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The 3 Principles of Competitive Greatness: How To Be Good When It Counts

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John Wooden is a coaching rock star and legend.   So I thought, what better gift to give my readers during summer break than a series on Wooden’s Pyramid of Success?  Join me for a series of posts that will delve into both the foundation and apex of his Pyramid and examine Wooden’s thoughts on Industriousness, Enthusiasm, Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, Competitive Greatness, and finally, Faith & Patience.

Competitive Greatness

Have you ever had an athlete who was the most amazing player to have ever played the game…when you were playing a team that wasn’t as skilled as yours?  Or a player who was a walking highlight film in the first month of the season, but come tournament time…she disappears?  This is where competitive greatness comes into play.  What does that phrase mean?  To me, it means being great when you have to be.  Whether it’s game point and the team is counting on you or it’s the conference tournament and the entire team needs to step up.  Whatever the situation, it’s being great when greatness is required.  Check out these three ways that coaches can nurture competitive greatness on their teams.

  • Be patient.  I’ve talked about seven of the blocks that make up the Pyramid of Success, but there are fourteen in total and competitive greatness is the culmination of all of those blocks.  Oftentimes, I think we coaches think that the team is going to be ready to go on the first day of practice…and we start grouching, and rolling our eyes, and shaking our heads.  But, in actuality, we’re in the wrong because competitive greatness takes time and experience.  We’ve got to internalize that thought and we’ve got to get it across to our teams as well.  Greatness is out there and will be part of our team’s future…we’ve just got to be willing to go through the process first.
  • Create challenges. Getting through all of those blocks of the Pyramid won’t be easy and it certainly won’t happen without you being intentional about it.  Challenge your team’s industriousness and their enthusiasm through drills in practice, because they should be enthusiastic about their hard work and work hard at their enthusiasm.  Challenge them to create time in their busy schedules to create friendship and loyalty within the team.  All of that takes time, but it will pay off in the end.
  • Embrace competition. Years ago, I sat down with an athlete who said that she learned how to not equate competition with hating the opponent in our practices.  What’s wrong with hating the opponent, you ask?  Well, if you set up competitions in your practice (of course you do, right?), you don’t want your players to hate each other…they’re teammates after all!  You want your teams to love to compete, but not make it personal.  Even in competitions versus other schools, I try to emphasize that the two sides have opposing goals and that’s why we want to win.  Quite honestly, I don’t want my team to care enough about the opponent that we hate them.  We don’t care about the other team…we just care our team and creating success within our group.

Here’s a great quotation from Wooden’s book:  “What is competitive greatness?  It’s being at your best when your best is needed.”  I’m pretty sure that I can’t say it any better!  Next up:  faith and patience.

You can check out more of my writing at www.coachdawnwrites.com.  You can follow me on Twitter @CoachDawnWrites and Facebook so that we can connect and talk coaching.

The Coach’s Cooperation Checklist: Take These Steps To Success

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 John Wooden is a coaching rock star and legend.   So I thought, what better gift to give my readers during summer break than a series on Wooden’s Pyramid of Success?  Join me for a series of posts that will delve into both the foundation and apex of his Pyramid and examine Wooden’s thoughts on Industriousness, Enthusiasm, Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, Competitive Greatness, and finally, Faith & Patience.

Cooperation

Most of us coaches would love to think that we are the magician’s behind the curtains of our teams…willing them to excel and exceed expectations.  But when we wake up from dreamland, we realize that we are beholden to so many groups of people that when you sit down and really think about it…success is a truly wonderful thing, a group effort, and something to be celebrated.  Now, let’s look at the:

The 6 essential pieces of cooperation

1.       Administration:  So coach, you’ve landed that sweet interview at the school of your dreams and they ask the Interview Hall Of Fame question: do you have any questions?  Well, as a matter of fact you do!  Your knowledge of your sport is only going to get you so far.  You’ll also need to know how many assistant coaches your program will be funded for, what shape your equipment is in…and if you’ve got the budget to upgrade as necessary, what the facilities (locker rooms, gyms, weight room, etc.) are like, how the travel schedule is put together and what the mode of transportation is normally.

2.       Support staff: If you think you can really succeed without the training room staff keeping your athletes in one piece, the sports information director getting the word out about how awesome your team is, and the strength and conditioning staff…well, strengthening and conditioning your team, you are living in la-la land.  Not to mention the office workers who make copies, mail letters, and make sure your credit card bill is paid on time.  They are crucial to what we do!

3.       Parents: No matter the level (youth through the collegiate ranks), parents will play a major role in our sports programs.  Whether they’re supplying orange slices, baking cookies, or making a holiday dinner for a college team that’s on the road and can’t make it home…they’re important and you’d be well served to embrace your team parents.  Additionally, building a good relationship with your parents will help when one of your players makes the inevitable grumpy call home.  The parents who feel involved and believe in you and your program will nip that in the bud.

4.       Fans: There’s no such thing as a home court advantage without them!  The ones that come to your games in body paint, or do pushups for how many points you have, or who travel all over the place just to watch you play.  Those folks are awesome and it’d probably be a good idea for your program to figure out a way to celebrate the die-hards who are always there for you.

5.       Athletes: You can know everything about your sport, but you can’t play.  Your knowledge is useless without your athletes.  They’ve got to buy-in (cooperate) to your offensive and defensive schemes, your ideas on off-season workouts, and ultimately…to you as a coach.  They’ve got to be willing to work hard every day in practice and in even harder in the classroom.  You’ve got to trust them to be good spokespeople for your program and ambassadors for your team.

6.       Coach: I haven’t forgotten about us coaches!  Our job is to be knowledgeable…that’s the way we earn the respect of our teams.  We’ve also got to be caring…once we reach that combination, that’s when our teams start running through walls for us.  We need to be able to make in-game adjustments that put our team at an advantage.  In terms of functioning within a larger group, we have to be able to manage our athletes when they’re out of our sight (in the classroom, at night when they’re out with their friends), so training up quality leaders is huge.  Finally, we’ve got to be our team’s biggest advocates.  Whether we’re fundraising or just getting the word out about good things that are happening within our programs, it’s part of the job of the head coach to get out front on these things.

As Wooden says, “in order to reach the full potential of the group, there must be cooperation at all levels.”  Hopefully you were thinking about some of the folks who help you and your team out and will thank them for their cooperation.  Next up:  competitive greatness.

You can check out more of my writing at www.coachdawnwrites.com.  You can follow me on Twitter @CoachDawnWrites and Facebook so that we can connect and talk coaching.

4 Sure-Fire Reasons Loyalty Is Vital To Your Team’s Success


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John Wooden is a coaching rock star and legend.   So I thought, what better gift to give my readers during summer break than a series on Wooden’s Pyramid of Success?  Join me for a series of posts that will delve into both the foundation and apex of his Pyramid and examine Wooden’s thoughts on Industriousness, Enthusiasm, Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, Competitive Greatness, and finally, Faith & Patience.

Loyalty

According to the incorrect science that is Wikipedia, loyalty is faithfulness or devotion to a person, country, group, or cause.  So in this case, I think they’ve gotten it right.  When building a team, we coaches try to build a group of players who have a belief in what they don’t see…or faith as some would call it.  Faith that their hard work will pay off in the end.  Faith that all of those sprints and drills and hard practices will end with a successful season.  And without tangible evidence of that payoff, the only thing that they can hold onto is the loyalty they have to their teammates and their program…in other words, they play for each other.  Let’s look at some of the ways that loyalty will increase your team’s chances of success.

Player to player “Loyalty is a cohesive force that forges individuals into a team.” Quite simply, there can’t be a connection that’s higher than your players with one another.  Their love and loyalty toward their teammates will take them to higher and higher heights.  Loyalty will make them play defense harder, hit with more force, and serve with more accuracy because they feel like they’re part of a bigger unit.

Coach to player “Respect helps produce loyalty.” Yep, I wrote that correctly.  Coach to player respect…that’ll produce loyalty for sure.  Your players need to know that you respect their effort, their desire to be successful, and their ability to process the complexities of your sport.  Once they feel that care and respect, the loyalty they’ll feel toward you , as their coach, will be tangible.

Player to coach “Loyalty is a powerful force in producing one’s individual best and even more so in producing a team’s best.” If your team is loyal to you (after you’ve done the stuff from the point above), your collective unit can be better than it should be and go farther than others thought you could.  Why?  Because each person will work their individual hardest and that will only benefit the entire team in the long run.  They’ll go hard for you and just as important, the older players will squash any unhappy grumblings from non-starters or newbies.

All to program “How can you work to the best of your ability unless you have someone or something to whom you are loyal?” We’ve got to create a team chemistry that’s strong enough that there’s a sense of history and a sense of pride in our programs.  Your players should feel compelled to leave their mark in some positive manner through their loyalty to the continual development and betterment of your program.

It takes time and effort, but it’s worth it.  Cultivate loyalty within your teams and watch the fruits of your labor result in successful seasons.  Next up:  cooperation.

You can check out more of my writing at www.coachdawnwrites.com.  You can follow me on Twitter @CoachDawnWrites and Facebook so that we can connect and talk coaching.

BFF’s: Why Friendship Is Important To Your Team

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John Wooden is a coaching rock star and legend.   So I thought, what better gift to give readers during summer break than a series on Wooden’s Pyramid of Success?  Join me for a series of posts that will delve into both the foundation and apex of his Pyramid and examine Wooden’s thoughts on Industriousness, Enthusiasm, Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, Competitive Greatness, and finally, Faith & Patience.

Friendship

One of the things that I love about Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is that he was a man coaching men.  I know that that sounds obvious, but many times, the intangibles (like friendship and getting along) are seen as “female traits” and things that only coaches of females need to be worried about.  Well, thank goodness for John Wooden (and his ten national championships in twelve years!) and his assertion that the intangibles hold no gender…that they’re equally as important to men’s teams as they are to women’s.  Now let’s look at the…

**4 ways to encourage camaraderie and friendship on your team**

1.       Forced friendliness: At the beginning of the season, when the newbies don’t really know the returners all that well, you’ve got to manufacture the friendliness…with the hope that it’ll turn into real friendship.  Whether it’s team dinners, studying together, or movie nights…you’ve got to make them hang around each other off of the court early on in the season.

2.       Upperclassmen as mentors: Some teams will match a freshman up with a senior or other upperclassmen, with the older players charged with helping the newbie navigate campus (picking classes, professors, etc.) as well as being a friendly face on campus.  This also helps break down the walls that are naturally there between the upperclassmen and the newcomers.

3.       Secret pals: This can be a weekly thing or something special your team does just around the championships.  But players pick names and secretly give small gifts to whoever they picked.  Usually it’s just a Gatorade or bag of snacks with a motivating note attached to it.  Ideally, you’ve done enough team building stuff with them that they actually know the things that their teammates like so that their gift can be truly appreciated.

4.       Captain council: Years ago, I’d read High Hopes by Gary Barnett and he talked about this idea of picking someone from each class to be a captain.  Using that model, at least everyone’s perspective gets heard by the coaching staff and hopefully they’re able to build respect for each other during the process of meeting with you as a Council.  The upside of the Captain Council is that the natural hierarchy is broken down because your freshman captain will have the same input as your senior.

Friendship on a team is a powerful motivator.  As Wooden says, “the blocks in between my two cornerstones make a strong and solid foundation because they include others and show that it takes a united effort to succeed.”  Next up:  Loyalty.

You can check out more of my writing at www.coachdawnwrites.com.  You can follow me on Twitter @CoachDawnWrites and Facebook so that we can connect and talk coaching.

Get Fired Up! 3 Reasons Why Enthusiasm Will Make You A Better Coach

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John Wooden is a coaching rock star and legend.   So I thought, what better gift to give my readers during this holiday season than a series on Wooden’s Pyramid of Success? Join me for a series of posts that will delve into both the foundation and apex of his Pyramid and examine Wooden’s thoughts on Industriousness, Enthusiasm, Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, Competitive Greatness, and finally, Faith & Patience.

Enthusiasm

So I think the fact that I have a coaching blog and a Twitter account devoted to coaching shows that I’m pretty passionate about coaching in general…and volleyball in particular.  But even before all of that, I made sure that every team that I coached understood how much I loved the sport.  On that first day of practice, I would sit them down and tell them the ways that I love volleyball…I love the way the ball sounds as it’s being passed, I love the sound of the gym when everyone’s talking and playing hard, I love the cheers at the end of plays, and on and on I would go so that they understood that their coach was crazy about the sport.  Let’s look at ways that coaches can create an atmosphere of enthusiasm on their teams and in their gyms.

3 ways to make your enthusiasm for your sport and job contagious

“You have to like what you’re doing, your heart must be in it.”
I love volleyball and I love coaching.  It’s one of the first things that I say to recruits and at the beginning of each season.  Whenever folks ask me what I’d do if I were a multi-millionaire…and I always say: coach volleyball.  I love the sport and find it amazing that someone’s actually willing to pay me to do the one thing that I love and am good at!  Because of my love of the sport, I believe that I’ve always attracted athletes of a similar mindset to whatever program I’m coaching…ladies who love to work the sport, learn about the sport, and get better at the sport.

“Enthusiasm brushes off on those with whom you come into contact.”
After you’ve been coaching at a program for a while, your athletes seem like they start to act like you a little, don’t they?  And I think that’s because your love of the sport is brushing off on them.  Your seniors will have had four years to bask in how fired up you are about coaching your sport, your juniors will feel the seniors’ love, while your underclassmen will assume that they’re supposed to love the sport because they’re following along with what your upperclassmen are doing.  As a coach, you have the opportunity to create an environment where your players love the sport and love working hard at the sport.

“Leaders must always generate enthusiasm if they wish to bring out the best in themselves and those under their supervision.”
Our job, as coaches, is to lead people and inspire them to be greater and better than they ever thought that they could be.  Our players should be able to look at us and know that we love what we do, we’re good at what we do, and we have their best interests at heart.  Enthusiasm in those three areas will pay off dividends as we ask them to sacrifice their minds, bodies, and time.  And taking the step just beyond that, we have the marvelous opportunity to model leadership to our student-athletes…to show them what true enthusiasm for your sport and craft looks like.  I hope that none of us take that responsibility lightly.

Enthusiasm and Industriousness are the cornerstones of Wooden’s Pyramid…meaning that everything else stems from those two things.  That’s good news because both of those things are completely within our control!  Next up:  Friendship.

You can check out more of my writing at www.coachdawnwrites.com.  You can follow me on Twitter @CoachDawnWrites and Facebook so that we can connect and talk coaching.

Make Your Own Luck: 3 Reasons Why Hard Work Is Essential To Success

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John Wooden is a coaching rock star and legend.  This is the first in a series of posts that will delve into both the foundation and apex of his Pyramid.  Please join me as I examine Wooden’s thoughts on Industriousness, Enthusiasm, Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, Competitive Greatness, and finally, Faith & Patience.

Industriousness

What is success and how does one measure it?  Early on in my career, I read John Wooden’s book, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court and loved it.  Oddly enough, I hadn’t heard about his Pyramid of Success at that time…and now it’s the basis of my entire coaching philosophy.  He defines success as the “peace of mind that is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”  That’s pretty awesome, huh?  My favorite aspect of that definition is that the control is in our hands…if we can say after every drill, every practice, every match, and every season that we’re satisfied with our effort, then we’ve been successful.  Let’s examine at a few different ways to look industriousness.

3 areas where industriousness is essential

Preparation: “You have to work and work hard.” As coaches, we’ve got to be the hardest workers on the court…we can’t get out-worked by our athletes.  That means practice planning has got to be on point, your scouting should leave your team feeling uber-confident, and your game plans for each opponent should be both reasonable and doable for your players.

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Coach As Puzzle Solver: The Joys And Challenges Of Figuring Out Your Team

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I sometimes think folks think this coaching gig is a walk in the park.  Learn about your sport, tell the team what to do, and sit down and let the magic happen.  But as we all know, our teams are like one giant if/then clause: you know what I mean…if A, then B.  Like: if Susie had a good practice, then her Genetics exam went well.  Or, if Susie misses her serve, then she’ll shank the next pass.  There are literally millions of different scenarios that we have to rummage through in our mental files as we deal with our teams to try and extract the best from them.  And that’s the beauty of coaching!  So let’s look at four common problems that coaches love to mull over and find answers to:

4 puzzles that coaches love to solve

  • Recruits: Every coach knows that each potential student-athlete is different and walks into their office with a different set of things that they’re looking for in a school and program that “fits” them.  Figuring out who the significant adult is in their recruits life, what makes her tick, what she’s looking for in a school is the challenge that each coach faces.  And not just that, but how that recruit will fit in with the current makeup of their team and, of course, how she will contribute on the court are all concerns of the puzzle-loving coach.
  • Individuals: Just like every recruit is different, everyone on your team is different as well.  They’ve got different outside interests, different personality types, and different motivations for being on the team.  Some of your players need you to speak sternly to them…others will cry when spoken to with that same tone.  Some of them need to watch video before they understand what you’ve told them a million and twenty five times already.  Your seniors, who’ve seen your act for three years already, know you well (when you’re serious…and when you’re really serious) so your expectation level can be higher for them than others on the team.
  • Teams: Just like every recruit and individual is different…every team is different.  Some will have amazing leaders and you can sit back and chill, while others will have poor leadership that will keep you on your toes in terms of gauging the team temperature.  Some will be super close and friendly, while others will have to manufacture their “team time”.  No matter what, though, they’re all different…even if there’s only one new person added to the mix, because each player has grown up (or not) and has new challenges in their lives that have nothing to do with sport.  As each team member grows and changes, so will your team.
  • Seasons: I’m sure you’re sensing the theme here, so you know that I’m about to say that every season is different.  Some seasons will be a walk in the park, while others will challenge you to become a better coach for your team.  Some seasons will be magical, ending with a championship just like you’d hoped and planned…while others will crash and burn, leaving you scratching your head trying to figure out what happened.  Some seasons will fly by, while others will drag on and on with you counting down the days until it’s over.  The thing that all seasons have in common is the fact that they can teach us about: our recruiting plan (what worked and what you need in the future), how we deal with our teams individually (as you learn more and more about the members of your team), and how to deal with our teams as a whole (as they change and grow, the team will change and grow).

Can you think of anything that I forgot?  What puzzles have you had to solve as a coach?

You can check out more of my writing at www.coachdawnwrites.com.  You can follow me on Twitter @CoachDawnWrites and Facebook so that we can connect and talk coaching.

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