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It’s the end of an early season practice and over 30 high school girls are split into two teams. They’re competing against each other in an obstacle course relay. First, they have to run sprints around cones and then backpedal to the baseline. Next, they go through a hurdle challenge. Then they pick up a 10 pound medicine ball and have to run to the opposite baseline, back to mid-court, and then sprint through.

One of the teams is a player short and needs someone to go twice. No one steps forward…Until a freshmen who was finishing her first day of tryouts.

During the race, one team’s medicine ball keeps rolling away from the target location. Added to that, the hurdle bar was continuously being knocked out-of-place. Unil…one of the team members ran up and stood by the hurdles and medicine ball to make sure her team had the best chance to win.

As a coach, what do you do when this happens?

Well, yesterday during our pre-practice talk, I called those two girls up in front of the entire program, acknowledged them, and celebrated their example.

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As a coach, you have to be continuously on the lookout.

What are you looking for? 

You’re looking for the values your program stands for.

In order to build an authentic culture, coaches have to catch players doing what they value early, and often. And when they do, you celebrate the heck out of it. Contrary to traditional beliefs and practices, coaches shouldn’t seek out the negative. Rather, they should ignore it. Now, I’m not saying you don’t correct errors. What I am saying is don’t draw attention to behavior which would be countercultural to your program’s values.

Let’s face it players are attention seekers. They are looking for what behavior will be allowed, tolerated, and accepted. It’s important for us coaches to remember this:

“What you don’t coach or celebrate; you accept.”

In any given practice or game there are countless teachable moments. It’s our job as coaches to utilize those moments. I am making a conscious effort to praise louder than I ever have. Our coaching staff is focused on intentionally seeking examples of the type of play, players, and culture we want to embody.

Lastly, we cannot forget the most important aspect; our example. We have to be the embodiment of what we want our players to be. As Coach Wooden said, “Players need role models, not critics.” Players have a funny way of taking on the personality of their coaching staff. In our program we want to have fun, bring energy, enthusiasm, and outwork our opponents every day.

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How can we expect our players to do that if we don’t bring our best every day?

There’s going to be days where you don’t feel it, especially after a late night from an away game the night before. Yesterday, I was feeling a little tire and sluggish before practice. So, I took five minutes to relax, recharge, gain my focus and energy, and I brought my best. In return, our girls put forth tremendous effort and we had the best practice effort and energy wise we’ve ever had.

In the early stages of the season, we have to catch our players displaying what we want to see. We have to do this early and often, and we have to celebrate it LOUDLY!

As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!

~Kyle

Coach Elmendorf is available to speak to your team, group, or organization. Message him for details.