Below are a few articles from the month of February that I have found interesting.
During the month I also wrote a 3 Part Blog Series for the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) on Designing Practices to S.E.E. Results (Safety, Engagement, and Efficiency). Those 3 Blogs are also copied below as well as other blog posts about Evaluating Yourself, Tuckman’s 4 Stages of a Team, and Tricks of the Trade.
There are also a couple new discussions on the Discussion Board to check out.
Pediatricians Recommend Moderation for Little Leaguers: Preach Diversification!
Communication: Open, Honest, and Direct!
Enduring a Slump
Phil Jackson and Servant Leadership
Focus on the Present from Joe Torre
25 Coaching Tips
The 4 Stages of Skill Acquisition for Young Athletes
Qualities of Outstanding Assistant Coaches
7 Ways to be a Coaching Rock Star!
Today’s coaching trick is all about maintaining an engaging atmosphere around your teaching. Often times when we are teaching during practice there are other things going on that have the potential to steal athlete’s attention from us or the practice plan. For example, as a Hockey Coach there are always other things going on around the ice rink like kids playing, parents watching, or sometimes other teams practicing on the other half of the ice surface! Maybe you practice at a large park with other teams on nearby fields, or close to a road where cars are constantly passing by, hopefully you are not in the deadliest situation of all and coaching High School Boys while a Girl’s team is practicing in visual vicinity! Regardless of where you are it is likely that athlete attention is at a premium and something you should treasure as a Coach.
One trick I have used to combat this attention deficit is to arrange athletes with their backs facing possible distractions when I am teaching. Obviously you are in control of where you stand and hopefully athletes are facing you, so by placing yourself facing the distractions you are forcing the athletes away from the distraction and allowing them to be more focused on you and what you are telling them. This translates into more effective teaching!
This tip is so simple you can implement it into your next practice and I certainly hope you do. Have a great week and thank you for reading!
In November I published my first version of Learning How to Coach from watching the Movie “The Wedding Crashers”. If you did not catch the first edition about Cue Words scroll down this page and you will see that Blog from November 16th. Once again, the infamous crashers, John and Jeremy Ryan, have some incredible advice for Coaches.
In the first scene (0:00-0:21) John Ryan is trying to get in with bridesmaid Claire’s father, Secretary Cleary, in an attempt for his approval of him before trying to court her later in the day. This can be looked at as understanding athletes. Coaches should be very observant and open to establish a good Coach-Athlete relationship.
In the second scene (0:22-1:09), John uses his homework from the previous scene and approaches Secretary Cleary at the Wedding reception. Knowing him and his family are very passionate about sailing, he uses this as a starting point for their communication and things get off to a great start, Secretary Cleary even offers to go out and smoke a cigar with him after the conversation.
In the third scene (1:10-2:04) John is talking to a parent about the motivation and actions of his child. John maintains a calm attitude toward the parent and is a good listener. These are two attributes of good communicators and good Coaches!
Lesson #1 The importance of knowing your audience and maintaining a good Coach-Athlete Relationship.
Lesson #2 Speaking their language for increased understanding and buy-in. When talking to athletes it is very important for them to understand what you are doing as a team, but also WHY you are doing it! An example I use to illustrate this point is when we have athletes doing exercises like a squat jump. For sports like Basketball and Volleyball this probably makes sense because jumping is a tremendous attribute to improve your performance, but what about an athlete playing baseball, hockey, or lacrosse for example? Although jumping is not a key component in their sport power output is essential to sprint faster, so for a Coach to be able to tell athletes they are going to perform some squat jumps to work on their power to become faster sprinters as opposed to jumping for the sake of jumping, you will have a better buy-in from the athletes and hopefully more motivation and better performance. Without this ability to relate to an athlete’s needs athletes may be left wondering what they are doing and lose interest in their activity.
Lesson #3 Good communication by staying calm and effective listening. In this case it happens to also be with a parent and I know many Coaches, especially at the youth level have been in this situation before. It is very hard to tell someone how they can/should parent, so staying calm, listening, and offering solutions you may be able to provide is a good way to mediate the situation.
Take these lessons from the Wedding Crashers and thank you for reading!
After watching the past few weeks in the NFL you may feel there is a new poster child for leadership in the league by the name of Tim Tebow. A veteran in leadership during his college days at Florida, Tebow is now looking like he also has the innate ability to lead a group of professionals in the most trying times of a game and a season.
There is recruiting folklore that while on a trip to the University of Florida as High Schoolers a group of athletes were asked where they were going to attend and they responded that they were going wherever Tebow was going!This natural leadership is undeniable.
Although hard to define, leadership is undoubtedly a very important aspect of both sport and life, which is why many Coaches try and teach leadership through athletics. For me, leadership needs to be explored by student-athletes and the role of being a leader certainly isn’t for everyone, but everyone needs opportunities to lead and good examples of leadership, just like anything else, if they are going to succeed in that role. I believe it is the Coach's job to provide that good example, and to also give opportunities for leadership through the year during practices and games.
For example, on the U12 hockey team I Coach, we rotate two captains every game and the captains have certain responsibilities over their peers when they are representing their team. This process has worked pretty well thus far this season and I would recommend it to other Coaches looking for a way to incorporate leadership opportunities into their coaching. Here are a few other ways we have incorporated leadership opportunities:
Leading daily stretches and warm-up activities.
Demonstrating drills or exercises for practices.
Asking questions with legitimate time for answers from athletes.
Offering to hear an athlete's opinion about certain aspects of the program.
For more information on developing good leaders like Tim Tebow visit The Academy of Sport Leadership at: www.sportleadership.com !
The season is just getting underway for me, as I have officially moved out to New Jersey. I will be working with Evolving Athletes and the New Jersey Stars Ice Hockey Program as both a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Ice Hockey Coach, and Coach Educator. All of this is also in addition to my work as a Coach Mentor for the Americorps Coach Across America Program!
Accompanying the beginning of every sport season is the beginning of a Brand New, Squeaky Clean, Pristine Mint Condition Coaching Journal. I believe in Coaching Journals because I believe reflection to be a huge component of learning. This was a major point of emphasis at Boston University’s famous Institute for Athletic Coach Education, where I attended school, Coaches in the Coach Across America Program, and also informally in my own learning both as a Coach and just as a human being. Thinking about past practices and coaching methods and thinking critically about them has shaped who I am the next time I am at practice, and over the course of 5 years now, reflection has greatly shaped me as the Coach I am today.
So, as I wrote the first two entries in my 2011-12 Coaching Journal this week I realized last year I started to find a pretty good outline that worked for me so I wanted to share that here with you all so that you could benefit from it as well. Obviously a Coaching Journal is your own unique rendition of what happened during the practice, and should be your own, but if you are looking for something new take a look. Here is how I write 95% of my journal entries and I believe this is a pretty effective way to organize a coaching journal.
+ (What were qualities you liked about the day? Ask yourself: What went well today?)
- (What were qualities you did not like today? Ask yourself: What could have been better today?)
Daily Description- (A report about the day’s activities including what happened and why. This section is typically the meat of every entry and it can be as short or long as necessary, but try to delve into events rather than just scratching the surface. A deep journal entry 2-3 times a week is better than a superficial entry everyday!)
Future Prescription- (What could you do next time to change the outcome of events that happened today? Brainstorming future scenarios you may be put in again and strategies for resolving those issues. Sometimes this can even be included as part of the Description section as a Description and Prescription segment.)
I hope this helps you organize your Coaching Journal this year and you have as much success as I have had with it. Thank you for reading!
Last piece on College Football’s opening weekend (at least until next year), I promise. As I was watching games last weekend there were two coaching styles that stuck out to me between Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly and University of Oregon’s Chip Kelly. During each game one of their athletes made poor plays that may have cost them the ball game, but each Coach handled the similar situation very differently. I looked for video on these situations but I was unable to find what I wanted so I will begin to paint the picture here:
Notre Dame was losing at home in a game they were favored to win when Quarterback Dayne Crist threw a ball away on a 3rd down situation near the Red Zone. After the throw, Crist jogged back to the sideline and was greeted to a screaming Brian Kelly who seemed to be upset with one of his decisions during the play. Coach Kelly kept Crist next to him on the sideline for probably 5-10 seconds before the camera panned away from them and I never saw him stop moving his mouth.
In contrast, during the week’s premiere game between #3 Oregon and #4 LSU I was watching a great game until Freshman standout DeAnthony Thomas fumbled twice on nearly consecutive plays resulting in two LSU touchdowns. After the fumbles, particularly the second fumble, Thomas had the same jog back to the sideline as Crist, but University of Oregon Coach Chip Kelly’s message was much different as he provided Thomas with a short word or two and a butt smack!
Now, I understand these are two completely different players- A veteran Quaterback and a True Freshman skill player, but the difference in approach was World’s apart. Although athlete’s differ greatly in the type of feedback they prefer I would be willing to bet that Oregon’s Chip Kelly has a much more approachable atmosphere and I think this is overall a much better way to approach feedback for athletes. In a game situation it is so important to not let negative emotions overcome us and a Coach yelling in your face typically isn’t considered positive. Later in the game Crist was also benched and will not start this week either.
Here are some general guidelines I have for offering feedback to athletes:
Sooner is better than later
Specific, not general
Constructive, not Destructive (especially during competition)
Aim for Changeable Behavior
Check for Clarity
This Summer I had an informal conversation with a long time Coach in Chicago and he told me a good rule he used for parents on his youth sport teams. He called it the 24 hour rule and it was simply this: If a parent had a question about his coaching or anything related to a game, they had to wait 24 hours after the game was completed to contact him.
This time period was meant to help buffer any emotional response that may have resulted from a particular situation during the game and seemed like a pretty good idea to me when I heard it. Has anyone ever tried something like this before?
I am wondering what the response would be like on a parent’s end if they felt like they were being restricted this may not be a great way to establish and maintain good relationships with your parents. What do you think? Thoughts can also be shared on the discussion board. Thank you for reading today.
In recent years there has been a lot of publication toward the idea of increasing learning by encouraging mistakes and actually increasing the number of failures you experience. As the legend goes, the more you fail, the more you will learn, and you will ultimately be more successful after learning more and in a shorter time period.
Although this phenomenon has surfaced recently (primarily from popular books like Outliers, The Talent Code, and Talent is Overrated), we have been trying to express this idea for many years. Think about your sport experience and how many times did a Coach challenge you to step out of your comfort zone while doing something? The whole idea behind elevating your performance to an uncomfortable level is to challenge yourself and make mistakes at this level while slowly becoming more familiar with this new level of performance.
Although many of these books and articles have served as a great reminder for Coaches, and I highly recommend each of the books mentioned above, this is not a new idea! What I encourage you to do as Coaches this week is challenge athletes you work with to make these mistakes, play with more risks, accept more challenging environments, take that leap forward, and accelerate their learning!
Every seasoned Coach usually has an expansive set of teaching and coaching tools they use on a regular basis and less experienced coaches constantly seem to be working on their set of tools as a way to incorporate and teach more. On the road coaching this Summer I recently evaluated my toolbox and I encourage you to do the same. In many cases for me the evaluation of my toolbox included two simple, but imperative questions:
In my coaching this Summer I have identified many tools in my toolbox that I no longer believe are effective in my coaching by using these two questions and it has helped me in numerous ways. First of all I have been able to clean house a little bit and get rid of some things that were burdening me as a Coach. Secondly it has made me think a lot about how I can improve and I have thought about other ways of teaching (with less associated cost!). Finally and most importantly, it has given me a clearer sense of my coaching philosophy. Overall this has been a great experience and I encourage all coaches to find some time this weekend or in the near future to ask themselves these 2 questions to evaluate your toolbox for the upcoming season.
Last week it was announced that Boston University Men’s Basketball Coach Pat Chambers would be taking the Head Coaching job at Penn State University next season. In this video with the Big Ten Network Coach Chambers offers his ideas about what it takes to be a successful Coach and there are so many great points he mentions I wanted to share the interview here on my blog for you all to listen to and think about as well. Here is the list of things I took from the interview:
Building Relationships with athletes AND Families- Chambers said his first step was to go meet each of the current athletes on the team which meant flying 6,000 miles in the past week to places across the country. I remember when Chambers first came to BU he did something similar. This backs up his belief that coaching is a relationship business and establishing positive relationships is the backbone to any Coaching assignment. Along with meeting the athletes he will work with he specifically mentions meeting the families of each athlete as well which I think is often overlooked.
New Attitude- Sometimes attitude can have a bad connotation, but an attitude just means the personality of the team and establishing an attitude conducive to the goals you would like to achieve cannot be overlooked. Attitudes are always established from the top down and therefore it needs to start with you! Another good place to start is correcting bad habits.
Freedom- Chambers said he would allow the athletes to have freedom. Although this could have many meanings I believe he was talking about their style of play and the atmosphere around the basketball court. Think about working in an environment that controls you and becomes stale. This is NOT a characteristic of great teams and team environments and is the same way in athletics. Allowing for creativity and freedom is always a more fun environment and also has been shown as a better way to learn and develop skills.
Positive Environment- In addition to the above point, being in a positive environment will foster enjoyment and ultimately improved performance. Contrastingly, negative environments are mundane, stale, and not enjoyable.
Confidence- Chambers talks about creating confidence among team members and the team in general. I think this is a great attribute to a good Coach.
Recruiting- It is impossible to speak with a college Coach and not hear something about recruiting, but it truly is a big part of their job. Part of reaching a destination is having the right people on board. Being able to recruit those people to serve on your staff of coaches and athletes on your team is an integral part of Coaching.
Trust- Establishing trust on your team, within your organization, and between staff members is huge in life and in coaching. Chambers also talks about the cohesiveness of a staff. When a Coaching staff is not buying into what they are teaching the athletes will know right away and Coaches lose credibility.
Goals- Chambers talked a little about the goals for the team at Penn State and he mentioned being the best they could be as a team at the end of each season. Personally, I agree and abide by this same mindset and I think it is a great goal for any Coach and athlete/team.
X’s and O’s- As important as all this other stuff, Coach Chambers finally mentions the importance of strategy and knowing the game you are teaching as much as possible. Chambers talks about how he learned a lot of this from his college Coach and I can ensure you he has worked his butt off at every stop on his Coaching path perfecting the ins and outs of basketball along the way.
To view the interview click here and thank you for reading!