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.

Integrity

What is integrity? It’s on the lockerrom signs, gym banners and tshirts that list core values of teams across the country.

Most won’t have a strong and clear definition.

I say it’s integration of who you are and what you do.

Knowing what you believe in is key. The central values like trust and communication have a critical role in every team. The core of who you (an individual or a team), is not a reflection, it is WHO you are or want to be.

We communicate well and trust each other. Those are core values.

What you do, the behaviors that are demonstrated are one’s true legacy.  So, we work hard to identify the things we’ll do in order to be true to our values, the “who” of who we are.

When we live our values…when the actions reflect those values: that’s integrity.

 

“Just Let It Go”

When things are upsetting, most of us can’t just take three deep breaths and be “over it”. Things don’t just go away because they hope they will, and most of the time the advice to “just let it go”, is a vast oversimplification.

Really, how do you do that?

If the event or situation was bothersome enough that someone else noticed and felt compelled to give you advice–the “let it go” mentioned above–then it’s likely not a small thing.  Those people rarely have the “how” or strategy to help us get past that thing right away.

So, unless you have an idea of how to help someone get past a problem, practice empathy and try to simply recognize that they are having pain or a struggle rather than telling them to get over it.

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.

Cleared for takeoff

Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. Then, breathe.

Flight attendants remind us of this every time we get on a plane.

In the case of emergency, or even just to be at your best every day, we should take care of ourselves first.

“Self-care” is a buzzword concept lately, and one that I’ve tended to push aside as too touchy-feeling and not as important as things like planning or assessing results. However, the basics of making others–teams and individuals–better involves having a handle on our own health and well-being.

It’s true. To be a great resource for others we should be at our best. What can you do to make your own situation better, healthier or more clear?

Maybe it’s eating, sleeping, hydrating or something else physical; maybe it’s making time to talk to others or read or just think.  Experiment with doing or not doing things differently and see how you can become a better resource to those around you by having yourself taken care of first.

 

Not In My Backyard

There are lots of ways to “know” how programs are doing. Watch them play, read about them on social media, hear from those close to that other team…

It’s easy to judge the good and the bad from afar, and we can assess the issues that can plague any group or team just by watching the sideline, dugout or even the way they play.

Of course, the scoreboard tells us a lot, too. We “know” the good programs and those that are struggling.

Many coaches (and players) spend time looking at other teams’ cultures and concerns, but how often to we run an assessment of our own?

Having a system of program hygiene in which you thoroughly dig in to see how you’re actually doing in all of the phases of the game that you value is a key to long-term success.

Knowing the areas that matter to you – your core values – is crucial, and then having a way to assess how you’re doing is the crux of maintaining success.  Having an idea of what matters is just half the battle: knowing how you’ll assess is the only way to actually get that piece done.

What’s your system?

Hey Coach, Watch Your Language

How often to you or your players use the words or phrases,

“I’ll try”

“I’ll see”

“Maybe”

“We’ll know when we get there”

“It depends”

All of those wishy-washy phrases really mean “probably not,” or some version of: “if I fail, it’s because I really never said I could/would”.

Pay attention to how often you say or hear language like that and see if you can move these out of your world.  I bet that the simple act of paying attention makes you more decisive.

And, I bet you’ll find greater efficiency and lower anxiety along the way.

Intra-team competition

Coach, do you value competitive kids? Of course. Do you want your teams to know how to compete? Sure. Will you work hard to cultivate competitiveness in players who have been working on only their own game for too long? Yes.

It’s important to value competitiveness as a team, and not in a negative way between teammates.  Pushing others to “win” in a practice setting, to beat teammates is not good unless it comes from a place of love.

The sentiment of, “i’m here to make you better, teammate,” is a great way to push you team to compete, but think twice before you encourage kids to “win” at the expense of other kids, in practice.

 

Info Overload

We are flooded with information.  There are so many great books, articles, journals, lectures, videos and other material produced by smart, experienced and successful coaches and leaders in all areas that it’s easy to get overloaded by others’ thoughts and tactics.

We need to take action!  Develop your own strategies (feel free to steal them, but make them your own at the same time) and clarify your voice and ideas.  Consider what’s important to you and then get to work executing those plans.  Just like you tell your people: it’s ok to fail.  Get to work determining where you’d like to go and how you think it’s best to get there.  Devise an action plan and GO!