Monday, July 24, 2017

CAN YOUR TEAM DEAL WITH LAST YEAR'S SUCCESS?



DeAngelo Wiser

We spend a lot of time teaching players that failure, or making a mistake is part of the journey when attempting a worthy goal. Our education continues through explanations of what to expect when they fail, how to overcome it and the mental toughness to work through it. Moments abound throughout a season for lessons to be taught concerning adversity.

Should they be prepared? Absolutely! Many have experienced setbacks and learned to cope or not, and in some cases, even avoid situations that lead to failure. Often it’s a monumental task on our part to change that mindset taking time and patience.

What about success? Has your team experienced success? Have you taught the traps that success can present? Have you prepared your team for that moment of success and the after effects? Are we teaching it as reactive rather than proactive? Ask any coach who had their first banner year what the mindset of his or her team was as they reported back for the following season. They can be complacent, content, individualistic, lacking in effort, not focused, and think they have it all figured out. Such was my experience.

We had just won the regional tournament by beating our cross-town rival in a shootout. The feeling was one you just can’t describe. I was so proud of our team and what they’d just accomplished. As we lined up for pictures with the trophy, a thought kept finding its way into my mind: “We are moving to a tougher district next year. How will that impact our ability to succeed?” The following year I did my best to remind them every day of what we were facing, but they refused to buy in and work harder and smarter to have a chance. We would exit the tournament early because our team had become complacent and content with last year’s success. As a coach, I had let my team down because we encountered a storm I hadn’t prepared my team for.

Teams who’ve won championships the year before can often lose sight of what they did to accomplish their goals. Convincing them of what it will take to repeat, or motivating them to reach greater goals can be a monumental job.  Respecting success is a lesson worth teaching.

What steps can you take to avoid this trap?
·        Explain what success looks like, the glitz and glamour, how to deal with the demands and sort through the accolades as an individual and a team.
·        Remind the team that success is never a gift, it must be earned through tremendous effort and determination, and it comes with responsibilities.
·        Congratulate your team on their accomplishments. Moving on to quickly can diminish their efforts. Allow them time to enjoy it.
·        Ask what their feelings and reactions are to their success. Has it changed them?
·        Ask how they think this season could be different with respect to opponents, their mindset, makeup of the team, what is expected, etc.
·        Emphasize, as you see it, what it took to succeed last season.
·        Have players develop specific team practice goals for this season.
·        Paint a picture of what you see as possible this season.
·        Remind the team of distractions and obstacles that lie ahead.
·        End one practice a week with a team leader(s) led meeting on a topic they see as urgent. Meet with them and discuss the topic beforehand.    
·        Look back on everything you did last year and draw from it.
·        Replace leaders lost through graduation with strong team leaders.
·        Be consistent with your team, and don’t let success change you.

We are always aware of failure and do our best to prevent that mindset from dominating our players’ thoughts. Success seems to be different. We work toward a championship building on all the efforts and accomplishments along the way. But we seldom mention the other side of success to our players until we experience a banner year. It’s then we see it in our complacency and lack of effort when the following season begins.  Could we have prepared them for these moments? I think so.

Here are some statements during your playoff run that may remind them what it took to get there.

·        The road to the championship is littered with teams unwilling to work as hard as  
     you have.
·        Remember those hot days of practice, what you’ve sacrificed.
·        We always push ourselves and our teammates. We haven’t arrived. 
·        There is no luck getting where we are tonight.
·        We’ve practiced against the toughest opponent all year long, our 
     teammates.
·        Look around and know that your teammates believe in you.
·        Respect your opponent. Know this game will come down to a battle of wills.
·        I’ve never had a team that worked so hard together.
·        You’ve earned the right to be a champion.
·        I believe in every one of you. Believe in each other.
·        Everyone’s role on this team is important and brought us here tonight.
·        In our sport a team wins the championship, never an individual.
·        Enjoy this championship, because on July 15th we begin work on the next one.

What about statements or an idea that serves as a wakeup call for reality when next year’s preseason practice begins.

·        Set the tone on the first day with practice earlier than ever before. Explain that all  
      the other teams are sleeping and our team’s desire and determination to repeat   
      have  to be greater than any team in the state.
·        “Every team on the first day of the season is undefeated.”
·        “No opponent cares what we did last year.”
·        “Every team we play has our game highlighted on their schedule.”
·        “Our awards, trophy, rings and honors, while wonderful, won’t score a goal, make  
      a  save, win a ball, create an assist or win a game this season.”
·        “There are more people in our community and area that don’t know we won a  
      championship than do know it.”
·        “Only you and your teammates can prove that last year wasn’t a fluke and this 
      program is building a dynasty.”
·        “Demand more from yourself and your teammates at practice.”
·        “You can’t have the championship without sweat, aches, frustration, all out effort, 
      teammates, a few tears and the belief it can be done.”
·        ‘If you’re not willing to give all you have, let your teammates know so they can 
      find someone else.”

Working through success may be your biggest challenge. The key is bringing your team back down to earth from a moment they may have never experienced. We’ve all seen teams that weren’t able to wake up in time and followed a great year with a disappointing one. I believe by keeping it real and building a hunger to leave a legacy we can teach our players to enjoy what’s they’ve accomplished, and understand that today is a new day to accomplish much more.

I wish you and your team the best!

Monday, July 17, 2017

YOUR COACHING IMPACT REACHES FARTHER THAN YOUR TEAM….



DeAngelo Wiser

www.wisersportsleadership.com

Have you ever stopped and thought about how much impact you have as a coach? I’m not talking about your players, think about all the others. We forget that people look at us in a different light. From the enthusiastic elementary school player, parents, teachers, business owners, church crowd, checkout clerk and yes even that player that didn’t have the skill to make your team. They all know who you are and hold you in high esteem, until you give them a reason to look at you differently.  It’s at that moment you have the opportunity to do something special, whether it’s helping someone with their groceries, asking about their family, encouraging them to keep playing and one day they’ll grow up to be a star, or in the case below to look someone in the eye and change their life.

Before I entertained the idea of coaching I was a player just like so many of you.  I played my first two years at a small college, and it was a comfortable setting, but it was time to continue my education at a larger school. The school I chose was a strong NAIA school with outstanding sports programs. I was familiar with their team having competed against their freshman team, and the fever was still there to play so I ended up trying out for the team. It was clear that I didn’t have the skill level to compete, but I wouldn’t go away and kept working hard and counting players. There were two of us left and I liked my chances. Finally during the preseason coach called me into his office. In the most heartfelt manner, he let me know that there just wasn’t room for me on the team. He spent fifteen minutes highlighting all the attributes I had shown that would make me a success in any career I chose. As I left I wanted to cry, but couldn’t because of all the great things he had said. Ironically, twenty years later I would end up coaching, and pattern that same style of talking with players that didn't make our team after this wonderful man.  I am still so appreciative for the gift he gave me.

Remember it only takes a few minutes from your schedule to meet with each player, and who knows, you may change a life.


I wish you and your team the best!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

“DIDN’T I JUST ASK THEM TO……………?”



       DeAngelo Wiser


Interesting how you can sense early on, even before an obvious incident, a player or players who doubt the direction you need them to go. It could be at a meeting, practice or in a game. Have you ever thought, “Wow! What are they doing? Didn’t I just ask them to ………..?” It can be frustrating.

Remember that winning your players is a daily task. What you did yesterday was great, but today is a new day to be tested. The respect earned can disappear in a moment with your actions or words when a player decides to do something other than what you’ve asked in a game or practice.

As a youth player it can be a form of rebellion in an effort to show a coach what they know. At that stage it’s often nothing more than being overzealous about their ability. In those cases an incident usually shows them that what you’ve asked is the better solution. But with older players it can be conflicting directives from what another coach has taught them, or someone with more influence has recommended. Should you be concerned? What can you do?

Questions you may want to consider:

    Is this an isolated incident or an ongoing issue?
    Does the player see or fully understand what they’re doing?
    Is what you’re asking critical to the team’s success?
    What if you let this go unchecked?
    Is it about your ego and showing you’re in charge?
    Is their way a better alternative? Are they right?
    Should you talk with the player? When?
    What impact will it have on the other players?
    What is the accountability?

While you may initially see it as only a conflict between you and a player, it can have a far-reaching impact. Teammates see what’s going on, and, if left unattended, it can grow into a monster you hadn’t planned on. Players may take sides on the issue with a few leaning away from your leadership.

 
Team’s who’ve developed vocal leaders and a strong team culture with definite boundaries of responsibility and respect will usually take care of this issue within the team. That’s why it’s essential to begin today to build that culture. However, teams that only rely on the coach’s leadership will shift all the pressure to you to make a decision. While that’s okay, just know it’s an issue that requires your full attention.

Players may say when asked that they abhor this behavior from one of their teammates but are unwilling to confront or talk with the player, that it’s not their job.


Meeting with the player is imperative.

    Meet with the player with an assistant coach present.
    Explain the situation as you see it, then be quiet and allow them to respond.
    Lay out the rationale behind what you’re asking them to do.
    Paint a picture of how their actions impact the team.
    Remind them of the expectations for every member of the team.
    Ask what they’re trying to accomplish.
    Let them know how much you believe in them.
    Explain the accountability for every player and their actions.
     •    Let them know you can’t play them if they can’t follow what’s best for the team.
    Ask if they have anything else that needs to be said.
     •    Give them time to think about what has been discussed and plan another meeting within the 
            next week.

Your strongest leadership is required in these situations. Players left free to roam on and off the field doing anything they wish will destroy your team. 

In some cases these players can be your highest skilled athletes. In their mind they are the only one who can beat a defender, score a goal, pass the ball or cross the ball perfectly. Their ability drives them to do too much, not trust their teammates and eventually they become frustrated. What they don’t see is how impossible it is to beat a team single handedly.

There are some subtle things you can do to help. Blend abilities in practice. Match up some less-skilled with higher-skilled in a few situational activities. Expecting them to play flawlessly together in a game when they never work together in practice may be too much to ask. Build some trust among all your players. You’ll find that some more-skilled players are willing to help the less-skilled players, and why shouldn’t they? It helps everyone. Maybe when a player sees that their teammates are trying as hard as they are it will give them a new understanding, tolerance level and outlook.

Take the time to talk to your team about situations such as when a player makes a bad pass. It’s usually the player on the receiving end that becomes infuriated, and are now mentally out of the game. How can that be avoided and what can the player do? Screaming and becoming upset helps no one. The play is over. Ask your players how it could best be dealt with. If not mentioned, recommend statements such as, “I’ve seen you make that pass. I know you can do it. We’ll get it next time.” Highlight that all teammates are trying their best and some encouragement can go a long way.

If it’s clearly an outside influence issue, you may be inclined to address it in a way that diminishes the credibility of another coach, mentor or relative, but that serves no purpose. Making light, in a less than flattering way, of someone who played a key role in your player’s life isn’t needed, and will never change their view of that person. Just work on what you can control and be the coach your player believes in more than anyone else. It will take time, and may never be perfect, but it will be worth the effort. If outside influences become overwhelming, set up a meeting with that person and explain how it’s impacting the team. Make sure your Athletic Director is aware of the situation and is present at the meeting.

This isn’t about inhibiting a creative player’s ability and decision making, it’s about building a team with a strong team culture that takes care of its own issues and understands it takes every player doing their job to be successful on and off the field. Our job is to paint that picture every day to everyone we meet.

I wish you and your team the best.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

COACH, WHY ISN’T MY CHILD PLAYING?



DeAngelo Wiser

Have you ever been caught off guard by a parent questioning your ability or skill to coach? Odds are at some point in your career, to some degree, it will happen. It may be subtle hints or even an angry conversation.

How will you react? Defensively? Angrily? Surprised?  All are natural reactions to someone ultimately attacking your character and or ability. At least that’s the way you may see it. Is there another view?

Playing time and awards are the number one challenges you’ll face with parents. “Why isn’t my child playing or playing more?” and “How could my child not have been the MVP or been omitted from that all tournament team?” will always be questions you may have to deal with.

As a coach you may be surprised when it’s after a big win or after a season when your team was very successful. Keep in mind it’s a challenge that is blind to winning or losing. Your team could be 20-0 or 0-20 when this situation presents itself.

For those of you who’ve experienced a confrontation of this nature, when all the dust settled and you had time to think about the situation, were you in the wrong? Did you make a bad decision? Did it have a more far-reaching impact than you intended? Were you hoping it would go away on its own? Should you have addressed it, but didn’t?

Initially it’s tough to absorb, especially when you pour your heart and soul into your team day after day. How could anyone think that you weren’t capable of or dealing conscientiously with the challenges of coaching?

The first step is to see it from their perspective. Not from a “I’ll prove you wrong” attitude, but from a “Let me replay and think about the situation” and what really happened.

Many coaches refuse to talk about playing time with parents and have guidelines that state the same. Will that deter a parent who sits with other parents of players who play the entire game and cheer their kids on? Doubtful. 

As a game progresses they become more and more upset, and often will seek you out after the game. Initially you may want to be brutally honest concerning the ability of their son or daughter highlighting all the skills they’re lacking or their sub-par athleticism. But, of course, that is not the right approach. Parents will always see their sons or daughters in a positive light and think they are the best player on your team. Nothing you say in a negative way will ever change that. While you may want to win this battle it isn’t necessary. Stay composed and positive, focus on the attributes this player has and why you kept them on the team.

Should there be ground rules for meetings concerning these situations?

Develop your own expectations for meeting with parents.
1.     24 hour “cooling off” rule for meeting
2.     Call for an appointment, no email or social media.
3.     No mention of any other players at the meeting.
4.     Meetings will include Athletic Director
5.      
6.      
7.      
8.      

Explain and hand these out to all parents at the first meeting before the season begins. Let them know your philosophy with respect to starting, playing time, practicing, awards, etc. It won’t make you immune to a confrontation, but it will help knowing you did it.

In the end your best course of action will be to simply listen to everything the parent has to say. Refrain from countering every point they make and wait until they finish before you speak. You’ll have time at the end to state your points. Listening will give you great insight to their perspective, and ultimately let them get rid of what’s bothering them so much. They may even say as one of my parents said, “We know Billy isn’t the best player in the world, but if you could just find a way to get him in a game or two we would be thankful.” 

 Always keep in mind a child is the most important piece of a parent’s life.

I wish you and your team the best!