“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:
- 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.
- 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.
“Fear is the reason today is like yesterday.”—Leadership Freak
That quotation sucker punched me! Our goal as coaches is to create an atmosphere where our athletes feel comfortable taking risks and are brave in the face of fear. Those who aren’t involved in athletics may scoff, but the fear is real when the bases are loaded and coach doesn’t have another pitcher warming up. The fear is real when it’s game point and the server is walking back to the endline in volleyball. And the fear is real when the fourth runner in a relay receives the baton at the same time as an opponent.
Here are three things we can do right now to crush fear on our teams:
- Stop saying crunch time is the same as the beginning of a competition. One of the reasons we believe certain players are “clutch” is that they execute late in the game, in pressure filled situations. Yet we, as coaches, continue to say things like: the scoreboard doesn’t matter. Yet…it does! Our players are watching time tick away and their heartrates are increasing. Our players are watching the opponent create a bigger and bigger gap in the score…and it’s starting to feel like the game is getting away from them. I think it’s better to acknowledge that pressure and not be afraid of it, but welcome it and give your athletes tools to handle what the scoreboard is saying to them.
- Celebrate effort. Each day we have an opportunity to fill our athlete’s reserves with success. I know Yoda says, “do or do not, there is no try”, but I believe in applauding the process, not necessarily the result. So if a player hustles to close a block or dig a ball—even if they aren’t successful in their attempt—I’m going to get fired up about the effort. It’s risky to go all out (what if they fail?), so we need to cheer those players who are willing to flop…because they believe they’ll eventually succeed.
- Be intentional about making our yesterdays. Today is tomorrow’s yesterday. What are you going to do today to put your athletes in a position to draw on their bravery reserves? Decide what your focus of the day/week/month is going to be and make it happen! If your focus is tangible (we need to convert more turnovers into points), then devote the majority of practice time to it. If your focus is intangible (your team needs to be teamier), then design drills that bring that skill to the forefront.
I can’t think of a sport that doesn’t require its athletes to be willing to take risks. Those risks could be failing in front of their friends and family, it could be letting their teammates down…but it could also be succeeding when they weren’t entirely confident they would. There’s a saying that says, “fortune favors the brave”. Sure, our athletes could fail, but they certainly won’t succeed if they’re unwilling to be brave and take a risk.
Coach Dawn Writes is back writing helpful articles. Did you know that you could get the articles emailed directly to your inbox? Well, it’s free and easy. Just click here and you’re all set!
A coworker of mine let me know about The Corner Office, which is a management/leadership section within the New York Times magazine. It has lots of interviews of hot shot management types that are very interesting and, I think, applicable to the coaching profession.
Changing a team culture needs to happen when you take over a new team, when your team is stuck in a negative rut, and sometimes when a new and dominant set of leaders take over. How should you go about it?
A model for changing a team culture:
- Evaluate the team. Sit down with your assistants and go through your team, player by player. What positives do they bring to the team? Negatives? Do you have the players you need to win?
- Figure out what needs to be changed. Do you have good team leaders? It’s easy to dust off old practices each year, but maybe you need to get to some clinics to learn some new ways to teach your old tricks.
- Figure out what doesn’t need to be changed. Similar to #2.
- Evolution. Slow, steady change. Probably best for a team you’re currently coaching.
- Revolution. Fast, radical change. Probably best for taking over a new team.
- Set the strategy. Where will you start first? Staff improvements? Recruiting? Increasing the skill base of your current players?
- Come up with a structure/plan. Implementing the strategy.
- Identify the right players. We can’t anything without our players. Make sure you’ve got the right team leaders in place, the right players in the right positions, and the right recruits in the pipeline.
So that’s the coach version of the business turnaround plan from The Corner Office.