Thursday, September 14, 2017

MISTAKES……….WE ALL HAVE TO MOVE ON

DeAngelo Wiser



I’ve made a lot of mistakes over my career, but the great thing about it is, I’ve learned from every one of them. It’s how we all learn--through experience. Simply said, if you aren’t making mistakes, you’re not trying to do something new and challenging.

Our players are the same way. They make mistakes throughout a game. As coaches, we can usually trace unfavorable performances to a series of mistakes over the course of a game. You just hope that one of them isn’t the obvious deciding factor in a game.

 NEVER LET A MISTAKE BREAK YOUR SPIRIT...........

We were in the final eight of the state playoffs, doing our best to break through to the final four, where we had never been. Our path had been cleared, no perennial powerhouse in our way as in previous years. Our opponent was an excellent team, ranked in the top 10, but a mental roadblock had been lifted from our players’ minds when our more feared adversary lost. This would be our best chance at achieving our goal.

We lost our goalkeeper in a freak accident before the playoffs began, but we didn’t lose a step as we captured the district and regional titles. One of our field players, who also played softball, stepped in the frame. She was doing an excellent job, although lacking the decision making experience we needed this time of year in big games. That concerned me.

What a great match up this game turned out to be. They were pushing forward with numbers and attacking our goal, and we were counter attacking with our speed.  On one of their runs they sent a ball into a crowded box. Naturally our new keeper wanted to hug her line rather than go to the ball. When that happened one of our defenders tried to clear the ball out, but her body was angled toward the goal, and when she didn’t get her hips turned, she knocked it in the goal. Our team looked on in disbelief. The player hung her head and was in tears.

But there was still time left in the first half, no time to get down or dwell on what we couldn’t control at this point. We had to regroup, refocus and play on. That would be easier said than done. For the next few minutes the halftime horn couldn’t sound quickly enough. After defending out-of–our-mind for the remainder of the half, we escaped with the score still 1-0.

I did the best I could to console and let our player know that she had done all she could, and we needed her focused for the second half to pull this game out. Her teammates did the same. We talked about areas we could exploit the next half, and what we could improve on.

The second half was tremendous for us. We did all we could to score, and our defenders kept them out of the goal. However it wouldn’t be enough as the score ended up 1-0. After the game I did my best to talk with our team, consoling each player, and especially our player who had made the mistake, explaining that we wouldn’t even have been in this game without her, but I knew it wasn’t enough. 

Nothing you can say can make the pain and realization go away. I’m thankful this particular player had a strong family who could handle this in a positive and loving manner. 

In our game, mistakes happen in rapid fire succession. Some players pause or get frustrated, and, by the time they snap back, the ball is gone and the chance to win it back has disappeared. It’s not the mistake that’s crucial, it’s how you deal with it that’s important. The sooner you can let the mistake go, and refocus on what needs to be done next, the sooner you’ll be successful. Great players do this automatically.

I once heard the analogy of a fighter pilot who, while flying missions, barely clipped some small trees, causing no damage. Traveling at tremendous speed, he had no time to dwell on that situation because it was gone and now other obstacles and challenges were in front of him. If his focus had been on that mistake, he surely would have crashed.

As coaches we have to teach our players how to deal with mistakes.

1.    Mistakes are a natural part of any game.
2.    Don’t take mistakes personally.
3.    Getting frustrated hurts you and your team.
4.    Showing frustration helps the opposition.
5.    There’s no time to dwell on mistakes during a game.
6.    Play thru the mistakes as if they never happened.
7.    React immediately in a determined manner and move on.
8.    Talk positively to yourself.
9.    After the game evaluate your performance.

What about the coach on the sideline? Have you witnessed a game in which the goalkeeper gave up an easy chance, the other team scored, and the coach lost his or her composure? When that happens we forever alter the path that our players take. Some may leave the game entirely, while others will always want to play it safe and never take chances for fear of your or another coaches' wrath. We need to recognize those situations and do our best to control our emotions.

How can we improve our reaction to mistakes as coaches:

1.      Players are the first to know they made a mistake. They don’t need a loud reminder.

2.      Be aware of negative body language on the sideline. Throwing your hands in the air, putting your hands in your face, or simply refusing to look their way says more than any words could ever say.

3.      Encourage your players, even if it’s tough in a difficult situation. They need your support then more than ever.

4.      If possible, don’t pull them immediately out of the game. It magnifies the mistake and situation. If you feel you must make a change, try to do it after several minutes when the mistake has died down.

5.      When you have the time to talk with them, let them tell you what happened before you say anything. I guarantee they knew the right thing to do, but just didn’t do it.

6.      If it’s a traumatic mistake or a game winner for the other team, show your support in a caring manner. There are no magic words in those situations.  They need to know you still believe in them.

When you watch successful teams, you soon notice that the ability to play through mistakes is obvious. On some nights the mistakes are more numerous than others, but their demeanor and mission is the same--to stay focused on winning the ball and the game.

As coaches, we have control over our players’ reaction to mistakes.  We often lose sight of this vital aspect of the game in a rush to work on technique and tactics in practice. Take the time today to stop play when a situation presents itself in which a player reacts positively to a mistake. The picture you paint may make a difference in your season.

I wish you and your team the best!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

GUIDING A PLAYER TO A NEW VISION




     DeAngelo Wiser 

If you’ve coached for a season or a career, you’ve had players that had all the physical attributes and skills necessary to be a top player but for some reason always fell short. Why is that?

As coaches, we often create a vision of what a certain player can accomplish or what they should become as a veteran. We see them carrying our team in tough moments, scoring the game winner, making a great save or defensive play and ultimately being the missing piece we’ve always needed to win a title.

Are we wrong to have those thoughts, or put that kind of pressure on an unproven player? What about the athlete? What is his or her self image as a player? Have you asked them?

At what point should you expect great things from these players? And what happens when they continually are just average? Are you tougher on them than any of your other players? Is it wrong to expect so much? How can you convince them of what you see, and what they can become?

Let’s explore some reasons athletes might not live up to expectations:

1.      Our initial expectations may be overwhelming.
2.      It’s our vision, not theirs.
3.      Their perception of their ability is low.
4.      They simply may not embrace the pressure it includes.
5.      The potential cost in friendships and sacrifice is too high.
6.      Their passion for the game is not the same as yours.
7.      Their work ethic at this point is very low.
8.      They would rather “fit in” than “stand out”.
9.      Our constant pressure is driving them away.

So how can we build a positive experience and help each player reach his or her potential?

1.      Meet with them, listen to their vision of what they see, and share yours.
2.      Find out why they play the game, and what inspires them.
3.      Set a time table with the player of check points for progress.
4.      Give them permission to stand out, letting them know how it benefits their teammates.
5.      Keep them on track with respect to their work ethic.
6.      Be patient, this is a long-term project that may have setbacks.
7.      Teach them how much humility, relentlessness and passion play a role in their journey.
8.      Encourage, Encourage, Encourage.
9.      Avoid buying in when they want to give up. They need you to be strong. They’ll thank you later.

Remember the players you’ve coached and the ones in which you saw so much potential. Did they reach it? Very often the answer is no. So many variables are not in your control, but that fact doesn’t help you resolve that feeling of disappointment when they fall short.

She was a truly gifted player. At practice, Grace could strike a ball better than any player we had ever had, and her knowledge of the game at that age was unheard of. She was an eighth grader, and a natural. As I shook hands with the private school’s coach before the Varsity game, he commented, “Wow! Our Varsity players who watched the JV game were amazed at your player’s ability. They were asking why she wasn’t playing Varsity, and I reminded them that she was probably only an eighth grader.” He was right, and yes, we were all impressed. I could hardly wait until next year when Grace would be in high school and could move up to Varsity.
Later in the year, we were runners-up to a perennial private school power in a very prestigious JV tournament. We thought it was a glimpse of our future. But, after that, things just fell apart for her outside of the game. Her career was not to be.

As coaches our focus can be narrow with only thoughts of the game and our team, when in reality players have other challenges to face every day. Our vision of them must always include other aspects of their life, and how we can help when needed.

Recognizing their potential is the easy part. Guiding them within and outside the game to reach it is the challenge.

Keep inspiring and I wish you and your team the best!

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!