Tag Archives: athletic development

New Year, New You (Athlete Edition)

The New Year, New You (Athlete Edition) is the final part of a three-part series about improvement as we turn the calendar on a new year and a new decade. It’s short and sweet and to the point. Here are the links to the Coaching Edition and the Sports Parent Edition if you’re interested.

This one is simple. If you want to be better, do the work.

Aspire. Set a goal. Do the work. Fail. Do more work. Achieve. Repeat.

Trust in yourself and in your dreams. If you love a sport, play it until you can’t. Enjoy playing and participating. Please, if you are miserable playing and don’t enjoy any part of a sport, find something else to do with your time that you do enjoy. Don’t play a sport to make somebody else happy.

Learn to derive self-satisfaction and celebrate your accomplishments no matter if you’re all-world or fifth string. You are out there every day. 

Filter out negativity from peers, teammates, and/or adults. You can do this, people!

It’s a new year. It can be a new you if you want it to be.

Find a goal. Find support. Find a way. Find the will to do the work and you’ll find the magic.

Good luck to all athletes in 2020 and beyond.

New year, new you. 

 

 

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New Year, New You (Coaching Edition)

(Note: This is the 450th post on The Coach Hays blog. You would have thought I’d run out of stupid things to say around post #10, right? Thank you for reading and for your encouragement. As always, feel free to comment or share. Sports are awesome things that provide joy to our lives.)

A new, clean and fresh calendar stares you in the face. So much hope. So much optimism. This version says “2020” and it’s a whole new decade of promise. As a coach, what are you going to do? Do you feel confident in what you’re doing as you look at those blank future pages on the calendar? Are you concerned? 

If you’ve been successful, is what you’ve done good enough for continued success? If you’ve been banging your head against the wall and struggling with your program, are you taking the hard look internally and committing to making changes?

I hope every coach, at every level of a program, takes the time to assess everything you’ve been doing. Weigh every detail for its value and its contribution to making your team and each of your players better every single day of the year.

Former Nebraska coaching legend, Tom Osborne, had a quote about how everybody wants to win, it’s in our human nature. The difference, he said, was in who has the willingness to do the work and dedicate themselves to become better. Everybody wants to win but the difference is in who is willing to do the work. 

Winners do the things losers will not do.

This time of year for football coaches is generally the time of the year to evaluate and learn. There’s the bowl season, the NFL playoffs, the time to read the coaching literature, and there are the coaching clinics.

I used to tell our football players at the beginning of every summer conditioning session that we could stack offensive, defensive, and training manuals and playbooks to fill the entire weight room. There’s so much good information and creativity available to football coaches out there it is mind-boggling. I would tell our kids that what we are doing in our program for that summer and that season is what we believe is the best for them. 

I didn’t tell them the hours spent researching and reading and studying that went into planning a season. The kids don’t need to know that. They don’t really care. All they care about is the hope that the coaching staff is giving them their best shot at being the best athlete they can be. 

Coaches, new year, new you.

Look at everything you are doing, especially at the high school level. Ask yourself if what you are doing is the absolute best that you can do for the particular group of athletes walking through your door in 2020. If you’re doing what you’ve always done, the same way it has always been done because that is what you are comfortable with, you are failing your athletes. One thing that always grated on my nerves was the adherence to the strict legacy of the past. I called it “We do things THIS way because that’s what the Bear (Coach Bear Bryant) said to do.” syndrome.

Don’t get stuck in the coaching rut of rigidly sticking to an offense or defense run by a college program or another highly successful high school program. Remember, YOUR KIDS ARE NOT THEIR KIDS. Colleges recruit specialize talents into their system and most high schools don’t have that luxury. Your kids are the ones who walk through your door every day. 

Take bits and pieces from what you’ve done in the past and combine it with new ideas and concepts to take advantage of the incoming combination of skills and talents. Pay attention to everything at a coaching camp or clinic but pick out the things you feel can work for your program. Understand the fundamentals of what others are doing and avoid trendy sugar coatings. 

(True story. At the 2008 Kansas State coaching clinic, the keynote speaker was Kansas high school coaching legend, Roger Barta. I was stoked to hear his talk as I’d studied things he did at Smith Center with the belly offense for several years. At every coaching clinic, there’s something you see. The young bucks. The young coaches who strut around the clinic in their matching program gear and throw all the current and trendy buzzwords around in their every conversation. The crowd settles and anticipates the magic bullet of success from Coach Barta, the coach is introduced and walks on stage to an overhead projector and a marker. He begins to outline 36 points of what he considers are key to his success. I still have those notes. In my opinion, Coach Barta’s talk was pure gold. I also have the memory of a high percentage of those young buck coaches either getting up and leaving after a few minutes to hit the lunch buffet line again or are not even paying attention and are talking in small groups in the audience. There was no magic bullet so they quit being interested. They missed a treasure trove of fundamental information on coaching, scheme, program building, and life because it wasn’t trendy or flashy or loaded with bells and whistles. I still wonder, even after all these years, how many of those young bucks are still coaching and if they learned there are no magic coaching bullets or what kind of success they enjoyed in their career.)

Mold and create something that fits your current athletes. You wouldn’t wear Urban Meyer’s suit around as is if he sent you one, would you? No, you’d tailor it to fit yourself properly or else you’ll look silly wearing Urban Meyer’s ill-fitting suit. That’s what coaching is about. Finding the best fit for your current athletes and teaching them to perform it to the best of their abilities. Even your traditional, hang-your-hat on facets of your program can be tailored to the players on your practice field every day.

Don’t be afraid to create.

Be willing to tweak and change.

Do the work. Your athletes deserve it.

Learn and grow. Your athletes deserve it.

Coaching becomes exponentially more enjoyable and interesting that way.

Everybody comes out at least a little bit ahead.

New year. New you.

Good luck coaches in 2020! Have a great year!

 

 

 

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Under Your Skin

(This is my 350th post on The Coach Hays blog since I first started this dog and pony show in 2009. To celebrate, I thought a proper rant would be fitting. Thanks for reading and I hope I can keep going for at least 350 more.)

What makes a good athlete? What makes a team successful?

It’s about commitment. It’s about grinding through the work and the repetition. It’s the footwork drills. It’s the extra swings. It’s taking the shots after practice or perfecting your jump technique.

It’s going beyond what the practice and game plans say you should do. It is going beyond what your supporters say and further than your biggest detractors could ever dream was possible.

It’s the competitor’s mark to be permanently worn under your skin.

It’s a mark you wear with pride. As an individual. As a competitor. As a group. As a team. As a family.

  • Not a hashtag.
  • Not a poster hanging on the wall.
  • Not a program t-shirt.

The mark of a winner is burned on your heart. It seeps into every nook and cranny of your competitor spirit.

You do the work necessary. And then you do it again.

Look in the mirror. What do you see? If you don’t like the results you are reaping, look at what you are sowing.

  • Are you putting in the work? Input = Output.
  • Are you blaming instead of improving?
  • Talking instead of performing?
  • Whining instead of winning?

If you don’t like where you’re at, then take the steps to move forward. Sow the good seed.

Ask yourself, “Am I along for the ride or am I going to put this team on my shoulders and rise to the top?”

Commit. Improve. Do the work.

Hard work is the magic.

Wear the mark of a competitor. Decide if your mark is a temporary tattoo or if is it written in your marrow.

Be dependable. Be consistent. Be a rock.

Wear your commitment under your skin. As I’ve said before, Be Indelible.

Permanent and unshakeable. 

TLWtattoo

Photo used with permission. #TLW13

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Athletic Alphabet

I don’t like playing freshman on the varsity level in high school. Never have liked it, probably never will like it. It’s personal preference backed up by years of personal observation. I’ve too often seen a developmental flatline in the athletes who played varsity as freshman through the rest of their high school career.

Very few of these kids are better all-around varsity players as seniors than they were when first stepped onto a varsity field as a freshman. Their growth curve as an athlete always seems to stagnate in comparison to their classmates who didn’t start playing varsity until a year or two later.

Why?

I don’t really know for sure.

Maybe it’s mental. Perhaps the athlete consciously or unconsciously feels they have achieved their destination and don’t need to get any better. The “I HAVE ARRIVED” syndrome.

Maybe it’s physical. The athlete was an early-bloomer whose later-developing peers were able to surpass them.

Most likely it is theses athletes don’t ever learn their Athletic Alphabet.

Huh?

The Athletic Alphabet is the collection of basic things an athlete needs to learn in their sport. Technique, playbook, physical tools, intensity, motivation/drive, execution, experience, plus many other things are the collected in the alphabet.

I am a much better developmental coach than I could ever be as a varsity head coach. My strength was in the development of athletes by making the athletes realize they need to get better every day. When the athlete would achieve their goaI, I would pat them on the back and then turn up the pressure with a new, more loftier, goal.

I tried to get them to understand the importance of a step by step approach to being a competitor AND pounding it into their young, teenage heads this step by step approach never stops. There is always someone out there better than you are. Never be satisfied being the best on your team or in your town.

The alphabet analogy came early in my coaching career. We were coming back from a dismal freshman football performance. I was not a happy camper on the bus. I challenged the players to invest in learning the things they needed to learn to play high school football. Learn their job on every play and learn how to do that job correctly with the techniques we developed through effort every day in practice and drills.

I told them their middle school football experience taught them only the letters A, B, and C. They needed to start learning more letters because what the hell could you spell with only an “A”, a “B”, and a “C”?

Cab. That’s it…one word! Cab.

You can’t get very far in life knowing only the word, “cab”, can you?  

Even if that one word or that one thing you can currently do is pretty damn good, it is not nearly good enough. If you learn how to use all 26 letters in the alphabet, though, you can make any word. Armed with the whole A thru Z in your arsenal, you can create eloquent sentences and communicate effectively with others.

As an athlete, you need to learn, develop and master the basics of a sport before you can be highly competitive at that sport. In sports, you need the whole Athletic Alphabet to fill your potential.

Don’t be satisfied.

Don’t settle for someone just giving you a spot on the hill. Strive (and do the requisite work) to be KING OF THE HILL.

There is no such thing as “good enough”.

The ultimate competition is with yourself.

There is only you and your potential.

Never stop getting better.

photo (12)

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Slingers

I am a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell. I just like the way he thinks and researches things. He seems to be that kind of interesting person you’d like to talk to on a train ride across the midwest. Like I said in the last post, he might be the actual, living Most Interesting Man In The World.

One of the first articles from Gladwell I read was The Physical Genius (The New Yorker, August 1999). In the article he wrote about advanced gestalt psychology development and vision in great athletes, like Wayne Gretsky and Tony Gwynn, a musician (Yo Yo Ma), and a neurosurgeon, (Dr. Charlie Wilson). These gestalt-exhibiting athletes are able to see and perceived the whole as more than just the collective sum of the parts. Brilliant and thought-provoking stuff. 

In his book,  DAVID AND GOLIATH: UNDERDOGS, MISFITS, AND THE ART OF BATTLING GIANTS, Gladwell explores the underdog and how the underdog often succeeds by taking advantage of what the “giant” sees as disadvantages. Below is a link to a video of Gladwell talking about his spotlight example in the story of David and Goliath. It is well worth a few minutes of your time to watch and listen to this Ted Talk about David and Goliath. He talks about how David took advantage of his slingshot skill to beat the intimidating giant Goliath. The value of a “slinger” is explained in detail. At the very minimum, you will leave this video with a whole new viewpoint about a Bible story we all thought we knew.

Too many people look at things like King Saul:

  • Be like everyone else
  • Operate like everyone else
  • Stick to the convention.

Because of who we ARE, we have to approach things differently. Like I’ve mentioned more than a few times before, we aren’t big, we aren’t particularly fast, we aren’t incredibly naturally talented, but we are who we are. We have to approach things from a non-conventional direction in order to develop into a successful team with the ability to slay the giants we faced. We developed our kids to be SLINGERS to battle the giants. Mobile, agile and able to hit the opponent like a cannon shot all game long.

The successes we had almost always lined up to the times we held tight to the David philosophy and tailored everything to that particular group of kids. Our failures more often than not came when we tried to squeeze square pegs into the round holes of convention. Instead of forcing these kids into our conventions, we should have been kicking down the round-holed-wall and rebuilding it to the necessary specs fitted for the current players.

Now, where’s my slingshot?

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Fully Formed

I had this recurring dream about showing up to the locker room one day and meeting the principal at the coach’s office door. No, I was not in trouble so this wasn’t the usual administrative nightmare which, in all actuality, was my coaching reality. In my dream, the principal is standing at the office door to introduce me to the strapping athlete at his side, who just happened to transfer to our school. A Brian Urlacher-type. Ready-made out of the box ready to step on the field and dominate.

Fully formed.

Ready to go.

But this never happened. Sure we had our share of kids transfer in, but none of them ever was a Division I caliber athlete.

The mythology of the transfer student.

The mythology of “fully formed” is just that…a myth.

Even in the writing game, nothing starts fully formed. An idea becomes a sentence, the sentence becomes a paragraph, the paragraphs become chapters, and the chapters become a draft. The draft is chopped up and reworked, and then polished to a shine. Next, trusted people read it, suggest changes, and the whole process repeats itself until the book is fully formed.

Hard work is the magic.

Nothing is fully formed out of the box.

When I was just starting out in coaching, I used to grump and griff around that the new kids coming into the program didn’t already know the things I wanted them to know. I’d get frustrated when the kids couldn’t do the things I thought they should do.

I was an idiot.

I would grumble out loud, but Mrs. Hays would point out, “If those kids already knew everything, they wouldn’t need to pay you now, would they?”

Thanks, Mrs. Hays.

I would point a finger at the developmental level coaches and Coach Lane, who taught freshman English class, would say, “I can’t expect 8th graders to come in knowing freshman English, I need to teach them freshman English.”

That’s why he was such a good head coach and mentor.

Everyone needs work. Everyone needs coaching and teaching.

Fully formed never just walks in the door.

Done right with a developmental approach, though, and fully formed can walk out your door.

Developing athletes is a sports coach’s #1 job. It truly is why they pay us.

Developing athletes is the key to success. Make the kids who walk through your door the best they can be. Help them realize their potential and their dreams.

Send them away at the end of their time with you as  fully formed as you can make them.

DB+Parallettes

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