This past February I attended a Glazier Coaching Clinic for football in St. Louis. I attended a session put on by the Marine Corps on Leadership in athletics. The information I gained in the session helped to inspire this week’s blog. I hope you can take something away from it.
As we get started I am going to have you ask yourself the same two questions the Marines had us ask ourselves: 1) Why did you play your sport (the one you coach) 2) Why do you coach this sport? In order to be a successful coach, you must find the joy and passion that got you involved in the sport to begin with. Once you reconnect with that joy and passion, you are able to bring out the best in yourself and those whom you coach.
The most important thing you must do is recommit to being a role model for your kids. Coaching is all about getting your kids to do what they don’t want to do. In order to do this they have to respect you, and they won’t respect you unless they see you as a role model. So how do you become a role model? First, don’t forget what it was like to be a kid. Ask yourself this, “What would the 16-year-old version of me think of myself today?” Secondly, model the behavior on and off the court you want your kids to have. Thirdly, show genuine care, concern, and interest for all of your kids. If you do these three things, they will come to see you as a role model. John Wooden is the perfect example on how to be a role model as a coach. He taught his players more than just the game of basketball. He taught them how to be great husbands, fathers, and leaders. He lived the life he talked about; he was able to walk the walk.
All of us in the coaching profession want to be successful on the court, but I believe what we all want more is for our kids to go on to live successful lives. We try to avoid failure on and off the court and hope our kids do as well. Failure is always an option, so how do you make people not choose that option? First and foremost, you must go back to basics in all that you do. Never assume; you know what happens when you assume, right? To be successful you must have leadership from the coach and the players at the top of the program. It is essential that you fill the void that is left behind by graduating players. In order to do that you must make certain there is a solid foundation in place and that the basic skills and principles are taught each year.
The key to a winning program is to win the games you’re supposed to and half of the games you’re not. In order to do that you must have a blueprint for success. I am going to share the four cornerstones for that blueprint with you that I learned from the Marines Corps.
The first cornerstone is Environment. As a leader it is essential that you define your environment. You must provide a context for what you’re asking your players to do. Once you’ve defined what success is for your program, you absolutely must remove all obstacles. Find out who’s loyal, who’s on the fence, and who’s not. A great quote to summarize this says, “We will get there with or without you. Not in spite of you.”All bad apples and fence sitters must not be allowed to become a distraction. If they do, they must be removed.
Secondly, you have to create a vision. As a leader you must define where you want to go, what values must be instilled, and how they will be carried out. This cornerstone requires that you look at where the program has been and where you want it to go. Once this is clear, the leader has to get everyone to buy in. The long-term vision for our basketball program is compete in the state level year in and year out and win a state championship. All parties involved will have to work hard and make sacrifices, but this is easy to get once a clear vision has been established.
The third cornerstone of a successful program is values. As the leader of a program you must determine what values you will establish that are important to long-term success. Three values from the Marines that translate to any sport, business, or career path are: honor, courage, and commitment. I would recommend having around five core values for your program. If you have more than that you start to lose focus on the most important ones. It is okay to discuss and teach more than the five core values, but always hold true to those core values.
The fourth and final cornerstone is your identity/mantra. The identity/mantra is your program’s rallying cry. One of the most famous ones out there comes from Notre Dame Football: “Play like a Champion Today.” Our basketball team’s mantra this past year was “All In.” This was symbolic of every person giving their best all the time, believing in oneself, and the collective group. There are countless examples out there to choose from, but be sure when picking your team’s mantra that you choose something that is true to the program. Find something that illustrates that unique motivation that you and your team possess. Everybody wants to be a part of something great and unique. What makes what you and your program are offering better than the rest? Your identity and your mantra will become apart of the tradition you help build.
Always remember to focus on people first. Coaching is a people business. Strive to create an environment that focuses attitude and effort first; success will follow.
Be sure to check out the announcements tab today while on the site. Big things are coming and I’m extremely excited about it.
As always, thanks for reading, have a great day, and be and RGP!