Team Malaise

What happens when a team just loses it’s mojo?

Is this simply a “that’s what happens sometimes”, situation or can it be fixed?

Finding the cause, or lighting a spark…is one more important than the other?

Go back. Go deep. Go internal. Ask good questions about why this team plays or works on the things it does. What are the values at the core of the project or program? What’s its collective WHY?

If you can find the seed of its existence and agree that it’s one worth working for, then you can determine the actions that the group must take to move forward, to achieve and take steps in the name of the WHY.

Identify the WHAT, too.  What will you do? What things will you not do? Keep track regularly and enlist a tracking system to hold the whole group to.

These small things are the only things…one piece at a time a team can bring itself back to creating a great future.

Your Mileage May Vary

Have you heard someone talk about a tactic, a coaching idea of some sort, and implemented it in your program to no avail?  It didn’t work.

You’ve worked something in to a practice, or with a team and loved it.  Then, you try it again and are not satisfied?

There’s no simple one-size-fits-all response to these situations. Try it again? Do it differently? Changing a variable might change results, it might not. The most value is in your inspection of the situation. Your testing is important, and your consideration of the “why” and the “how” is just as important as the result.

Make a plan, execute, look back and assess.  Then, plan again.  “Try something new” is only one possible option.

Motive or Mistake?

When something goes wrong we often ask a version of this question: “why did they do that?”

This speaks to intention, that the person planned to screw it up, the “why?” implying that they wanted to make a bad decision. Of course, sabotage might be in play, but usually it’s a given that the person was not motivated to do things poorly.

Errors of all kinds come from a lot of angles. Typically, lack of focus or attention to detail, lack of skill, or poor preparation.

Coaches should understand this and teach focus in addition to skill and strategy, and look to ourselves to ask how we can better prepare our people.

Anticipation & Assessment

Regret.

We act hoping we won’t have regrets for doing that thing. We incur stress that the things we do or have done are wrong; we hope that we are pleased with results of doing.

On the other hand, we don’t as often consider how we might be changed by not taking action.  What if we said no? What if we allowed the status quo to be the status quo?  Might that also change us?

It follows that we should consider the double negative: what have you NOT been doing that, if you had been, would have been a bigger negative?

Assess your plan from all angles and consider all possibilities.

 

Look To The Stars

It makes sense to read what champions have done, to follow the drills posted by those who have had great success, to “do what the best do”.  Following a proven path can lead one to success.

But, nothing is automatic.  Simply because it worked for her does not mean it will work for you. There are lots of possible reasons for this:

-she has more resources than you do…

-his players have more physical tools than your players do…

-her team is better shape than your team is…

-he has four assistants and you work on your own…

One person’s ideas do not always easily translate to another’s situation.  That coach’s ideas just might seem like a fish out of water in your practice plan, or you might not be able to pull it off relative to other things you say and do.

Instead, read and watch things that the successful coaches do and say, value them, and spend time making them your own. How can you take their concepts and make them work for you, with your team, in your situation?

It’s the time YOU spend thinking about YOUR program that is most valuable.

Spare Time?

We ask a lot of Time.

We beg for more of it, wish it would go faster, hope it might slow down, perhaps even if time would simply be a little kinder…time is a pretty important part of our lives.

Time takes blame for it’s shortcomings, “why don’t have I more time?” we ask, as if time cut a few corners last hour and shorted us. “Where did all the time go?” we demand when our days slip away, and somehow it’s Time’s fault for not being around when we need it.

Take a moment (if you can spare it) to think about Time and how we view it.

Should Time get the credit for being productive? Maybe you get the gold star for that one and you should use a small bit of time to plan the next chunk in which you can move forward with your tasks.

Time belongs to all of us, and it’s available to everyone but not used equally.  We own our piece of time.

We don’t have that much time to spare and we can’t give it away to others, but we can choose to waste some, we can share it, and each of us gets to choose how much we how we use it.  It’s up to you.

Tick tock.

Love the Struggle

There’s a lot of talk out there about the current “everyone gets a trophy” culture in youth sports and how it’s tainting the “growing up” experience of current kids.

We talk about the fact that this is bad, and kids are consequently not mentally tough…

What are we doing about it?

Sports are hard. Losing is not fun. We don’t always get what we want.

The idea that something has to change is valid. Youth sports needs help in a lot of places. But, what about the kids already in high school or college who have a real fear of falling short, or even of experimentation. What do do about or with them?

Find a way to include struggle into your day to day activities. Even asking probing questions that don’t have a clear answer can provide a challenge. Push back on assumptions, ask “why?” and “what else do you see/think/feel?”.

These will work to provide safe struggle that can help us get used to being uncomfortable.

This is real and coaches should look closely at helping kids with perfectionist streaks and all kinds of fear.

What We Want

What do we want? What do others want from us? Do you know? Is it important to know?

If we say we absolutely know what we want, that we have our eyes on the prize, that our goals are crystal clear…are we selling ourselves short? Might that prize be “less than” we can achieve if we have a great set of processes and ways of doing?

“This is what I want”, is results-focused thinking without any real definition of “better”, or a goal to reach for and, most importantly, the process that it will entail.

Teams will say “we want to win a championship!”  Great. How? Do you have a plan to go with the want?  A really, really specific plan or set of behaviors that you commit or (or at least know you should commit to) in an effort to reach a goal?

What we want is not as important as what we’ll do and who we’ll be day to day. Help figure this out by asking the key questions like: what do people/teams who get what we want likely do day to day to move toward that want? Do more of that and teach your teams how to know what to do in the short term as you move toward that end game.

Still, no guarantees.

 

The Ungoal

Recently, I’ve been taking the time to think critically about the things that I have taken as gospel as a coach over my career.  Like goal setting, for example.

For many years I spent time talking to teams about SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic/relevant, timely, although there are many other versions of the SMART acronym).  I believe that if one is setting a goal then it should have many of these characteristics, and yes, having outcome goals can be a motivator.

However, in recent years I have come to discount the value of hard goals and focused myself and my teams on the behaviors needed to be the kind of team we’d like to be. Often, outcome goals are a consideration (“what behaviors do we need to do in order to get what we want?”), but not always.

The best behavioral discipline comes when the things a team says they want to do on a regular basis are a reflection of who they are–their values–as opposed to what they want to have at the end of the day.

Too often goals can be used as a crutch. We sometimes make excuses to justify behaviors that are not championship caliber.  We say that as long as we get where we want to go, it’s not that important how we got there. Untrue. Behaving in a way that’s outside one’s values, whether the values are stated and clear or not, is never a way to feel good about where one’s going.

Have some un-goals. Determine what you’d like to be on a regular basis and start doing those things and see where you end up.

It’s A Group Exercise

Working together is fun. Being on the same page with other people, finding a solution that requires others to add energy to the system, to match up the gears with colleagues, is a great way to move things forward.

That’s why so many of us love team sports, and why people pay to do the same workout with others that they could do for free by themselves.

Being around other people gives us energy. Working with others gets us to the intersection of enthusiasm and hard work. This is true on a team, within a coaching staff, position group, office pod or neighborhood.

Without a structured plan, however, working with a group can be annoying and unproductive. In team sports, this is where the “one chief” model becomes important. Someone needs to direct the work, start the music, evaluate the needs of the group.

How do you make working with others one way you get better as a coach?