Tag Archives: Team building

Rowing or Riding?

Which athlete are you? The one who rows the boat or the one who simply rides along?

I read an interesting blog post today from Seth Godin called Along for the Ride that reminded me of this aspect of team sports dynamics.

“How long have you been along for the ride? When is your turn to actually drive?”

As a player or a coach, these questions should be a constant in your development.

  • When is it your time to step up?
  • Did you miss it?
  • Did you ignore it?
  • Do you want nothing to do with it?

We are seeing an increase in younger athletes getting on the varsity sports field. Freshman, sophomores are being thrown into key team roles.  I have also noticed a trend where these same young players are thrown into the fire often don’t seem to get much better.

They are as good when they walk out the door as they were when they walked in.

These kids get put on the boat as riders and never develop into rowers.

Athletes need to eventually take the responsibility of driving the team train. Experience and leadership can’t ride the train. Experience and leadership need to be the drivers.

It’s your turn to step up.

It’s your turn to row.

Be what you are meant to be.

Out work. Out hustle. Out perform. Every day.

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There’s no “I” in team, but there is a “ME” #2

“There’s no “I” in team, but there sure as heck is a “ME”.”

Of all the stupid coach-things I ever said, this was one of my favorites and maybe the wisest stupid thing I’ve ever said. It kind of goes against the grain against the popular “No ‘I’ in team” sayings we are so familiar with.

A good team is not a group of harmoniously tuned clones; a good team is a collection of individuals, from diverse backgrounds and personalities, who work well together toward achieving a goal.

I did not care where you came from.
I did not care who your friends were or what interests you had.
I did not care who your parents were.
I did not care where you came from.

What I cared about was how you contributed to the team. What I cared about was this. When you stepped across the white line and onto the field, you put the blinders on and committed to working toward making the team better.

Every minute, every hour, every day.

There is some intriguing research being down on the team concept in education, business, etc. Po Bronson, co-author of TOP DOG: THE SCIENCE OF WINNING AND LOSING, has some interesting ideas about the team.

One very important find from the research identifies the 60/30/10 Rule as a formula for a team, whether business, sports, education, etc.

60% of a team’s success is directly related to who is on the team. This means talent. Talented teams succeed. Building a team and/or acquiring talent matters in a big way. The talent level matters more than most people ever realize (or wish to admit). Coaches/leaders are important, but not nearly for the reasons most of us believe.

30% of the success is in the setup of the team. The setup of a team includes the program’s philosophy, goals, and the road map plan to get there. The single most important thing a leader can do to give a team the best chance to succeed is to clarify the roles on the team. Every member of the team should have a role and understand this role.

10% has to do with leadership. The leader’s job, once the team’s goals and roles are established, is to keep the team on course. Don’t micromanage a team.

So what the research is saying is that coaches are not the wizards most people perceive them to be. Coach K, Bill Self, or Bill Snyder are all exceptional in their set up of a team by implementing their goals, philosophies, and role clarification. Where these coaches excel at is acquiring talent and getting those players onto the field with the program’s goals, philosophies and specific roles fully ingrained.

They set and keep the course, not micromanage.

There’s a misconception about a team that everyone must get along. This is crap. Seriously. Harmony and chemistry are two very different things. Harmony means a peaceful, constant state. Harmony does not equate to team, though. Harmony kills progress with complacency. Sure you need some team harmony; you can’t be a team that goes for each other’s throats at every turn, that’s dysfunctional.

One of my biggest coaching pet peeves was the deal making kids would do. The
‘I’ll go easy and scratch your back if you’ll go easy and scratch mine” of the #1’s on the depth chart vs the #2’s and #3’s on the depth chart during drills and scrimmages. I want competition, I want fire. I want an environment the #2 is out to beat the #1 and the #3 is out to put the #2 and the #1 on the edge.

A little skirmish every now and then is not a bad thing for a team. Just don’t allow these little skirmishes to develop into team rifts. Players should challenge each to get better, not beat down each other. Serious issues need to be addressed and resolved early prior to becoming team rifts.

Chemistry is a mix of team member’s personality and skills which move the team forward and drive every member to get better. The players in the mix don’t have to be homogenous. They can be as different as can be. The only thing that matters is the team moves toward its goals.

A team needs someone to rock the boat and be a catalyst to trigger improvement. A team needs someone to point out the deficiencies in the team AND (this AND is very, very important) work to find solutions to improve.

Don’t underestimate the power of the individual to a group or team. As a coach, boss, or team leader, make an effort to understand the 60/30/10 Rule. Assemble the best talent you can, define and assign roles, and let people do their jobs.

Individuals matter.

Don’t allow ego to get in the way of progress.

There’s is no “I” in team, but there is a “ME”.

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Leap Of Faith, Trust Your Cape

Being a part of a marriage, a family, or any sort of a team requires the players to take a leap of faith to achieve success. To build this type of faith, there needs to be built a trust between all involved. Faith and trust that the other members of the team unit will take care of their role and do the thing, or things, they are supposed to do. It is a simple concept of a team unit. Everyone has a job and needs to focus on accomplishing that job.
It’s not easy, though. It is not easy to trust that someone else will hold their own, especially when you know their faults and their weaknesses. It’s easy to lack faith in each other and try to perform all the parts yourself. This doesn’t work very well, believe me.
Trust doesn’t come prepackaged and FedEx’d overnight at our convenience. This type of trust and faith needs to be pounded into shape with consistency and time and repetition. Perform adequately. Every time. Over time. The harder the challenge, the more faith and trust is built; a baptism by fire, as I like to say.
When you trust those around you, it’s like wearing the superhero’s cape. Your cape gives you powers beyond just yourself, it makes you stronger, and it makes you a better individual. With a team, a family, or a marriage, the more intertwined the individuals are, the stronger the unit becomes. We need to help those around us build with their own capes by being faithful and trustworthy teammates.

Young Super Hero Standing on Laundry Machines
So, be a true and faithful teammate, wear your capes proudly, and live life as Guy Clark wrote in his song, The Cape:

“Yeah, he’s one of those who knows that life is just a leap of faith.  Spread your                            arms and hold your breath and always trust your cape.”

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There’s No “I” In Team, But There Is a “ME”

Teams are built through shared purpose. Teams are built under a common goal. Team members may be from every race, creed, religion, and socio-economic status. Heck, they can even despise one another, but when they step across the white line, it’s all business. Across that line it becomes all about the common goal.
Teams are formed through challenge and hardship. The team members relish the small victories while continuing toward the common goal.

Teams are forged in the fire of the challenge, fire in the blood, fire in the mind and the burning flame inside the heart. Teams are built on trust. Trust in each other earned through survival of the challenge fire. Each member knows what everyone has sacrificed to be part of the collective. Everyone knows each member has earned their ticket to compete. Everyone trusts everyone else to be prepared physically, mentally, and emotionally to do their job. Trust.

Teams don’t just happen. Teams aren’t built on talk, T-shirts, team pictures, selling candy, having sleepovers or sitting around the campfire singing Kumbaya.
Building a team and building trust takes hard work and sacrifice. Every man, every day. Teams are built by hard work and trust. Team is built by every member taking care of business. A team is built when all the “ME’s” work to become a “WE”.

There is no “I” in team, but there is a “ME”. A whole lot of “ME’s”, in fact, stepping inside the white line to take care of business and achieve the ONE GOAL.

Hard work is the magic.

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I Don’t Care If You’re Chinese, Japanese Or Turpentine-ese.

It was sophomore football, the entry level rung of athletics at Washington High School. Three feeder junior highs thrown together to meld together as a team in the short pure hell period of three-a-day practices in the sweltering Kansas August heat. In reality, what that entailed was the two poor sophomore football coaches had to try and piece together a starting 11 from a group that came in with three starting quarterbacks, three starting centers, there’s tailbacks, three nose guards.

Well, you get the picture. It was almost like three different teams squabbling every day to be the “one” on the field. To make matters worse, the new head sophomore football coach just happened to be my junior high coach, Coach P. So naturally, every starting position won by an Eisenhower Jr. High player was favoritism and cronyism at it highest.

It was very frustrating and at height of our early season misery, we lost our opening game. The third string QB, a Japanese American kid, lost his temper in practice and stated yelling at the coaches accusing them of discrimination. He said they didn’t like him because he was Japanese. Coach P made us all run and run and run and run for lack of a better spur of the moment solution to that accusation.

Coach P had a temper. Once in Jr. High, he blew up at our lack of focus and execution and kicked us off the practice field. We ran toward the school locker room like convicts on a jailbreak. Our football field was inside the school’s track and when the rambling herd was mere yards away from the track, Coach P screamed, “And don’t you dare step on MY track!”

Forty-some kids in full football gear came to a screeching halt. We froze with fear. What were we supposed to do? Nobody dared look back to Coach P (who was probably back there laughing his ass off at us idiots). Finally, after what seemed an eternity, one of the faster running backs at the front of the group slipped out of his cleats and tip-toed across the track. One by one, we followed suit and when everyone has crossed over and, after Coach P had time to quit laughing enough to yell, he screamed, “I said get off my field!”

Forty-some boys sprinted across campus in stocking feet approaching the locker room at near world record speeds.
Our second game that sophomore year was against Shawnee Mission South at their practice field, which was next door to their expansive district football stadium and track. We fell apart on the first half. Coach P silently walked the team over to the stands of the district football stadium for halftime. The team began to sit on the lower level and Coach goes on a rant. “You don’t deserve to sit on the front row. To the top. Now!”

We marched way up to the cheap seats and sat down. Coach P lets it fly. I don’t remember much of what he said because I avoided potential eye contact by watching normal, happy people walk and jog around the stadium track. Coach pointed to an old man jogging on the track and shouted, “Now there’s somebody who knows the value of hard work. You boys need to take a lesson from him.”

Surprisingly, the old man on the track stopped dead in his tracks, turned around and ran in the opposite direction never passing our section of stands again.

Shortly thereafter, when he’d scared most of the bystanders on the track away, I heard him say something that has stuck with me for years. He talked of teamwork. He talked of common goals and the value of putting the team in front of any individual. His final words were most telling. “Boys, I don’t care if you are Chineese, Japanese or Turpentine-ese, I am going to coach you equally and with all my energy. But, I promise you, I will always start the kids who work the hardest and earn their spots.”

He turned and walked away. We continued to get our butts kicked in the second half, though we did play more like a team. The third string QB quit the next day and with his departure many of our squabbles and internal problems left as well. We probably finished around .500 for the season, I really can’t remember. But I do remember having fun the rest of the season and becoming good friends with former junior high rivals.

I always carried a little bit of Coach P around with me in my coaching career. Coach everyone who walks through your locker room door to the best of your ability, every day. Because…

“I don’t care if you’re Chinese, Japanese or Turpentine-ese…”

I’m going to coach you.

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Puzzle Pieces and Patience

After the first few weeks of the 2011 fall sports season, I imagine some are in panic mode about their favorite teams, whether  it’s a grade school,  middle school, high school, college or professional team. Maybe a poor start or some ugliness on the field/court, but it has not been the start of the season coaches, players and fans dreamed of during the preseason. If this sounds like familiar territory, here is one word of advice: PATIENCE.  Give the coaches and the players a chance to find themselves. Give them a chance to establish their footing in the whirlwind disappointing start to the season.

Building a team is a little like making a homemade puzzle.  The coach envisions the team he wants to build from the players he has available. He creates the best picture he can using all the players on the team.  The vision is done and it looks promising. Now it’s time to take the jigsaw to it and cut it into pieces.  A very talented, very experienced team cuts into big easy-to-fit pieces, like a Mickey Mouse preschool board puzzle.  As the raw talent and experience level decreases, though, the pieces become increasingly complex in shape and number.

But, this is not going to be a calm, relaxing Sunday afternoon leisurely putting the puzzle back together. Practice starts and all the puzzle pieces are placed on one of those electric football fields from the kick butt sports game of the 1970’s. The switch is turned on, the board vibrates and all the pieces move around the field.  The team cut into the big, easy-to-fit pieces slides into its place in the big picture easier and faster to make the complete team everyone envisioned.  A team ready to roll. The other teams, the ones with complex shapes and many pieces take more time to aggregate into that team everyone dreams about. They need to put in the work and focus harder on coming together. Unfortunately, sometimes it never really comes together into a picture full of grace and beauty.
If your team puzzle picture never really comes together, don’t be discouraged, don’t raise Cain, don’t fly off the handle, just stay patient and enjoy the parts which are good. Never forget, that although the team did not have the season people dreamed of, those are still some pretty damn important player pieces out there working their tails off.

Finally, remember that in sports, as in life, it is not how you start, but how you finish and compete that is important.

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A Simple Coaching Secret

Psst.
Hey.
Hey you.
Yeah, you.
Do you wanna know a coaching secret?
It’s simple. It’s effective. It’s free. It’s easy and it can change the attitude of your team or organization.  I use it all the time but never realized the power of this secret to transform attitudes until late this summer, when I did a couple guest gigs at several high school conditioning sessions.
What is this secret bit of magic? It’s the word “We”.
I told you it was simple. “We” transforms. “We” unites. “We” ingrains common purpose. “We” trains together to achieve goals. “We” suggests a collective, a common thread within a group and a team. Humans are hard wired for small group functionality. We are small group hunter-gatherers from way back in the day. Our drive and ability to work in groups for a common goal have been part of our machinery since the first human stood up on two feet and walked around. We want to work together, but this unity has to be built and nurtured.
Common purpose, common goals, common challenges and common suffering all unite young people to work together. Doesn’t matter how different they are from each other, it doesn’t matter where they come from or where they are planning to go, they can unite under the umbrella of “we”.
For example, instead of saying, “Today, you guys are running six Terrible 20’s”, say, “Today, we are running six Terrible 20’s.”  The “We” example means we are in this thing together, common purpose to work our asses off because we need to get better.  Both examples have me, the coach, telling the players to go out and run something very, very physically demanding. But, there is a huge shift in attitude from the individual players training, to one with emphasis on the collective good of the group working to prepare themselves.
A simple word can make a huge difference in the approach and philosophy of an organization or team. Successful  teams and organizations unite to work toward achieving a common goal. You can’t force unity, it has to happen, it has to be forged through time and common purpose. Team unity happens every day, but not by isolated, contrived team building activities. Kids have well honed BS meters, it is their superpower. They can sniff out the attempts to force unity and then they will resist. This important use of semantics can make a difference when used every day. “We” can get it done .
Don’t believe a simple word, like “We” can have such a dramatic affect? Try it out. Go out next practice or team meeting and throw it out there. Let it rip and see what happens.

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