Saturday, January 6, 2018

CAN YOU SEE YOUR TEAM IN A STAINED GLASS WINDOW?



DeAngelo Wiser

Coaching a group of players certainly presents challenges and opportunities. It can range from life altering situations to questions about where to stop and eat on the way home from the game.

What exactly is a team? And how do we blend so many personalities and interests into one common goal or mission of doing what’s best for the team to achieve success?

I believe one of the best analogies lies in the awe and splendor we see when looking at a stained glass window. While many remember them in churches and cathedrals, stained glass is used in homes for windows and can be appreciated in many forms of art.

I think a successful team is like a beautiful stained glass window. Let’s do a comparison.

What do you see when you look at a stained glass window? Usually the image portrayed is our first and lasting impression, but is their more? What about our team, what do others see as they look at the team and how they interact and blend together? What image do we portray? We know there is more to a stained glass window than immediately meets the eye.

As we look closer at a stained glass window, we see many pieces of glass, some are small while others are quite large. Some are vividly bright and others are fairly muted in color. What about our team?  Are some roles bigger than others? Does size make them more or less important? Are there days when some players shine brightly with their play while others struggle under a cloud of mistakes? Will there be times when those not in the starting lineup shine brightly just by encouraging their teammates? Are their times when the least noticeable pieces of glass will have the chance to shine?

Do all the pieces of glass fit together automatically? No. Our players come to us with varying degrees of ability and demeanor. Having a vision of what our stain glassed window should look like is something we and our players have to determine. Through practice and leadership, we guide our players every day and smooth those edges to fit in the vision of success for our team.

How is all that glass held together? Strips of tin and lead are soldered together to hold each glass in place during the process before being permanently sealed. How about our team? What holds it together? Is it the commitment and encouragement we use every day to build confidence? Is it our players’ ability to understand that giving up themselves for the team is essential? Is it our ability to explain to each player their role and how important it is to the team?

What if the tiniest piece of glass were missing as we gazed at the stained glass window? Would we notice? I feel certain we would, and it would impact our impression and the beauty of the glass. What about our team? Would we be impacted by a player not showing up, being injured, quitting our team or having to sit out a game? Certainly, but just as a master craftsman can repair the window, so do we have the ability to restore our team.

Stained glass windows aren’t usually built quickly, especially the older, magnificent ones. Those craftsmen used painstaking detail and labor to make sure everything was just right, just as you do with your team. If you look closely, you’ll see the glass perfectly fits together and the image is striking. You may also notice that the only wear and tear is the lead and tin that holds it together. It may look worn. Not surprising since the lead used to keep our team together, the commitment, dedication and encouragement, takes a lot of effort and can become a labor.  But that’s the process you control and, just like the master craftsmen, always pay attention with pain-staking detail.

Take the time to look at your team as they shine brightly during a game, with each player contributing a great deal to the success of the team. Let them know how important their role is and how much you appreciate everything they do. Remember, stained glass windows wouldn’t be the same without all the pieces.


      I wish you and your team the best!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

WE CAN LEARN A LOT FROM OUR TEAM



DeAngelo Wiser

If you’ve coached for any period of time you’ve attended clinics, seminars and conventions with respect to your education as a coach. Clinicians can strike a chord concerning your team when you think, “Wow! I can use that with my team.”  That awareness created by the clinician is great, but is it long lasting? The lessons learned from being in front of, and working with your team in tough or joyous moments may teach you far more. That experience of seeing and feeling the outcome of strong leadership, shared leadership or no leadership cannot be duplicated in a presentation or session.

I’m not talking about the technical or tactical aspect of your game. I’m talking about the communication (spoken and unspoken), interaction, trust and leadership necessary to hold a team together, even in the toughest times.

Moments that taught me the most were those that involved my team. Here are a few:

·        No smart phone video is necessary. Your actions and words will be ingrained in my mind for a lifetime.

·        We are all unique individuals, please don’t treat us the same.

·        We may disagree with you, either vocally or by our actions. Don’t take it personally. 

·        Winning at all costs may not be our highest priority.

·        There will be times when we just need a break. Doesn’t mean we’re not dedicated.

·        Highlighting one or more of us over and over again will create animosity.

·        We often over react to issues. Teach us how to better deal with them.

·        I know I made a mistake, yelling won’t help. Show me how to correct it.

·        We don’t know it all, although we think we do. Ask for our opinions and input on decisions that impact our team.

·        Remember to celebrate our small victories and adventures along the journey.

·        After a hard fought game may not be the best time to share your anger.

·        We don’t want to discipline each other. It’s your job.

·        We may not totally understand the long term implications and importance of winning a championship.

·        Encourage us. It will make a difference.

·        Never give up on us. We can read it in your words and actions.

·        Talent requires decisive and shared leadership to be successful.

·        Trust our decisions in key situations. If not, who will make our decisions in life when you’re gone?

·        If you didn’t emphasize it or practice it, you have no right to be upset with anyone but yourself.

·        Five years from now I may not remember a particular game, but I will remember a completely hilarious moment.

·        My life will be influenced by your positive or negative actions. 

·        Be consistent when holding a player accountable, regardless of status.

·        Challenge me to be the best player I can become, even when I object.

·        Our respect for you must be earned, not just because you’re the coach.

·        When you make a mistake, admit it.

·        Drop the word “my” and insert “our” when using the word team.

I’m a huge advocate of attending as many clinics, seminars and conventions as possible having been a member of United Soccer Coaches for over twenty years.  The speakers and clinicians are world class and have valuable messages to impart on all of us. The true test of that message that flipped your light switch will be the lab you work in every day, your team. Those special individuals who look to you for guidance and direction will teach you more than you will ever know. Without their feedback, reactions, and even objections we can’t always be sure if our decisions are in the best interest of our team.

It may not be a “Wow Moment”, but if you listen intently every day your team is teaching you how to become a better coach.  For that be thankful.

I wish you and your team the best!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

RELENTING OR TOUGH COACH?


DeAngelo Wiser

If current or former players were asked, “Was your coach tough?”, what would they say? If they answered yes, what images would come to mind? If they answered no, would those images change?

I’m pretty sure those who have been away from the game for a while might see a tough coach as always demanding, relentlessly pushing, sometimes degrading and negative, and not very open to any excuse or sharing discussions with players on areas concerning strategy of the game.

On the other hand, if players answered no, thoughts might lean toward a coach who wasn’t firm when making decisions, rarely holding players accountable, over praising players and maybe being more concerned with not creating issues versus dealing with them.

This is not to say either style is bad or one is a better fit than the other. Many athletes perform better when a coach is more demanding, while others need a coach that is more nurturing.

I must admit that when I was growing up it was a different era because being a tough coach was the norm. My coaches were demanding, verbally abusive and never tolerant of mistakes. Any variance by a player was dealt with by punishment on the spot, in front of everyone. There was no transferring to another school to escape this treatment. The majority of coaches were cast from the same mold. As a player, fear was the prevalent emotion and the driving force to perform. I might add, though, that any compliment a player received truly meant something, because they were few and far between.

It is worth noting that many coaches' styles and demeanor are shaped by a coach they had in high school or college. Surprisingly enough, in many cases it is exactly the opposite of that coach when they were too easy on them or too tough on them. In my case that is true. I always knew if I coached I would always do my best to create a positive atmosphere with respect for my players.

So where would you place yourself on a coaching continuum with “Relenting” at one end and “Tough” at the other? Is it safe to say that a coach leans toward the relenting end on some situations and the tough end on others? Is that a true indicator of the coach’s impact by moving up and down the continuum, or is it required to coach today’s athletes?

Many would argue that today’s athlete requires a flexible coach. There are so many different personalities on the team and responses should be made depending on the situation. The shift seems to be for the coach to change to fit the athlete, not the other way around. How can a coach be so flexible and still earn the respect of his or her players?


Let’s look at situations where relenting might be the best fit.
When a player:

1. Makes a statement made out of character.
2. Stands up for a teammate in a heated moment or game.
3. Actions are out of character...walking off the practice field, confronting          
    a teammate.
4. Lack of effort due to physical or mental issues not conveyed to       
     coaches.
5.

Let’s be clear, “Relenting” doesn’t mean we won’t hold them accountable. It’s looking at some situations that aren’t crystal clear, taking into account the player’s previous history, circumstances and intent before making a decision. They will be held accountable, but we must decide how severely.


How about areas where holding a tougher line is imperative?

1.     Program expectation violations…..
A.    Blatantly and consistently undermining the coaching staff
B.     Missing practice/game
C.     Breaking curfew
D.    Demeaning treatment of teammates
E.     Unsportsmanlike conduct/ejection during a game
F.     Unruly behavior on and off campus
G.    Failing academic performance
2.     Federal, state or community laws broken
3.

Holding a “Tougher” line in these situations can bring your team together, or, if not addressed, can drive a wedge between different groups of players. If, at the beginning of the year, the coach and his or her team developed expectations with accountability for specific violations, then the decision is crystal clear and has to be made regardless of the player’s status.

The key to earning the respect of players lies in the ability to discern between being relenting and being tough. Let’s be clear, players expect to be held accountable, regardless of what generation they come from. They’re the first to know they made a mistake or violated a rule. When the situation is watered down, and the accountability insignificant, it disrupts the whole team. The guilty player thinks his or her actions are okay and the rest of the team thinks we’re playing favorites.

As the leader, coaches have to hold a hard line on certain issues, while others require that they gather more information to make a decision.

In the end some players will say a coach was “tough,” while others will say they were “relenting.” That vision is based on what they saw only in their situation or what they perceived. Players will never, at least while they play, understand what went on behind the scenes and the many considerations weighed before making decisions.

Fighting to establish a reputation as a “Tough” coach as opposed to a “Relenting” one isn’t worth the effort considering that at times we need to be both.

I wish you and your team the best!!

Keep Inspiring!

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!