What’s your job? As a coach of a team it’s to push the team to improve, to win games, to develop athletes and people (your answer may vary but you need to have an answer). This is your WHY.
What’s your HOW? Most coaches spend the most time in the HOW of our world, yet that focus is often rampant with inefficiencies.
Your job, Coach, is to get obstacles out of your team’s way. Think about and test the things that might be holding an individual or the whole team back. Know what the variables are, measure and ID the struggles and the strengths. Perhaps it’s skill level that’s repressing success. Then, get to work planning ways to teach techniques and setting up routines to improve these areas. Perhaps you have reached a ceiling in any particular case and need to work on tweaking your recruiting plan and execution. The answer itself is not the most important thing, it’s knowing the questions.
Maybe an obstacle is the way your program communicates, the way you communicate; perhaps it’s a misunderstanding of the standards and expectations for any part of your program, or goals that are not clearly defined…your facilities, the perception of your resources, the vision of your future, the abilities of your staff…there are many possibilities.
Pick a place to start, investigate, plan and work to clear a path for your team.
Things are not getting done well, games are being lost or played poorly, your business or team culture is not moving you forward…but at least you have your health.
This phrase is also commonly expressed as, “it’s not like it’s life or death…”.
These are excuses of the highest order. What do those statements actually mean in this context? What does death have to do with it? Mostly it’s a way of finding something–anything–positive in a crappy situation.
The reality is that saying these things does not make you feel better, but you can pretend it does. It’s a way of taking something totally irrelevant and giving it importance so that the failures are minimized.
It’s a coverup.
Of course your life and your health–and that of those around you–is important. The sentiment is real, but not in the context of a coaching or team failure. It’s the failure itself that you should be examining and celebrating as a catalyst.
Do the challenging work of planning, working the plan and then assessing the result, and get to work on making a better plan, or improving the execution. The PEAR process is a crucial, underutilized tool for improvement. Stay away from the coverup.
Experience can be a great teacher. Brains and bodies work more smoothly together after thousands of reps, we learn how we work and decide what works for us.
On the other hand we often do things simply because we’ve always done them that way. “This is the way I am,” “that works for me,” “I know the best way to do that, ” are things we tell ourselves. Do we actually consider if these things are true? Perhaps we are just fearful of change. For sure we are fearful of change!
Experience also may cause us to miss out on new and positive tools and information. “Keeping an open mind” is one thing, actively seeking the best way to do things is quite another, and doesn’t need to be a sea change.
Take time to look at your team closely. The drills, practice design, rules, methods of teaching; review and assess everything and see if you are still in love with your systems. You may find that it ain’t broke but still needs work.
…maybe it still sucks. Coach, you should constantly be asking questions and setting up assessments. “How will we know?” is a great question to ask whenever making plans or adjustments. You need to know how you’ll know if it’s good!
Perhaps it’s purely outcome questions like “did we win?”. However, maybe you win with a bad plan. In that case those simple outcome questions don’t get the job done and won’t work so well the next time. If you ask questions like:
-was our communication up to our standards?
-did we work hard on the things we said were key?
-were we mentally tough?
-did we support each other like we said we wanted to?
you give yourself a chance to improve your processes.
When you have the questions determined in advance you can really know where you stand and how to improve, incrementally, on the things you say are most important. You’ll have consistency of process and things you can measure.
You can manage what you can measure. Tweaking the stuff that’s not broken to be even better is how teams and players really improve. Usually, if it ain’t broke it’s probably does not suck, but it still deserves a look. Have a system to make those looks means regular assessment, built-in productive communication and consistent opportunity to improve.
…and he is us. Walt Kelly’s Pogo cartoon characters had many insights and this is one pertains to coaching quite often–usually we are our own biggest problem.
We get in our own way a lot and sometimes we don’t even know it, or admit it. Take a look at the things in your world that you consider problems and ask yourself if you’ve been totally clear with yourself and everyone around you as to what is important and what is expected.
There is no such thing as over clarifying.
I’ve read lots about the power of positive thinking. I consider myself a real optimist.
There’s lots of doubt in all of us, however. Even after 27 plus years of coaching at the college level I’m often found wondering how big my next failure is going to be. There is so much that can go wrong.
Our players have plenty of doubts as well. We encourage them to “stop thinking” we tell them all about strategies that allow them to consider the positive outcomes…
One of the simplest ideas is that of replacement thoughts. Don’t fight the negativity with more negativity (“stop being negative!”), simply replace that with something else.
The replacement thoughts don’t need to be the inverse of the negative, just something different. Choose your thoughts. Be in control.
I found that for years I would make plans, make more, put a few in place and end up loving or scrapping them based on any one of a number of factors. However, it was not until recently that I realized I was not getting the most of my ideas, or more truthfully I didn’t really know how I was doing.
I needed an assessment scale to know. It needed to be consistent and ask the right questions. For me it’s a simple green/yellow/red scale. The measure is well-defined everybody understands the language and we know where we stand.
Now that we always know how we feel about the plan and the outcome we can decide if we need to improve the plan, improve how we execute the plan, both or neither.
That knowledge is really powerful. Through regular implementation we can constantly improve our processes.
When making plans, ask “how will we know?”, and measure at the end of the work. Good questions will lead you to better plans next time.