Thursday, March 1, 2018

THE CULTURE OF YOUR TEAM SHINES EVERYDAY



DeAngelo Wiser

My wife and I were in Indianapolis recently and coincidentally there were several AAU Men’s basketball teams in our hotel. These were mainly 16, 17, and 18 year old young men, and very respectful. 

On the morning of our departure, a few members of one team were waiting for an elevator to take them to the lobby. As the others gradually arrived, I noticed the coach approaching. When the elevator arrived, they followed the coach and piled in, leaving no room for anyone else, and headed down, leaving my wife and me standing there. 

While it wasn’t a big inconvenience for us, I couldn’t help but think about the missed opportunity for a teachable moment by the coach. What if he had looked up and said, “Hold on guys.  Sir, you and your wife take that one. We’ll get the next one.” 
For me, the shaping of a team’s culture is formed during opportunities like this in which those who don’t know your team come away with a “wow” impression.  While perception may not be important to you as a coach, the lessons you teach your team everyday should be.

During our season when our team stopped at Fast Food Restaurants, I always did my best to make sure our team let others go first before we ordered. It can be very crowded with 25 players at the counter. After a few times, it was so rewarding seeing them move out of the way or let someone else go in front, without any words from me. 

The culture of your team is always on display, whether in public, practice or a game. That culture takes time to build, but the results will last a lifetime.

WHAT IS CULTURE?

As defined by Merriam-Webster:
The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization. 

What foundational base do you use to build your team culture? What components are critical? What preferences from your own values and character do you use? What traits in your personality do you bring in? Leave out? Do you want your team to be a clone of you? What are the advantages? Disadvantages?  Can you shape your team culture without input and assistance from your players?  Why is it important to include them? After all, the current group of freshmen will be gone in four years and the others will have graduated before that.

Shaping and forming a team and program is always something that brings great satisfaction. It doesn’t happen overnight, and always has its challenges. 

What’s do we need to consider when creating and shaping the culture of our team?

INDIVIDUAL PERSONALITIES- Every player is unique, so don’t stifle their creativity with rules and regulations that mean very little.
INCLUDE THE TEAM/EMPOWERMENT- Have a meeting as soon as possible to establish expectations with your players. If there are some guidelines that you must have, let them know, but make sure they’re allowed to decide/discuss on others with you.
BE TOTALLY LIKE YOU- No, none of us is perfect. Varying opinions and ideas are what make a team great. Give your players space to comfortably be themselves using their attributes to succeed on their own. 
WHAT’S BEST FOR THE TEAM- This should always be a consideration as we create any expectation.
VALUES- Just because we’re a coach, it doesn’t mean we can force our values on our players. Consider other input and ideas when appropriate.
TOLERATED/NOT TOLERATED- There may be times when you have to bend a little when generating an expectation. Consider how important it is or is not. Those behaviors that will not be tolerated are usually pretty clear. The challenge is not to have so many rules that your team can’t be themselves.
VISION- What do you want your team to look like? What do you want your team to act like? Once you have that vision it’s pretty easy to set your goals. Never lose the vision.
TEAM GOALS- Work with your team and decide where you want to go and how you plan to get there.
ENVIRONMENT- “You get what you expect.”  If your vision is to become a reality, you’ll have to challenge your players every day. It may be tough but never waver. Just encourage them every chance you get.
ACCOUNTABILITY- Step up and let the team know you’ll take care of this area with respect to each incident regardless of which player is involved.
LEADERS- While the obvious answer may be you, select leaders from your team with your players.
EVERY MOMENT- Every situation is a teachable moment for you as a coach. Be keenly aware of every opportunity to mold and shape your players.

It’s not only shaping the culture of your team, it’s shaping the culture of your program. To do it, you have to sell everyone involved on your vision and expectations for the program. Parents, Administrators and Players need to be shown the benefits and rewards of where you want the program to go. Once you have everyone on board, the challenge will become a reality.

One of the biggest highlights for our team was the year we  won the “Officials’ Sportsmanship Team of the Year Award.” This was annually given to the team that exemplified the best sportsmanship in our game. In 20 years of coaching, our team only had one red card incident. I made sure our team understood what we expected with respect to how they conducted themselves on and off the field. And, as you can tell, for the vast majority of the time, they conducted themselves accordingly.

Having command of your team may or may not mean you have the respect of your players. When you witness them reminding each other of established team values you’ve taken the first step toward shaping a positive culture with your team. That will always be a reflection of what you expect, and ultimately what you tolerate. 

Remember, it’s on display every day. 
Hold on guys. Sir you and your wife take that one, we’ll wait on the next one.”

I wish you and your team the best.



Sunday, February 18, 2018

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. 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 how important preparation is 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 aren’t motivated.” Remember, you get what you expect.

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 the opportunity to connect with players in a positive way.

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. Be consistent in holding all players accountable.

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. When they say I did it all myself, you’ve done your job.

I wish you the best in your career, and positively influencing other coaches

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

LEADERSHIP, GOOD OR BAD, WILL GUIDE YOUR TEAM

 DeAngelo Wiser

Managing the dynamics of your team is a key component in being successful. As we all know, a team in disarray will never reach its potential, while a team with positive dynamics will reach as high as their skills will carry them.

Have you ever had players or a group of players that deliberately disassociated themselves from the rest of the team? It’s pretty obvious when it happens. Characteristics such as arriving just in time for practice as a group or individually, or maybe fashionably late. Wearing something different than the rest of the team, or conveniently forgetting a warm-up shirt that everyone else is wearing to school or before the game.

It may only be a perception that team members have about other players with respect to their behavior, or it may be more. In either case, it can have a far reaching effect on the mental outlook of your team.

Granted, some are minor issues and have easy solutions, but as a coach, you have to deal with them. As much as you might wish, they usually won’t go away on their own. You’re being tested, and the rest of the team is paying attention. You set the tone!

I’ve always told the team, “You’re either in this as a team or you’re not in at all!” Allowed to continue, these minor rebellions can become major and disrupt the team dynamics needed to be successful.

Coaches can’t make one player like another, and I understand the need for some players to express their individuality. But it should not be at the expense of everyone else, and certainly not when our expectations are clear.

That brings me to the point of “How will you deal with it?”

Jealousy- A terrible affliction that can destroy a team

Everyone was looking forward to our season. We had a great group of veteran players coming back. They’d been loyal to the team and done everything we as staff had asked. You can’t replace veteran leadership and experience, and we would need it this year. The excitement from those familiar with our program, however, was due to our new group of younger players. They were highly skilled and athletic. And that was the rub-- jealousy. It’s a terrible disease for a team to have. It can be treated, but rarely does it go away forever.

Every year, the younger players were getting better and better. Several of veteran player's priorities were changing. They were concentrating less on soccer, and it showed in their skills. One of our best veteran players left practice one day in the preseason and never came back.

Soon we had two groups: some of the veteran players who felt threatened, and the younger athletes who were fairly clueless to the situation, and just wanted to play. Talking to the younger group would be fruitless. What would you say as a coach? “Could you please not play as well so the rest of the team will feel comfortable?” We needed them to play and compete for us to succeed, and we needed the veterans to do the same.

I finally talked with the veteran group. I reminded them that everyone on the team needed everyone else for us to have a great year. It was a message lost in the wind. Clearly the selfish, individual needs from that group would not be swayed. And, sadly, they already had controlled their own destiny by not working on their game in the off season over the last few years.

It was a terrible learning experience for me, and quite disappointing, actually, to see young people act that way toward others who had done nothing to them. But there will be times when there simply aren’t any easy solutions or happy endings. This one wouldn’t have one, and looking back, maybe that was what the older players wanted.

You just have to continue to work through situations like this throughout the season and make decisions based on what’s best for the team. In our case, several veteran players who had started the year before were replaced by younger, highly skilled players. 

What can you do to promote positive dynamics on your team?

Expectations- Be very clear in what you expect and never settle for less.

Consistent- Take care of issues immediately and consistently regardless of which player or group of players it is.

Encourage- Let players know they can talk to you at any time

Leadership Council- Form a leadership council of your players for your players with issues and concerns.

Team Building- Take every opportunity to use team building activities. It’s a great way for players to get to know new members.

History- Tell stories about successful teams, either yours or others, and what made them successful.

Compete- Explain that competition is healthy and it will determine who plays.

Coaching- Let them know your philosophy on what it takes to succeed with respect to teamwork, and that you will always do what’s best for the team.

Representation- Players represent the team, their school and their family, and should act accordingly. They are no longer just an individual.

Communication- Encourage players to talk with each other before getting anyone else involved.

Explain/Explain/Explain- No matter how many times you think you’ve explained the expectations, conduct, playing time, etc., you’ll have to do it over and over. A coach once told me, “You show them a thousand times, and then you show them one more.”

Remove the problem- If all efforts have been fruitless, and there is simply no other option, take the initiative with the support of your Athletic Director to cut the player or players lose that are the source of the problem. Not playing them, while a temporary solution to send a message, will not get them away from influencing the rest of the team every day.


As coaches, we pride ourselves on the ability to recognize and solve challenges whether they’re on the field or on the sidelines. One of our biggest challenges will be convincing our players how much they can accomplish if they all work together. That’s never as easy as it sounds, and how we handle issues that attempt to derail our team objectives are among the most challenging. It’s not easy, but always remember- “Striving for great Leadership never ends!” Your players are counting on you.

I wish you and your team the best!

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!