Making Smart Choices

Proper Lifestyle for Athletes

Abraham Maslow was a pretty smart guy.  His hierarchy of needs is an excellent foundation for the overall success of individuals no matter their goals.  It’s especially relevant for athletes.

Athletes must eat well.  They must eat the right quantity of food as well as good quality food in order to achieve maximum performance.  They must also consume proper amounts of good fluids to supplement their diet.  Athletes must also get proper rest in order to prepare their minds and bodies for the next day of training or competition.

Young athletes have a sense of invincibility.  Many think they can be their best no matter what sort of lifestyle they follow.  They fail to understand that increased stress levels are a direct result of their failure to take care of their bodies and minds.  Just as Maslow’s pyramid shows, it’s impossible to achieve self-awareness without proper diet and rest.

When this lack of proper nutrition and rest are combined with the use of alcohol and drugs, this compounds the problems.  Now not only is the body not able to perform at it’s highest level, but the mind is also cluttered.  Many times alcohol and drug use lead to poor decision making which turns into increased stress levels.  These stress levels hinder the athlete’s ability to perform well.

Athletes who can develop good lifestyle habits are more likely to be successful in all parts of their life.  Athletes who make poor choices make achieving success more difficult than it already is.

As a coach, it is my responsibility to not only help my athletes make smart choices with regards to their lifestyle, but also model this behavior.  How can I ask them to do something that I’m not willing to do myself?

Success When It Matters

Game Keys to a Successful Team

It’s game day.  There are fans in the stands.  There are referees on the court.  There is an opponent in the building. We’ve been working hard in the classroom.  We’ve been working hard in practice.  We’ve worked hard to recruit talented athletes.  Now we’re going to be put to the test.  They want to win just as badly as we do.

Win?  Did somebody say win?  If there’s a winner that means there’s a loser.  We’ve been competing in practice.  We’ve won and lost in drills.  We’ve won and lost in scrimmages.  We can even tell you every player’s win loss record in practice.  Those wins and losses don’t go in the record books.  No one else really knows anyone else’s record, nor do they care.  Why do we care?  The record really isn’t important.  We only care that we work hard.  We only care that we are improving.  We are focused on winning right now.  We want to win this moment, this matchup, this drill, and this possession.  We know that if we win right now on a consistent basis that we will win overall.  If we are focused on winning the overall picture, that means we’re not focused on winning right now.

We have to help players focus on winning their individual matchup in a team setting.  How can I keep my player from scoring while also be ready to help a teammate if they stumble?  How can I make sure my player doesn’t get the rebound?  How can I play aggressively but not out of control?  How do I know if this is the best shot for our team on this possession? How can I help our team get the best shot without touching the ball? How can I be a good teammate right now, even though I’m not on the court?

There are 3 keys to winning any game.  We must defend every possession. We must rebound well every possession.  We must value every offensive possession by taking care of the ball and making sure we get good shots.  This requires a very narrow focus by coaches and players alike.  We must be focused on the task immediately in front of us.  If we are focused on anything else, our chances of winning narrow significantly. If we take care of each individual possession, winning the overall game will take care of itself.

Why are We Here?

Program Goals

The first and most important goal for our program is to establish a culture which fosters a hard working, team-oriented, and positive environment.  Secondly, we must assemble and develop a coaching staff who is committed to advancing this culture and the daily improvement of student-athletes as people, students, and athletes through passionate integrity for their craft and the people they coach.  Next, we must recruit student-athletes who can excel in this culture and help build a competitive program.  Finally, we must remain focused on a daily basis towards improving ourselves and each other in every facet of the human experience.

These four goals are fairly general, but they encompass the scope of what is important to building a successful program.  Each of these goals can be broken down more specifically.

Having the right culture is the most important part of building any organization.  Whether it’s a team or a business, a culture that promotes the right environment allows for a wider variety of people to become part of that environment and still be successful.  A team without a culture will develop it’s own culture.  This culture can take a number of different forms, none of which are usually very conducive towards success.

The coach must set this example and demand this example be followed from the beginning.  Once the culture is established, most people who join the team will fall in line with the established norm.  If a decision is made to recruit one or two people who will likely rebel against the culture, the coach must be willing to deal with any rebellion early and often.  If the culture is allowed to be violated, then the environment that once guided every thought and action is gone.

This culture is best supported through an excellent staff of assistants.  These assistants must be committed to maintaining this environment.  They must work every day to be loyal to the established culture.  They must be willing to speak up at appropriate times when they feel that the head coach has made an error.  When topics are open for discussion, they must be able to speak openly and honestly about their points of view regarding the topic at hand. Their input is extremely valuable towards the daily improvement of the different facets of the program.  They must be able and willing to help our current student-athletes along their journey towards success in our program. They must also be able to sell our program to prospective student-athletes in an honest fashion.

Once a coaching staff is in place, we must go out and recruit good players.  The importance of recruiting has already been outlined in other areas of this portfolio.  In short, we must recruit players who can fit into the culture as well as be successful and productive individuals on and off the court.

Finally, we must be focused and committed to improving every day at what we do.  Whether we are working to be better people, better students, or better athletes, we must strive every day to do better than we did the day before.  In our staff meetings, we must challenge each other to improve as well as finding the best ways to help our players improve.  As a result, we all must be open to evaluating ourselves as well as each other in an honest yet respectful dialogue that is focused solely around the consistent betterment of the program.

We must always be looking to improve in all areas.  How can we improve as people and as coaches?  How can we recruit better?  How can we teach better?  How can we scout better?

How can we help our players be better people?  How can we help players be more successful in the classroom?  How can we help our players be quicker or stronger?  How can we help our players be more skilled?  How can we help them better understand what we’re trying to accomplish as a team?  How can we help them be more confident as people and as players?  How can we help them help each other? How can we remove obstacles out of their way to help them be more successful? How can we build better relationships with our players?

Each one of these questions should be answered very regularly for every player.  If not every day, at least every week, we will have discussions about each of these questions for each player. We must constantly be striving to better ourselves and our team.  This requires significant time and effort, but it is the reason why we coach.

A Winning Formula

Building a Successful Program

A successful program is nothing more than a successful small business or corporation.  Our program must have a mission based on integrity, passion, and hard work.  Everyone who is a part of this program must be committed to that mission. 

Our goal must be to recruit quality people, develop those people, and graduate those same people, helping them be better than they were when they first walked through our doors.  Our goal cannot be achieved through the heroics of one person.  It must be a process that we execute every day as we interact with our recruits and student-athletes.

A staff that is committed to these values is step one to building a successful program.  Each staff member must share the same ideals and must be willing to share their opinions, openly, willingly, and respectfully with other staff members.  A staff will have daily discussions about recruiting, scheduling, practice, workouts, game planning, travel planning and the lives of individual student-athletes.  The staff must communicate openly about all of these issues so that each staff member is in tune with each person and knows how to handle each situation.  An individual who is in the dark about a student-athlete’s situation is not well prepared to coach them.  It cannot be expected that a student-athlete tell every coach about every situation.  The coaching staff must be unified in their communications and discussions. 

Staff members are not required to agree with every decision.  However, they must share their opinions and respect the opinions of others.  If a decision is made that they are in disagreement with, they must jump on board and support the direction of the team. 

Assembling a winning staff requires careful selection.  The program must offer enough benefits to attract quality people to the program.  Without a quality coaching staff, a program will have a difficult time being successful.