Tag Archives: Coaching

Culture

I ran across this list, 17 Ideas for the modern world of work from altMBA, and it has me thinking. Dangerous, I know. But it’s summertime and my head is less likely to explode sitting on the back patio listening to the birds chirping. I’ve read this list several times. I know it’s targeted to the business world, but I see many parallels to the sports coaching world. One thing on the list caught my eye from the very first time I read it; it is the idea of culture. Here’s the quote from the altMBA list:

Culture defeats everything.
We accept the culture as something fixed, immutable, impervious to our efforts to change it.
And because it feels so permanent, we also begin to ignore it. A bit like gravity.
But culture is the deal maker, the deal breaker, the energy that changes everything.
Do culture on purpose. It’s worth it.

Out of the list of ideas, I like this one the most. Culture is a game changer. In sports, we call it things like team chemistry, coaching philosophy, captain’s councils and the like. What these really do is to establish the culture of a team. Whether you’re coaching T-ball or kid’s tennis or club basketball or small town high school football, you must establish a culture of success. I guarantee there is not a highly successful program out there which doesn’t have a well-established “winning” culture.

As coaches, we were more than likely players at one stage in our life. When deciding what type of culture you want in your program, I always like to start looking forward by looking back.

First, what program culture would I have liked playing in? Recall the good and the bad from my experiences. Incorporate the good but also use the bad as well. Design your team culture to best avoid the things you considered pitfalls from your experiences. Do not repeat crap! 

Second, look back on what worked and what didn’t work in your previous campaign. Does something need to change? Do we need to adjust what we did in the past with what we think the future holds? Ask yourself the hard question and delve deep to find the answers. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, think everything is peachy perfect. Even an undefeated, state title team has issues. Be honest and be better. Most importantly, make the changes!

Next, look forward.

What is your dream as a coach? What’s holding you back from these dreams? One of my favorite little life snippets is, “Dream it & go do it”. Take the first step on your dreams. It’s like writing a story, or a blog post rant; it’s all a blank page until you start laying the words down one by one. Build the dream. Brick by brick.

What are your players dreams? Ha! I got you there, didn’t I? How many of us coaches ask players for input on their culture? Kids in this 21st-century world are smart. They may seem to care more about snaps and contacts and followers, but they are smart. Include them. Include their dreams. Sure the team is run by one voice or a few voices, yours as the coach and the voices of the coaching staff, but doesn’t that ONE VOICE sound a whole lot sweeter when it rings of many? The culture needs to reflect the team with all its inherent roles and positions included. The team becomes the culture, the culture becomes the team.

Take a hard look at your personnel for the coming season. Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate. If you think one kid would be better playing a different role on the team, sell it to them. That’s right, you have to be part salesman to be a coach. Not only do you have to inspire team members, you have to convince them to do things they don’t often like to do. Getting the pieces to fit, sometimes takes a bit of maneuvering and wiggling and not hammering. Sell it. And sell it within the scope of the culture you are creating.

Success begets success. Perhaps the hardest part of this team culture idea is the passing down of its principles and customs to the next generation of players. I’ve struggled in the past both with highly talented upperclassmen caring for what comes after them and incoming newbies who know all and believe they have “arrived”. It’s hard to convince 17-18 year-olds they will carry their home pride with them when they move to the next step in life. It’s hard to fully convince kids of any age to buy in and fully invest their physical, intellectual, and emotional self into something where there’s a chance one might fail. Peer to peer influence is so much more effective in establishing this facet of culture. Failure is an option. Never accept failure. Fail and regroup and come back stronger as an individual and as a team. Keep swinging, as the baseball coach in me likes to say.

I do like this idea of culture. It rings true and plays a huge part in the success of an organization. If you are a coach or a player, think about these things on the altMBA list. Let them rattle around in your head a bit. See what develops and then get busy.

I will continue to ponder the list, for sure. (You should hear the rattling in my head right now.)

Until next time.

Now, go get yourself some culture.

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Dear Juniors

Dear Juniors,

Graduation Day. A day of celebration and a day to honor the graduating seniors. When I coached high school, it was one of my favorite days. No, it wasn’t because kids I’d been around for four years were finally leaving. It was because the kids I’d been around for four years, kids who came in as immature, raw, smartass freshmen, had accomplished tough things and were now mature, almost fully developed, smartass seniors ready to make their mark upon the world. It was a great honor to be a small part of their journey, so the day was special to a coach.

Today the spotlight is on the seniors. They deserve it.

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain (RELEASED)

But I’d like to turn the all-seeing eye on you juniors. In a few short hours, after the final note Pomp and Circumstance fades into the dusk, YOU will be the seniors. Your final journey down High School Lane begins. Like it or not, the next step you take will be as a senior. Father Time has turned the hourglass over and the first grain of your senior year sand has fallen.

My question to you, Dear Junior.

What are you going to do?

It is your time. Time to step up and push the wagon. No more riding along, going where the previous few years’ wagon went. It’s time for you to shine. Time to dig your heels into the ground, roll up your sleeves, and get to work. Every second you wait after the sun sets on this graduation day results in more sand disappearing from your own senior year clock.

Tick, tock…

What are you going to do?

As seniors, you will have expectations. Accept them. Don’t turn your back on them or default these responsibilities to others. Take the challenges head on and with an intent on fulfilling the expectations with your own talents. Be a leader. A good leader. Be someone that the younger kids want to follow. Don’t lead through threat, fear, or intimidation. As the saying goes, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” Help the underclassmen and show them the way we do things within our traditions and community. Pick them up; don’t stomp them down. You make yourself better by making those under you better so set a good example. Be a leader.

What are you going to do?

I challenge you to sit down tomorrow morning as you start your last week of class as a junior and write down what you want to accomplish. Academics, activities, sports, work, finances, etc. Make a physical list. Take this list and put it where you can see it when you wake up each morning. Put a copy in your school locker. Remind yourself constantly of your dreams.

Next, make a plan. List the things you need to do each and every day to accomplish your goals. Carry this with you. Make it part of who you are. Do the things on your plan consistently. Make them a habit. Fail. Step back. Strategize. Attack. Succeed. Challenge. Repeat.

Success breed success.

Tell someone else your goals. A friend. A family member. Heck, you can even send your goal(s) to me. Merely having the ingrained thought in your psyche that someone else knows your goal(s) is a powerful motivator. There is power in sharing. You and your buddy are less likely to sleep through summer conditioning if your buddy knows you want to hit opponents like a cannon shot on the football field and you know he wants to rush for 1,000-yards.

Today, speeches will be made wishing the graduating seniors good luck in their future endeavors and celebrating a milestone in their lives. We all wish them well.

But Juniors, come tonight at sunset…

  • Your life will change.
  • You must vacate your seat in the wagon and start pushing it.
  • Your time has come.
  • Make the most of it.
  • Leave your mark.

Juniors, it is your time.

What are you going to do?

My eye is on you and I expect great things from you.

Hard work is the magic.

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#ThatSportsParent

One of the scourges of modern youth sports is out-of-line parents. The headlines are full of incidents involving overzealous parents. Odds are, each of us can pinpoint an incident of ugly parent behavior at a sports event no matter how small a town we live in. It’s threatening the very existence of youth sports and, more importantly, taking the FUN out of the game.

But when is it okay to get involved as a parent?

“So what happens when you’re the parent that yells for your own son (good but not the star) to sit so that a few of the others on the team can get some playing time because you’re up by 10 to a way lesser team? ”

Somebody I respect greatly asked me the above question a few weeks ago. It’s a tough question to answer, but I’ll give it a try. I’ll try to answer from a coach’s perspective and try to wall off my parental perspective because Lord knows, I’ve screwed up many times on that side of this issue. I’ve been there. I’ve felt the parental frustration seep its way into my competitive fire in less than positive ways.

So, here’s my personal philosophy on sports parenting and complaints.

First and foremost, a parent should be their kid’s biggest fan, not be their sports agent. There are truly legitimate situations in which a parent should intervene on behalf of their sports child. Physical, mental, or emotional abuse from either other players or from coaches should be reported immediately. In these situations, the parent needs to be the bulldog, the protector, and jump in and refuse to back down until a resolution is achieved.

But sports parents, listen up…Depth chart and playing time and play calling probably do not fall into this category of necessary parental intervention.

I’ve always felt there are three things every parent needs to do before they get involved. They are not easy to do. A parent needs patience and the ability to wall off emotion in this context.

  1. Observe the situation from an honest viewpoint.
  2. Be honest. This can be soooo hard, especially if you have those visions of your kid being the best thing since sliced bread. Step back and take an honest look at where your kid’s talent falls in respect to the other kids.
  3. Allow your kid to handle the simple situations. Have them find out from the coach or other players where they sit and develop a plan to get better.

My playing time thoughts depend on the level of play. If it’s a varsity high school level of competition, I believe in playing as few, or as many, players as necessary for the situation. We want to be highly competitive at the varsity level. We also want to balance player/program development, situational skills we may need to groom for later use, and get game reps with new plays or skills.

The developmental level of competition, middle school, freshman, junior varsity is where I like to play everyone as equally as possible during a game. Sure, the goal is still to win the contest, but we need EVERYONE in the program learning how to do their job in order to achieve success as a team. The game situation is where we can identify individual or team areas for improvement while gaining experience. The future, both the near future or the far future, carries a higher priority at the developmental level than winning or losing. (The developmental level is where many parents allow the basic purpose to slip away and the emotions to pressurize.)

Finally, there is the private or club sports environment. This area has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade. My only advice right now for parents in these situations is as follows:

If you, as a parent, are unhappy with a club situation, whether playing time, depth chart, game management or practice management, then I suggest talking with your kid about the situation. If it bothers your kid and/or the other kids on the team, then schedule a meeting with the coach.

Schedule this meeting at a neutral emotion time (NOT before, after, or during a game, a practice, or in a public setting.). Meet with the goal being to solve the problem, not create new problems.

If you are unhappy with the outcomes of this meeting, I suggest moving to a new situation for the next season.

If you are unhappy seek a viable alternative or take advantage of alternative solutions that are presented to you. Don’t spread your misery. Sports are too much fun to be blanketed in this negativity.

Sports can teach kids a lot about life. Allow them to learn. Allow them to develop. Allow them to understand being part of the whole is better than trying to be the whole part.

Give them the opportunity.

most-annoying-sports-parents.jpg

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Your Purpose 4Q

Execution of purpose.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect.”. Our parents, teachers, coaches, etc. have been telling us this little nugget of wisdom for years upon years, right? Well…it’s about as wrong as me watching the Olympic track & field competition and claiming I’m exercising.

Practice makes perfect ONLY if your practice goal is to be perfect. This means every repetition you perform—and skill development is ALL about repetition—must be done with a drive to improve. A drive to get just a little better each and every time.

We all go through the motions at times in our lives. It’s another slice of human nature. It’s just as easy to coast through practice as both a player and as a coach. This is particularly true as we approach the last third of a sports season and the routine gets…well, routine. As I said in the previous post, time is our biggest enemy. I think we can agree on that, don’t you?

THEN WHY DO WE COACHES WASTE SO MUCH TIME???!!!!

Sorry for shouting, but that wasting practice time thing is a pet peeve of mine. As a player, I hated the standing around doing nothing when there was a whole lot of talk happening and very little action. It drove me nuts back then and still drives me nuts as a 52-year-old.

Have your purpose. Have your plan. But most of all, have the drive and the ability to lead others toward the goal. A coach has to keep a practice session hopping. The average adult attention span (8 seconds) has now dipped below the average attention span of a goldfish (9 seconds). I could infer then that the hormone-driven teenage boy’s attention span would stand to pale in comparison to the goldfish. So if you are going to successfully deal with young athletes, you’d better plan on keeping things short and snappy.

Every season, every week, every day, every minute, every second need someone driving the bus in the right direction and at the right speed. THAT is another one of those unique characteristics of good coaches.

I am a firm believer in coaching fundamentals and drilling fundamentals. A technically sound player is a player you can depend on and build a team upon. There’s only one way to develop a technically sound player and that’s by working toward the goal of perfection with practice and repetition

In fact, you can even sneak this work in where the players don’t even realize they are working. During football practice, we used to do a 15-minute session at the start of practice with the kickers, long snappers, holders, and returners working on their skills. A good portion of the QBs, running backs, and receivers would be a part of this but very few linemen which left a big (both in sheer numbers and sheer size) part of the team watching.

Nobody likes to stand around and watch kickers kick, so we started this game where the linemen did a one-on-one pass drill. Coach Lane and I would be the quarterbacks, each with a line of lineman with us. The first guy in line would jump out and play defense and the second guy would be the receiver and run a pass route. The fifteen minutes would fly by. The Bubbas would really get into the competition, trying to score a reception on the offensive side or getting an interception or a pass breakup on the defensive end.

It was fun! The linemen would get the rare chance to touch the football, they would get a chance to talk trash and prove their skills in front of everyone. I also had fun slinging footballs in my best Kenny Stabler imitation.

But while all this was going on, nobody ever realized they were actually working. They worked on their footwork, they worked on their hand-fighting skills, and they learned how to establish leverage. I think anyone would agree those are all skills important to being a lineman. Also, they probably ran the equivalent of around a dozen or so sprints without complaint or without notice. In contrast, when we lined them up after practice to run a dozen sprints for conditioning, you should have heard the groaning and whining.

Bottom line: Execute your purpose and DON’T WASTE TIME.

In particular, don’t waste practice time. Maximize your purpose in your practice. Every single thing you do should be done for the purpose of getting better. There is no standing still in life or in sports. You are either getting better or going backward.

By the way, it’s too bad no video record exists of the quarterbacking skills of Coach Lane and myself. It was glorious. Not shabby for a couple offensive line coaches. Don’t laugh, I still have the sore arm to prove it…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There wasn’t a whole lot of executed purpose this night, but the picture with the Lane Brothers is one of my favorites and one of the few “action” shots I have.

Final Note: The “Your Purpose?” blog post began as a rant that grew and grew until it was beyond the scope of one post. It became a four post rant. Yowzers! But I’ve seen this problem of lack of purpose derail many teams and programs. Teams that I played on, teams I’ve coached, teams I’ve observed and teams I’ve been a fan of. It bugs the hell out of me, both in my own failures and observed failures. It seems so simple. It seems as simple as wearing pants before going out of the house. You wear pants when you leave the house, don’t you? Then why go “pantless” when you approach coaching?

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Your Purpose 3Q

Time.

We all fight it. We all struggle with it. It’s always moving and there never seems to be enough of it.

Double this sentiment for a sports coach. Time is our biggest enemy. Wasted time is a coach’s biggest regret. That is why we have to build a purpose of time into our greater purpose.

Okay, let’s say we want to win the football game against our rival next Friday night. We need to purpose our time properly. We need to develop a strategy that helps us achieve the vision. We watch scout film, both on our rivals past few games to determine how they approach a game and, just as important, our recent games to evaluate our mistakes. We need to organize and execute the practice preparation to get ready for the contest.  As you can see, every second matters.

Success is no accident or random occurrence.

Time is valuable. It is valuable to everyone. That is something I think we, as coaches, often fail miserably at. Kids have more legitimate time constraints now more than at any other time I can ever remember. Family responsibilities, church obligations, school obligations, extracurricular activities, work, hobbies, multiple sports commitments that demand time, especially in the summer.

As an effective leader working under today’s time constraints, you need to make the most of the time that you ask your players to commit. If you are going to ask them to come for summer conditioning every day at 6:30 AM, you damn well better send them home at 7:45-8:00 AM exhausted and drained so they feel like getting up a 6:30 AM was not a waste of their time. That responsibility is part of the unwritten trust contract I always felt was so important to establish between coach and player. We, as coaches, should be able to look the players in the eye after every practice or workout and say, “Today, I did not waste your time.”

Be able to fulfill that promise with a solid purpose of time day after day after day and you will have a team who will follow you to the ends of the earth. A team who will jump into the fire with you and compete with every fiber of their being. A team who will believe in your purpose and wrap themselves heart and soul with it. A team with complete trust in you as a coach; a trust that weaves its way through every member of the team.

  • THAT is the point of critical mass.
  • THAT is when the fun starts.
  • THAT is the magic of sports.

And it all starts with TIME.

Wooden_hourglass_3

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Your Purpose 2Q

“Great dreams aren’t just visions, they are visions coupled to strategies for making them real.” – Astro Teller, X (formerly Google X)

Early in my football coaching career, probably my second or third year, I did one of the most asinine things I ever did as a coach. It was the first week of summer conditioning. A good part of the CCCHS summer conditioning program was my baby. It was a huge responsibility. It was a responsibility I did not take lightly. It was my primary purpose.

I did the work. All year. Researched, read papers, visited K-State Strength Coach Rod Cole, watched videos, etc. ad nauseum to 99.99% of the population. I tried to put together the best program for our kids with the equipment we had or what could be scrounged up or made by the wizard-skills of Coach Lane. It was, a vision coupled with a strategy.

  • Our purpose was to physically hit the opponent like a cannon shot every, single play.
  • Our strategy was to develop the explosive power necessary to generate the force to hit the opponent hard every, single play. In a nutshell, F = ma.

So, the plan was set. We had a good start to the first week. The kids had listened well and picked up on the plan. Sure, there was whining and moaning and even some groaning, but if you’re a coach and you’re not getting some of that appropriately directed complaining, you may reevaluate how you are challenging your kids. I was feeling good. I was riding high.

We show up for the Thursday workout. 6:30 AM. We go through warm-ups. The kids come into the weight room, split off in their Bullets, Bricks, and Bubbas groups, and get to work. Next came the asinine, Coach Hays incident. It started with an innocent tap on my shoulder. I turn and there stands an innocent, young freshman holding a half-inch stack of dot-matrix printer paper and looking down at the ground to avoid all eye contact.

“Yes?” I ask the young man.

He pushes the stack of papers toward me and mutters, “My mom told me I need to do this workout.”

“Oh, really.”

“Yeah, she found it on the internet.”

I nod and take the papers. With the young man still standing there, I take one step forward and ceremoniously drop the internet-found road to athletic glory into the trash receptacle. I then address the bug-eyed, jaw dropped to his navel, freshman.

“Tell your mother where your workout ended up”

He had that distinct look of someone who was about to pee their pants.

“Also, tell her we know what we’re doing. Now go get to work.”

He released a slow sigh of relief, smiled, and joined his workout group. Not a word was heard on that issue again.

Take-home lesson:

  • Have a purpose that is backed up by a solid plan.
  • TRUST the plan.
  • SELL the plan to your people.

Also, don’t be a jackass in the process…unless it’s totally necessary.

Great dreams need a vision.

Plate

Note: That young freshman turned out a pretty damn good athlete in the long run—even without the collective intellect of internet weightlifting workouts. Excellent football player, state-caliber wrestler, all-around good (and ornery) guy, and very successful adult family man/businessman.

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Your Purpose?

“Dreams aren’t just visions, they’re visions coupled to strategies for making them real.” -Astro Teller

Purpose sounds like something so, so simple. It seems like common sense to have a defined purpose when one takes on an endeavor. Especially in a sports endeavor, you would think approaching that sport with a purpose and a systematic plan would come natural, right? It seems purpose should be one of the necessities of sports coaching, don’t you think?

Truth is, it’s not.

Wanting to win is not a purpose. Everybody wants to win. It’s human nature to want to succeed; it’s written in our DNA. But what sets coaches and programs apart from one another often starts with purpose. Effort and hard work are essential but without a purpose effort and work are wasted.

I used to see this lack of purpose, or more accurately a lack of defined purpose, quite often in the coaching world. There are two types of purposeful coaches. The first are the ones who just copy or borrow a purpose. You see this type a lot at coaching clinics. They hear a talk or see a workout or scheme program and take it lock, stock, and barrel back to their kids and try to make their kids fit into it.

The other type of purposeful coach—the ones I think are generally more successful in their programs—take the same information as the first type of coach but they pick, choose, and mold those ideas to fit their athletes. They know their purpose and know how to mesh information to support their purpose.

In high school sports, a coach must lead with a purpose. Every day and with everything you ask kids to do must be done for a reason. You can’t throw a blanket idea out there expecting the kids to see the purpose and commit to it. That is not what a leader does.

A leader leads.

A leader has a defined purpose.

A defined purpose that is custom fit for his or her athletes.

A purpose that gives the athletes the best chance at success. A purpose they also can envision. A purpose they willingly dedicate themselves to attain.

Everybody wants to win. They just need guidance and need to be shown the way.

The answer is not simply in a book. The answer is not simply in a purchased training program. The answer is not what Coach X does at X College.

The answer is defining a purpose that your people can buy into. A purpose that does not waste their time and not wasting kids’ time is VERY IMPORTANT in today’s culture. A coach is competing with all kinds of pretty damn fun and cool alternatives to working your ass off for three hours a day every day, you better make your time with them worth THEIR time.

Whatever the endeavor, if you’re not happy with the results you are getting, try redefining your PURPOSE. You and your people may find you like the results.

Rings

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