Monday, November 13, 2017

REKINDLING PAST SUCCESS



DeAngelo Wiser

“What’s happened to our program? Just a couple of years ago we were enjoying tremendous success, but look at us now.” Have you ever uttered words like this, if only to yourself?

Most coaches certainly wouldn’t shout them to the world because they would believe they could fix it. Admitting concern would be a sign of weakness, but even thinking it while searching for answers and solutions can create doubt.

Many times programs aren’t able to sustain success year in and year out. That’s why a gradual decline doesn’t immediately set off any alarms. There can be many reasons for seasons with fewer wins, such as injuries, a talent pool that dries up, other teams becoming more competitive, or being moved to a tougher district, region or conference to name a few.

Those factors are fairly uncontrollable. What other areas should we explore to bring our team back to its glory? Where do we start?

The best point to begin might be in the past, though many would tell you to keep looking forward seeking answers. There were many reasons your past teams were successful. Visiting those times to find solutions can only help.

Here’s where reacquainting yourself with the past can be so resourceful:

REWIND-Think back to the day you were hired. You had so much energy, enthusiasm and ideas about building your team. Did you realize your excitement was a tool that helped engage your team? Can you reignite that fire? Was your success immediate?

REVISIT- Look at practice plans during those successful years. What made them so effective? Is it different now? How? 

RECALL- Were there pregame speeches that worked then, but not now? How did you motivate and inspire your team in the beginning? Were your words more meaningful? 

REACH OUT- Contact your former players and assistant coaches. Ask their ideas on why they believe your teams were so successful.

RELIVE- What about those team building or hilarious moments with the players. Are you still providing an environment for them to have some fun?

REPLAY- Envision those matches that were so intense, the ones you were in to the end. What made that possible? Why were your players so competitive?

REMIND- Practice is where champions are made. Are you working as smart in practice as you did in the early years? Or, are you taking too much for granted?

RECONSIDER- Work with your assistants and evaluate everything you do now in pre season and in season. Everything must be scrutinized. Are you holding players accountable?

REVISE- Evaluate every practice plan you’ve been using. Can you add to or take away to make it more effective? Is your team game ready?

REFINE- Focus the majority of practice time on game related material. Is practice intense and competitive? Raise expectations and settle for nothing less.

REFLECT- Have you changed your pregame approach? Are you coaching differently from the sideline? Are you challenging yourself as well as the players?

RECHARGE- You’re the one who gives your players energy. They play off every aspect of your demeanor. Do you come to practice and games with passion? Create excitement at every opportunity.

RE-ENERGIZE- Attend clinics, seminars, meet new coaches. Surround yourself with passionate assistants. Find ways to bring back the energy you had on the day you were hired.

REDEDICATE- Make a commitment to become a more effective coach. It all starts with you. That magic may take time to get back.  Be persistent.

REAFFIRM- Remember why you started coaching. Keep reminding yourself  this is where you should be. Your players are counting on you. Never stop believing in yourself.


Evaluate every season with respect to your performance, your players performances, practice, preseason, in season, post season and assistant coaches. It was no fluke that your program was successful before. Many times we naturally relax when success comes around. It happens to players and coaches. The key is recognizing it, and getting back to work like you’ve never won a game. That attitude has to be conveyed with your actions to the team.

Building a fire is the first step to becoming successful. Keeping that fire glowing season after season by visiting the past may be the best way to stay on the road to success.

I wish you and your team the best!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

10 PLAYER ISSUES A COACH MUST ADDRESS

DeAngelo Wiser

If you’ve coached for any period of time, you have inevitably had to make some tough decisions. Some are painfully obvious while other seem to beg the question, such as what was my player thinking, what was their intent or did they really consider the consequences? While having clear expectations and accountability measures in place usually allow us to settle the incident or incidents expediently, it is still a part of coaching that is not enjoyable but necessary.

So what are some of the player challenges that will require your leadership?

·        Missing the bus to a game
·        Disqualification during a game
·        Teammates not including a teammate during a game
·        Missing or late to practice
·        Fighting with a teammate
·        Failing academically or disrupting class
·        Drugs/Alcohol/etc.
·        Blatantly not following instructions in a game
·        Refusing to enter a game
·        Influencing other teammates to disregard your instructions

As you look at these, it is pretty obvious that some fall under the same category of PLAYER ACCOUNTABILITY within your team expectations, which you hopefully formulated with the players at the beginning of the year. These typically include missing the bus or practice, fighting, and disqualification. Drugs and alcohol are usually covered in your school’s handbook.

It’s those other challenges such as refusing to enter a game, disregarding instructions, negatively influencing a teammate, freezing a teammate out during a game, that require immediate attention, and may or may not have been included in your expectations. That is not to say we need to jump to conclusions. Time may be required to see who the real problem is. It may be more than one player and the incident may not be what we think it is.

That being said, after experiencing these situations a veteran coach usually sees it for what it is and knows with almost certainty who is guilty. So what is the solution or what now?

Here are some steps you may consider:

Avoid, if possible, confronting the player or players in front of the team. The time allows you to calm down.

Bring the player or players into your office the next day. Always include an assistant coach or athletic director in the meeting.

Explain your view of the situation and then be quiet. Let them respond. When they finish, assuming you were correct in your assessment, be adamant that you and the team cannot tolerate this behavior.

At this point you have to decide if punishment is called for. If rules have been broken, never waiver. Hold them accountable.

If punishment is warranted make sure to let the parents know.

Never be swayed by an immediate apology. This simply may be a defense mechanism that worked many times for this player or players.

Never consider the big game coming up or how the absence of this player will be felt when making a decision. If you delay punishment until the big game is over you’ll lose any respect you had with your team.

Let the player or players know that a second offense will involve the possibility of dismissal from the team.

Only you know the best avenue to handle a situation with your team. However, the choices will always be to look the other way, see it with rose colored glasses or step up and hold your player or players accountable. When we don’t hold them accountable we set a standard of weak leadership and inability to make tough decisions. If this continues throughout the season your team will end up in chaos.

For your words to have meaning throughout the season, your actions have to say, “This is what our team stands for, and anything else will not be tolerated.”
By doing that you’ll free your players up to do what they do best, play the game.

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



Friday, October 20, 2017

CAN YOU DEAL WITH SEASON ENDING LOSS?




DeAngelo Wiser
We see a lot of happy teams and coaches celebrating championships on social media, but how about those on the other end of the scoreboard? What was their reaction in a big game?

We often see players crying and expressing a wide range of emotions, but how about the coach or coaches? They do their best to stay strong and care for their players during this tough time, but for how long after that final horn? What’s next for them?

So I ask, how will you handle a season-ending loss? I’m not talking about your players or addressing your team. How do you personally deal with it? Many coaches have shared with me it’s one of the toughest times of the season, and through my own coaching experience I can agree fully.

Everything comes to a screeching halt. No more practices to plan. No more bus requests.  No more interviews, no more games, no more demands. As coaches, we all thrive on demands and challenges. Days off or the end of the season are tough. So what now?

For most of us, it’s like a heavy fog has moved in and the coaching energy has dissipated. Often we head down that “should have, could have, what if road.”  You know the one. That imaginary dirt road littered with dusty championship trophies that have our team’s name on them. It’s also the one where you beat yourself up with thoughts of, “did we really lose?… what if that goal had gone in? … I should have made this adjustment,” etc.  And the one thought we can’t get out of our heads is, “I’ve let my team down.” 

It’s something we all do, but it’s wasted energy draining our ability to function.
So can we avoid this situation completely? I don’t think so. If the game and your team mean anything to you, you’ll have these thoughts when you lose to end the season, and need time to sort it all out. The better question may be, “What can I do to reduce the time I feel this way?”

Many coaches take vacations directly after the season to completely get away and recharge their batteries. Personally I’ve found you can’t escape those emotions and thoughts for a while, regardless if you’re half way around the world.

So here are my suggestions:

ROUTINE
Looking that loss right in the eye may be your best therapy. You’ll find top level coaches in their office the next day after their season ends. In their view, it serves no purpose to feel sorry for yourself or your team. After all, you’re the leader and you have to remain strong even when it’s tough. It doesn’t mean the loss doesn’t hurt. It’s just their way of competing against it. Keeping a routine even when the season ends is one of the best things you can do. It gives you purpose and hope for next season. You certainly won’t have as much to do as you would if you were still playing, but it’s enough to get you through this tough time. Take the time you would be practicing and work on next season. 

PLANNING
Take what you learned from the loss and use it to your advantage in planning practice sessions and what you want to accomplish next year.  Work on your schedule. Plan your own camps or team camps your team will attend. Add some variety to your schedule such as a weekend trip against some top teams. Research some new team building activities for ropes courses, or white water rafting. Also, think about some Friday night cookouts. These will bring a smile to your face as you think about all the players you have coming back, and what your team can accomplish.

FEED YOUR PASSION
Attend as many clinics, conventions or residential courses as possible. If you haven’t already, plan on starting or achieving the highest level license or diploma in your sport. Spending time with your colleagues will teach many lessons, such as that all coaches experience setbacks and wonderful moments. It’s also a great time to share strategies and ideas that have worked or failed miserably. Your passion batteries will be recharged in this setting, and, more importantly, you’ll see you’re not alone in anything you’ve experienced.

PROMOTE/ASSIST
Set up speaking engagements with your local organizations promoting your program and get your team involved with charity events or businesses that need volunteers to assist those in need. Nothing shows us how un-important winning or losing a game is than seeing those who need our help and the joy or smiles we see. The lessons learned in this setting will last you and your players a lifetime.

MEET WITH YOUR TEAM-
Meet with your team as soon as possible with the plans you have for next season. They also will be experiencing a range of emotions from the season ending. Let them plan or create some of the activities for next year. They need a sense of purpose and relief as well. Talk with the young players you’ve recruited or who are in the feeder system of your program. Let them know how excited you are about them joining your team.

VACATION- I know, I know.  I said earlier you can’t escape the emotions of losing after the season. I still stand behind that statement, but the key is the timing. Wait until you’ve established somewhat of a routine and gotten over the sting. You’ll enjoy your vacation with those who care about you most when the dust has settled, and you’re thinking about next season with a smile and all the possibilities.

Every coach is different. We all have to deal with that season ending loss in our unique way. None of us wants it to happen, and it’s hard not to take it personally.  Often our players have no idea the anguish we feel at that moment. But just like our players, we are resilient, we just don’t bounce back as quickly. 

Experience can help in those situations, but it’s not a cure. There aren’t any quick fixes or solutions, just the knowledge that we’ll get through it. Getting back up and into your routine will lead you to a renewed passion for next season. That energy will come back strong as you realize you have the greatest job in the world!

Keep inspiring. Your players are counting on you.