Tuesday, March 14, 2017

TRAINING COACHES……IS IT YOU?



DeAngelo Wiser

Athletic Directors are the most overlooked and overworked component of a sports program, especially at the high school and small college level. They are expected to do everything from sweeping the floor, taking up tickets and listen to every complaint with a smile, while getting little rest to repeat the process tomorrow. With that in mind this article is directed their way. Not to add to their list, but to emphasize how important their role is in developing new or inexperienced coaches.   

A lot of time and resources can be devoted to training coaches. Various accredited organizations offer diplomas and licenses that open doors for many. Clubs and schools welcome coaches who have these credentials in with open arms, but where does your training originate?

One concern athletic directors hear about a new, inexperienced coach hired before the season begins is “They don’t know enough about the game.” That may be based on a practice observed, or someone’s opinion. Quite often it’s correct, but this aspect of technical and tactical coaching is more readily solved with courses, seminars, webinars, clinics and even a veteran assistant.

What about leadership? Do you have a program within your sports department to develop and teach new coaches leadership skills? Some of the biggest challenges a coach faces are not technical or tactical aspects of the game, they’re leadership related. 

Hiring a technically sound coach who is a student of the game is easily detected.  However, it doesn’t always guarantee they know how to lead a team or deal properly with challenges.

Some of the biggest challenges come from:
·        Playing time
·        Accountability
·        Motivation
·        Parents
·        Academics
·        Bringing a team together
·        Handling adversity/success
·        Building a program

Given a choice, would coaches rather deal with specific aspects of the game or the above mentioned? Most coaches love the game and thoroughly enjoy teaching technical and tactical areas. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a player apply a learned skill for success in a game. But what about the leadership skills needed to lead a team? There will be days coaches are mired in mountains of psychological issues brought on by selfishness, behavior, parents, and many more. Are they equipped to handle it?

When thrown into a sea of challenges without any training, their only recourse is:

·        Ask other coaches if time permits.
·        Do what they feel is right at the time.

Other coaches can give them great insight from experience and offer solutions, but is the situation exactly the same? And doing what they think is right may seem like the best idea at the time, but without experience can they know all the areas impacted? Remember a well meaning and beneficial national organization can train our coaches to a certain degree, but will they be responsible if something goes wrong? We would all agree the answer is no. 

Let’s think about some ways to better prepare coaches: 
·       Do you have a clear list of expectations for your coaches with respect to how they work 
and deal with parents and players?
·        Are you involved in their training, or is it just meeting to hand out information and forms?
·        How often is the training? What does the curriculum cover?
·        Are you proactive using issues on the local or national level for training?
·        Are media training and social media included in the training?
·        Is there discussion or dialogue about what problems they’ve encountered this week? 
·        Do coaches attend student leadership council to answer questions and talk about their program?
·        Have you prepared a list of potential issues or situations that each coach has to answer and present to his or her peers, followed by discussions?
·        How about role playing situations to bring them to life?
·         What recommendations or suggestions would they have for a new coach?

It’s not just about fulfilling certain obligations concerning state or local standards. Checking criteria off a list doesn’t guarantee that a coach knows every expectation you have for him or her. Only by training them personally can you feel confident you’ve done everything possible to help them succeed.

Here are three programs you may consider to supplement your training with newly hired or inexperienced coaches:


MENTORSHIP PROGRAMS


40 over 40

30 under 30 programs highlighting and gaining insight from younger coaches concerning challenges and their intuition are quite the rage. How about veteran coaches, those who are 40 and older with vast experience? This is truly an untapped resource overlooked by national and state organizations. Many of these coaches are retired, highly successful, but still have so much to offer the game that consumed so much of their lives.

In the coaching world, and I know in your school or area, there are plenty of retired or older coaches who could act as a mentor for your newly hired coach.  Just having a mentor for a season could make a huge difference whether an outstanding new coach continues his or her career or leaves due to their inability to deal with the challenges. It is a win/win situation with the retired or older coach feeling good to give something back to the institution and program and the young coach being happy to have someone to lean on, and not feeling their job is threatened. The key is finding a positive mentor who still has a passion for sports, wants to contribute, and can leave a small legacy with the young coach. The parameters and scope of this program could be developed through an athletic committee or the AD.


USMC

A model used by the USMC may be worth looking at. When an officer graduates from Officer Candidate School, he or she is commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant.  They will eventually lead a platoon. Up to this point their career has been focused on class work and simulated situations with little actual experience. Within their platoon is a veteran sergeant who has experience in combat situations and certainly has seen every side the military has to offer with respect to the dynamics of a platoon. That experience will be vital to the new officer in making decisions for the welfare of their group. Pairing your new coach up with a battle tested veteran assistant could help get them through that first critical season.


INTERNSHIP

An Internship Program may be another idea to consider. School systems usually place a newly hired teacher with a more experienced one. The experienced teacher volunteers and is compensated for the assignment, so it’s someone who genuinely wants to help the new teacher in that critical first year. Criteria must be met, there are observations, and data must be collected for the new teacher to retain their job. 

Placing a newly hired coach with little experience with a veteran coach could make a huge difference in their career. The biggest key is finding other coaches who will help build your school’s sports programs and are willing to help others.  It would be necessary for the veteran coach to be in his or her off season during the internship so they could give full attention to the new coach. 
Developing the curriculum, what criteria is crucial, observations and evaluations, will all play a critical role in the program’s success.

Finding ways to keep that dynamic young coach on track should be a goal for all of us. They’re good for the game and players, bringing energy and unbridled enthusiasm, but most of all they deserve our full support. 

Your program needs that youthful energy and enthusiasm to drive the team to new heights.  It also needs that veteran riding shotgun looking for bumps in the road.

I wish you and your team the best!

 
 


Thursday, February 16, 2017

THE COLD DAYS OF COACHING……WHERE WILL YOU TURN?



      DeAngelo Wiser

Often we learn of high profile coaches who step away from their respective games. It seems surprising and makes us wonder why these successful coaches didn’t want to continue the career they obviously loved.

Is there a common thread among them? Could the issue causing this loss of talent be alleviated, or relieved in part? How many other coaches in club, high school or college step away unnoticed due to suffering from the same condition?

Coaching can be a stressful career, and it requires wearing many hats. The variety of the demands is one of the allures of the job because it presents us challenges to solve and keeps every day fresh and new. Here are a few of those hats.

Visible Leader- In the spotlight at school, the community and during press conferences.  Being the leader of a team and patrolling the sidelines fuels that ego.

Strategist/Planner- Moving the X’s and O’s to our advantage during a game while matching wits with an opposing coach is stimulating and it allows us a plan to lead our team to success.

Counselor- Many challenges throughout the year on and off the field have little to do with our game, but have everything to do with the mental state of our players. Knowing and understanding this means the difference in success and failure.

Enforcer- Stepping in when needed to hold ourselves, our staff and our players accountable.  Our actions must match our words regardless of who is involved.

Parent- In a parent-like way, we are delighted to see our players succeed, and there are times when we  have to be totally honest as well.

Rock- That stoic and solid persona in the darkest of times after a big time loss, a parent issue, or a player does something out of character. Often the rock prefers to carry the load locked inside with no help from anyone.


Let’s focus on the “Rock.”  What situations require and take so much of us?

·        Big loss against a team you’re supposed to beat
·        Losing in the post season tournament when expectations are high
·        Player breaking a school or team rule
·        Heated parental confrontation
·        Losing control in a game and getting ejected
·        Player(s) who are self centered and care little about the team
·        Athletic Director or Administrator who does little to support your team
·        Newspaper or reporter who blasts your team regularly, or ignores it
·        Facilities that are subpar and in disrepair

We could name more, but I’m certain you’d agree these are tough to deal with. Granted some are in your control, and others can be dealt with in an appropriate manner. But will they leave scars? Will they heal quickly, or might you drag them around for a long time?

Many veteran coaches will tell you, “You can’t be thin skinned and do this job.” What exactly does that mean? If you’ve put your heart and soul into your team and your program, some situations are going to sting from time to time. Telling me I’m thin skinned doesn’t approach how I should handle the after effect of these situations.

Dealing with these challenges all alone can be the dark side of coaching. Those times in a career when something gets to the very core of who we are. It’s an area that isn’t talked about in coaching classes. Yes, the challenges are listed and some solutions are given, but no discussion about how to deal with absorbing it and taking this part of the job home with you every night.

As coaches we often hold some things in, never share the distress and blame, figuring it’s our fault and just wait for time to slowly pass so we can get over them. Is that the best way? Surely not.




So how can we deal with these challenges allowing us to move forward?

Mentor/Coaching Peer- Talking about the issue is usually a good first step. Share it with someone you trust who may have been in the same situation in their career. Just knowing that you’re not the first coach to deal with this challenge, and the fact that you’re not alone in carrying this burden can be a relief.

Athletic Director- If the load of the job is wearing you down, talk to your AD about delegating some of the responsibility and how best to prioritize the tasks required every day. AD’s are experienced in these situations and can  remind you that you’re not in this alone. They want you to succeed and be at your best mentally for your student athletes.

Parent/Player/Reporter/Team- If someone has upset you, set up a meeting with them and do your best to resolve the issue. They may not know what they’ve done, and if you were wrong, admit it. They need to know how you view the best way to move forward. Even if you don’t resolve the issue you’ll feel better for making the attempt.

Husband/Wife/Partner- Talk about the challenges of the day with those at home. While they may or may not understand every detail, just by sharing your feelings you will have released some of the stress of the day. Plus you may be surprised at their insight of how best to handle a situation and move forward. Keep in mind they care about you most.

24-Hour Rule- Wait 24 hours regardless of the situation before you act. If only someone had shared that with me. After a devastating loss I was totally washed out. After tossing all night long, I made the decision to resign the next morning figuring the loss was totally my fault. I didn’t even tell my wife. My team gathered in a classroom and after telling them I had let them down, I shared my decision. The look in their eyes was utter astonishment. What I failed to realize was the loss was devastating to them as well, and now in a selfish act I had hurt them even more. During the day I got a couple of heartfelt letters from players asking me to reconsider, as well as phone calls from several parents. My wife’s voice of reason, after learning what I had done, was the final assurance I needed to stay on. I am deeply indebted to players, parents and my wife for helping me see the truth. Had I shared my thoughts and feelings early I feel certain I wouldn’t have resigned in the first place.

Carrying a weight like this is tough, and many coaches, like myself, are often unwilling to share because they think it’s a sign of weakness. It’s quite the opposite. By sharing we show our strength to work through challenges and unload a burden that hinders us from being at our best for ourselves, our family and our players.

If you’ve faced these coaching challenges alone, you aren’t the first to keep everything locked inside, and you won’t be the last. Just know it’s a great feeling when you let it go by sharing it with those who can help.

I wish you and your team the best!









Saturday, February 4, 2017

WHAT WILL YOU LOOK FOR IN A PLAYER?


DeAngelo Wiser

In today’s sports world of ranking young players from 1-100, I’m often amazed at how a player or players ranked so high can seem to under perform with their new team.  Is it the ranking service, the coach, the dynamics of the team, the pressure, or the player?

Many times there’s no way of knowing, but just how are coaches evaluating players when they see them in action?  Seeing them play once or twice, or relying on a ranking service may or may not be a risky proposition.  There’s a lot to consider with scholarships and championships on the line.  Making a mistake with a player or players can cost a program dearly.

Having coached in high school and college, I believe the same principles apply at just about every level.  Those choices will impact us in the same way, just not as much in the public spotlight.  In that respect we have to consider what’s essential when evaluating players during tryouts.

WHAT’S AT THE TOP OF YOUR LIST WHEN CHOOSING YOUR TEAM?

SKILL
ATHLETICISM
TACTICAL AWARENESS
ATTITUDE
COMPATIBILITY

Most of these are fairly easy to evaluate through drills and activities, or if you were able to see them briefly in a game with their former team.

Coaches will admit they know a good player when they see one, but in what respect?  There may be areas or traits that aren’t exposed at tryouts until you see them in practice and games, and then it may be too late.

SUCCESSFUL PROGRAMS LOOK AT:

·        ADVERSTIY- Have you seen this player when times were tough, when he or she was behind in the score, their teammates weren’t performing, their own game was off that day? How did they react?  Can you live with that?  Can your team?

·        CHARACTER- How do they respond when things are going well or not.  How do they treat their teammates?  Are they a team player, or only concerned with themselves?

·        INTEGRITY- Are they a player of their word?  Do they stand up for what they believe in?  Will they always tell you the truth?  Can they be trusted?

·        ACADEMICS- Are they responsible in the classroom?  What’s their past history with respect to grades and discipline issues at school?  Will you spend a lot of time keeping them eligible?  Work ethic must be present in the classroom.

·        TRAINING- What type of work ethic do they have?  Are they a driven player or will you have to motivate them every minute of every day?  Are they capable?

·        CRITICISM/CRITIQUE- Are they able to take any suggestions/ideas you or your assistants have with an open mind and a willingness to improve?  How do they respond with body language and verbally?


HOW CAN YOU EVALUATE THESE TRAITS?

During tryouts set up challenging games and activities where each player is: 

ü Paired or teamed with a player or players of less ability.
ü Playing a game where their team is always a player down.
ü Paired or teamed with a player or players of greater ability.
ü Playing a game where their team is behind by one with little time on the clock and they are the only player who can score.  Or they’re the only player who can defend the only player who can score for the other team.
ü Unable to shoot, only pass.
ü Only allowed to defend.  Hops out of the game when their team has the ball.
ü The only player allowed to talk, or not, on their team.
ü The only player on their team that has to touch the opposite goal or end line when the ball is lost before hustling back and defending.
ü Only player that runs when their team loses.  Or the rest of the team runs when they make a mistake or miss a shot.

Seeing how they respond will tell you what you need to know, and the best avenue to take in developing their ability to respond under pressure as well as their technical skills.
There are many more activities that put players in pressure situations where their true Character shines through.  It requires no more effort from you.  Everything I’ve mentioned, and all the ideas you have, will also expose Skill, Athleticism, Tactical Awareness, Attitude and Compatibility.

Planning a great tryout session is the key to selecting the best players for your team.  Understanding where they stand now with the areas you feel are important will allow you to assist them become better players.  It will also give you the best idea of who performs best under pressure during key moments.   

Tryouts should expose more than outstanding skills, it should expose who you can count on when times are tough. As a coach you know the tough times are coming.

I wish you and your team the best! 




Monday, January 23, 2017

WHAT WOULD YOU SHARE WITH A NEW COACH?



DeAngelo Wiser

Be yourself
Use all the God given attributes you have with your team.

   Use the light that shone for you.
Apply the best characteristics/traits from your high school/college coach/parents/minister/teacher/mentor.  Ask yourself, How would they handle this situation?  Don’t be reluctant to call them.

Be able to sleep at night.
Exhibit character and integrity in everything you do- Do what is right regardless of the player or situation.

   Inspire through your example
Outwork your team in preparing for practice, games, trips and meetings. Show them you’re prepared at all times.

Trust those around you
Challenges and distractions will take a huge amount of your time. Delegate.

   Be what you hope to see
Be positive, encouraging and enthusiastic. Remember you set the tone.

You get what you allow
Biggest complaint I hear from former players is “These players won’t do what I say, or they are lazy.” Remember you set the tone.

   Stay on your path
Don’t let one bad moment by one player define your practice or a game, remain focused on so many who count on you. There will be time to talk later.

 Be willing to hire someone who could take your place.
Hire an assistant coach who isn’t like you, and not afraid to question your decisions. If you both always agree one of you isn’t necessary.

Step to the front if you lose, and to the back in a win.
Always give your team credit for success and always take the blame for losses or bad times.

Impacting players lives in a positive way should be your goal.
Coaching is about moments, not championships and trophies. Every day you’ll have that opportunity.

   Listen with the intent to hear and understand.
Allow someone to vent, you don’t have to win every battle.
Listening is one of the most important skills you’ll need in this profession.

 Reflections
Everything you and your team do is a reflection of the school, your family and yourself. Remind yourself even in the toughest of times.

 Be willing to step up and lead
Decisions will be a big key in how effective you’ll be with your team- players are watching and recording how you handle it.

Build decision makers
Whenever possible allow players to make decisions on the field or court. There will be many times when this is necessary. Take away their complete dependence on you