leadersource

Captains are important and serve a unique function on our teams, so I enjoyed this article from Leadership Freak, The Three Power-People You Need On Your Team.  I don’t want to get into whether you choose captains or you let the team, or whether or not your captains are always seniors, or whether you don’t have captains at all.  I want to focus on what qualities we should look for, and what we should coach the team to look for, in our team leaders.

What we should look for in team leaders:

  • Hard working. I don’t know about you, but my best captains have been the hardest workers.  When they asked the team to run through a wall, their teammates knew the captain would be right there with them…leading the way.
  • Strong opinions and emotions. They should be passionate about the sport, about the team, and about their teammates.  Ideally they’re able to harness that emotion into motivating their teammates.
  • Unflinching alignment with organizational values.  What is it you value as a coach?  Does your team know?  Do your team leaders/captains?  Is it being on time?  Is it extra film study?  Is it supporting teammates who play a second sport?  Whatever it is, make sure you make it known.
  • Comfort saying no. Good manners are nice but not essential.  I had a young lady who was a natural born leader.  She was strong and she spoke her mind.  One preseason, she came in and it was like a quiet, mousy alien had abducted her.  She was worried that she was too strong and was scaring the team.  I did my best to tell her the qualities she was trying to hide were her best qualities.  And not only that, they were assets our team was in dire need of.
  • Dedication to serve the organization before serving themselves.  There’s that servant leader concept.  Team before self.  The teams I’ve had who have suffered through lack of success were always lacking that team-first leader.
  • Strength to confront brutal facts.  What if your star player is out all night long making a fool of herself (however you deem it) before a big game?  Will your team leaders address it?  My best leaders squash problems before I even realize it’s going on.
  • Openness to change.  Let’s say you’ve got a team captain.  She’s pretty good, but you see with a couple of tweaks in her personality or how she communicates with the team, she could be amazing.  Hopefully, she’s open to getting better…not just on the court, but off of it as well.
  • Loyalty.  To the program, of course, but more importantly, to their best selves.  That may come across as kind of cheesy, but sometimes our team leaders are put in tough positions where they’ve got to make a decision that may be unpopular.  I’d hope they believe in the type of leader they are and can stand by it.

Once we’ve found these folks and they’ve been identified as team leaders, it’s our job to train them to lead.  So often we assume our players know how to lead, but they only know what they’ve been exposed to.  What if you showed them leadership videos on Ted or youtube?  What if you read them great leadership quotes and asked them what they meant to each one of them?  What if you picked a leadership book and read it with them?

Training our leaders may be just as important as training our sport skills.

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Posted in Captains, Leadership