Category: Youth Coaching Blog

Anatomy of a Teammate

Team – A number of people organized to function cooperatively as a group
Teammate – A partner
Selflessness – Putting other people’s needs, interests, or wishes before your own​​​​​​​
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I’m going to keep this post short and sweet because I want you to spend 7 minutes watching this video instead of reading a post. 
I met Patrick Murphy, the coach of Alabama softball, at a recent conference. He told a story about calling timeout in a key situation, walking up to the girl he was coaching, putting his arm around her, and saying ‘I am going to love you no matter what the result of this at-bat is.’

The core value you will see plastered all over their facility is: 
PERSON
———-
ATHLETE
​​​​​​​Person over athlete. That is the type of people Coach Murphy is developing, and it is contagious.
​​​​​​​Watch the video and see how this attitude has permeated into Brittany.

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The best playbook ever

The search for the perfect playbook for their team consumes many coaches’ focus and energy. The irony is, the great coaches I have observed consistently have playbooks than can be boiled down in 2 simple ways:
1 – They have 2 or 3 base plays and a few variations off of these
​2 – They don’t change much throughout the season
Do you know what the best playbook is for your team? It’s probably the one you have right now, but probably should have less plays. Keep it simple. One of the best football minds I know is Joe Daniel, he shared this with me:
During every season most likely there will be a game, or a stretch of games, where it feels like your playbook is not working. Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to consider when evaluating how to fix it:

– Do this: Spend time perfecting your base plays in practice the next week.  Re-visit the fundamentals of what makes the base plays work and analyze any shortcomings.  Lots of reps vs. air with attention to the ‘little things’ that make your system work
– Do this: Seek input from an expert. Show video of a couple plays to your local high school coach and ask for his advice.
 Don’t do this: Panic/over-react. Think your system is flawed, scrap the whole thing, and implement a whole new system.
– Don’t do this: Think you need more plays to ‘trick’ the other team.  Often if things aren’t working you have too many plays.  And sometimes the other team is just really good.
Keeping things simple and sticking with a consistent plan allows you to focus on what the great coaches focus on: teaching kids to be great at fundamentals and to play games freely without overthinking complicated systems.
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Guest Post – Tips For Smaller Hockey Players

Tips For Smaller Hockey Players

Just 5-foot-6, Theo Fleury was an eighth-round draft pick who would go on to register 1,088 points in a 15-year career that wrapped up in 2003.

At 5-7, Henri “Pocket Rocket” Richard — the younger and shorter brother of Maurice “Rocket” Richard — became the only player in NHL history to play on 11 Stanley Cup winners.

They called Marcel Dionne “Little Beaver” because he stood all of 5-8, but that didn’t stop the longtime Kings star from scoring 731 goals, fifth in NHL history.

Lest you think that sort of thing is ancient history, think again. For all the behemoths – 6-9 Zdeno Chara and 260-pound Dustin Byfuglien leap to mind — there is still plenty of room in the NHL for players who check in at less than the league average of 6-1, 201.

Players such as Brad Marchand (5-9, 181), Johnny Gaudreau (5-9, 157), Cam Atkinson (5-8, 179) and Alex DeBrincat (5-7, 165) have all found NHL success — and there are lessons any undersized player can take from those players and others to prove that size doesn’t always matter.

Roll With It

You’re short. Everybody knows it. Don’t go all Napoleonic about it. At least, that was Gaudreau’s take in a 2016 piece for the Players’ Tribune:

“You’re always going to have people on you about your size, so do what you can to be in on the joke,” Gaudreau said. “Last All-Star weekend, Ryan Johansen brought out a little kid during the penalty shootout and scored a goal with him. So as a gag, Jakub Voracek came up to me and asked if he could use me as a prop for his shot. I thought it was hilarious.”

A couple of other tips from Johnny Hockey:

• “Next piece of advice, keep your head up. Always. You’re not built to take heavy shots, so you have to be twice as careful out there.”
• “Try that move out, look silly, and get better. As long as you’re smaller, your best skill needs to be your effort.”

Go Big or Go Home

In everything you do on the ice, demonstrate size — of your heart, your effort, your willingness to learn. These keys will open doors typically closed to smaller players.

Maximize your gifts: You can’t make yourself taller, but you can work on getting faster, stronger and more explosive. That means time in the weight room as well as on the ice.

Emphasize those gifts: If you’re the fastest player on the ice, build your game around it. If you’re a great passer, focus on setting up your teammates. Get better at the things at which you’re already good.

Play with confidence: Believe in yourself, play to your strengths, know that your size can lend you an elusiveness that big players are not granted.

Accept contact: It’s going to happen anyway. Like Gaudreau said, keep your head up. Keep your feet moving and your center of gravity low — victories in NFL line play typically go to players with the best positioning and leverage, not the most strength.

See and sense the game: Decision-making skills can be honed, hockey IQ (or “ice sense”) can be developed. Pickup games help, tough practices help, small-area games where you stay on the ice longer and you’re more concerned about finding the open man than dragging your carcass up and down the ice helps. So does carefully watching the smartest players in the game.

If You Don’t Believe, No One Will

Mostly, the key to your success is just don’t quit.

Ultimately, it comes down to belief in your ability. One without the other isn’t enough. Or, as Gaudreau said, “It doesn’t matter where you’re playing or if you’re getting cut from teams. If you have the talent, the right person will find you.”

Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Coordinator for Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. AJ picked up his first hockey stick at age 3, and hasn’t put it down yet.

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Quite often I talk too much

Last week I wrote about the first huge takeaway I had at a recent level 1 certification class put on by U.S. Lacrosse, Are you a palms-down coach or a palms-up coach? 

The second principle that really hit home was the concept of Guided Discovery.

Quite simply, it is the concept of letting those you coach learn through their mistakes. Contrast that with the old-school approach of telling them in excruciating detail exactly how to do something.

Picture yourself teaching a new skill, I’ll use picking up a groundball in lacrosse as an example:

Old way:

  • You spend 10 minutes explaining the proper way to pick up a groundball, you demonstrate it, and you tell them all the reasons it’s important to do it ‘your way’ and the bad things that can happen if they don’t do all the things you’ve shown them. Then you let them try it and you walk around correcting mistakes.

Guided Discovery:

  • You start by playing ‘hungry-hungry-hippo’ with lacrosse balls by splitting the group into 2 teams, throwing a bunch of balls on the ground, and tell them it’s a race to see who can pick up the most balls and put them back on their side.
  • After a couple of rounds of this, you ask the group what seemed to work well when picking up the balls, and what seemed to not work so well. Maybe they say ‘it works better to use 2 hands instead of 1, and it works better when I bend lower and put both hands really close to the ground.’
  • You acknowledge their ideas and suggest trying another round or two using some of those concepts.
  • And you keep adding constraints as their skill level gets higher

Which method do you think will get more buy-in and understanding from the athletes?

This concept reminded me of a great question coaches can ask, as written about by Michael Bungay Stanier in his book The Coaching Habit – Say Less, Ask More, and Change the Way you Coach Forever:

The AWE Question – ‘And What Else?’

When talking with the players on our teams, instead of continually offering solutions, instead ask them ‘And what else?’ or ‘Tell me more.’ Then listen and seek to deeply understand.

I often fall into the trap of thinking that if I explain something clearly, people will naturally understand. But that’s not how most people learn. People learn by doing. Failing. Figuring it out on their own. Discovering. Solving. 

My job as a coach is to teach these young men and women. And if people learn by discovering solutions vs. being told them, that’s what I need to do. Talk less and listen more.

 

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Are you a palms-down or palms-up coach?

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”  – Jim Valvano

I recently had the opportunity to attend a level 1 certification class put on by U.S. Lacrosse. Besides the myriad of great drills I learned, there were two overarching principles that were sprinkled throughout the training that really hit home for me. I’ll share the first today, and next week I’ll share the second.

The first principle that really caused me pause was the question:

Are you a palms-down coach or a palms-up coach?

 

 

I wasn’t sure what they meant by this at first, but it’s really easy to picture when you think of game and practice scenarios:

When a player makes a mistake, or a referee makes a call you don’t agree with – what is your reaction? Think about your body language.

  • Do you hold your hands up in the air with palms-up and visibly show your frustration?

or

  • Do you hold your hands down with palms-down and say ‘It’s OK’?

Think about how different these approaches makes the person (athlete or referee) feel on the other end. A palms-up response is really saying ‘I can’t believe you could make that mistake. You are not a good athlete/referee. I don’t believe in you.’

Compare that to the palms-down response. This approach tells the person ‘You might have made a mistake, that’s OK we all make mistakes all the time. It doesn’t mean you are a bad athlete/referee. We can discuss how to do it better next time. I believe in you.’

It really comes down to your purpose in coaching. If you are trying to prove your worth via wins and losses, you will be a palms-up coach because you think someone else’s mistake is making you look bad. But if you are trying to lead a group of young men and/or women to be the best they can be, and help teach them how to be better and pour into them, you will be a palms-down coach because it is all about them not you.

Let’s all commit to being a great palms-down coach!

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It’s time for me to stop talking and start doing

‘We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope’ – Romans 5:3-4

You know someone’s message is effective – when it doesn’t just make you think, but it causes you to ACT.

This week’s podcast with Riley Tincher, did just that for me.

Riley opened his heart about the power coaches had in his life. In saving his life to be specific.

During the podcast, I shared with him about 2 conversations I had recently with parents of kids struggling to find their identities in high school. I had talked with their moms about some suggestions. But I had not taken the time to talk with these boys individually.

Typically when I finish a podcast interview, I am a bit spent and take some downtime to get a snack and relax for a bit and think through what was just discussed.

But after my conversation with Riley, literally from the second I hit the button to end our Skype call, I felt encouraged to take immediate action on my calling to be a coach. To quit talking about being a coach who cared, and instead to take action showing my love for these boys.

So before I did anything else, I immediately texted both boys and set up one-on-one meetings with them. To pour love and wisdom and encouragement into them, and as Riley so passionately shares in his message, to let them know they are uniquely created with gifts that have nothing to do with their athletic prowess.

It’s so easy to get caught up with practice plans, X’s and O’s – I hope this note encourages you to set up a meeting, make a call, write a note – reach out to 1 or 2 kids on your team. Do it now. And keep being a a coach that pours hope into these young men and women – what a glorious calling!

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Lacrosse Coaching Tactics by Age – Guest Post by Lacrosse Scoop

Ahhh the age-old question for every youth coach out there, do I coach to win or for my players to “have fun”? Should I play everyone equally or should the better, or at least harder working players get more playing time? What age is too early to stop coddling and start coaching players more aggressively? Unfortunately there are no right answers, but here is my best stab:

Ages 10 and Under

At these ages, it is the parents, not the kids, which drive everyone else nuts. No your kid is not a lock to get a scholarship, yes he or she does need to sit on the bench for a few minutes each game. No your kid’s coach isn’t biased against your kid. The worst I have ever seen is baseball parents of young kids, just because your kid had a homerun last game does not mean he will have a 15 year career in the major leagues.

Coaching kids and dealing with their parents in this age group is all about tact. You will want to play each kid close to the same amount of minutes each game and make sure that each kid has the opportunity to start throughout the course of the season. Foster a positive experience and atmosphere so that your kids look forward to practices and games and are able to learn both hard and soft skills.  You will want to teach your kids all of the basics, making use of lacrosse rebounders will allow them valuable reps to improve their coordination and anticipation.

Never lose your temper with kids this young or raise your voice, even if you “have an excuse to”.  You will be fighting a losing battle and doing your kids a disservice.

Ages 11-13

You can turn up the intensity a bit with middle school aged players.  There is nothing wrong with having depth charts and giving your stronger players more opportunities.  We cannot shield our kids from reality forever. Anyone reading who has had middle school aged kids would agree, they can be MEAN! Keep the culture positive and do not allow for any bullying.  Guys especially like to give each other a hard time so make sure that it never crosses the line, you want your players to look forward to practice and games.

Age 14+

High School Lacrosse is one of my fondest memories as a teenager. Almost all of my best friends in high school played lacrosse with me.  Teenagers love to push back to authority so make sure they know who is in charge, but that doesn’t mean you cannot have a sense of humor and a whole lot of fun coaching your kids.  It will shock you how much progress your kids make year to year when they work hard. Between how much they grow physically and mentally and how much time they put into becoming stronger players, they will shock you which is one of the true joys of coaching.  Even though they won’t admit it at this age, the kids still look up to you and appreciate you.

 

There is no magic bullet with coaching kids, when in doubt, air on the side of being patient, understanding and keeping your composure.   Outside of their parents, you are one of the kids biggest role models.  Teaching the fundamentals of the game is crucial, but playing team sports like lacrosse as a child means so much more, the opportunity to meet lifelong friends, learn soft and hard skills and overcome obstacles is invaluable to children.  If you haven’t considered it before, give youth coaching a try, it is essentially volunteering and youth counseling but I suspect you will get as much out of it as the kids to, especially if it means spending quality time with your kids.

This is a guest post by Evan Sutker, founder and owner of Lacrosse Scoop

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3 Ways to Improve Your Basketball Game – Guest Post from Basketball Phantom Blog

3 Ways to Improve Your Basketball Game

Many basketball players assume that to improve your game you should just shoot a lot. Sure, putting the ball in the hoop is the primary goal of every basketball player.

However, there are other parts of your game that require practice as well. Here are three ways to improve your basketball game, things you can work on to be a better player and teammate.

Court Awareness

As players improve their skills, they usually move up in level. As the talent improves, so does the speed of the game.

One of the most important, yet often overlooked basketball skills is court awareness. But, how can you improve this important skill? How can improve your natural instinct to know where you are on the court at all times, without even looking?

Developing better court awareness is the same idea as becoming a smarter basketball player. It starts with knowing the court dimensions precisely.

Measure the width of the free throw lane for instance, and then measure how many strides it takes you to cross from one side to the other. But, what do you do in the areas of the court that don’t have markings?

An old coaching trick is to move players around the court while they’re blindfolded. Start at one point and work your way in a direction you think moves you closer to the basket.

You may find this hard to begin with, but watch how you improve. After a few steps, try to guess where you are on the court at any given time.

Check to see how close your guess is, then start over. It’s essential to work with a partner on the blindfolded drill, but after a while, you’ll begin to have a natural sense where you on the court without even looking.

There are also motion drills you can do that not only practice basic skills like passing, but also enhance your on court awareness. If you know where you are on the court at all times, it makes sense that you can quickly know where you need to be in an instant.

Foot Speed and Agility

As boring as it might sound, there are times when you need to practice things on a basketball court without a ball. Two of those skills are foot speed and agility.

If you can’t keep up with your opponent, or the pace of the game, you’re going to soon find you’re always one step behind. But, how do you improve your foot speed and agility.

Aren’t these skills something you’re just born with? One reason some players like to think they are, is because working on foot speed and agility is both boring and hard.

To get faster, you have to run. Players often see wind sprints as a mode of horrific punishment leveled by an ogre coach. This is not true.

When you sprint from the baseline to foul line, bending over to touch each line, you are improving both your court speed and agility. Sure, these types of sprints, often called suicide sprints, are hard.

However, the sure way to improve your speed is to sprint, and then, sprint some more. To make your pursuit of better foot speed and agility more enjoyable, like court awareness practice, there are some fun drills you can do to improve these essential basketball performance skills.

Ball Handling Skills

Once you appreciate how important court awareness and agility are in the game of basketball, you can move to the skills that put points on the scoreboard. The team of players who can score the most goals, obviously, wins basketball games.

Getting the ball up the court and to open shooters involves ball handling skills. Everyone seems to love practicing their shooting, but to get an open look; you need to be able to handle the ball.

If you’ve watched professional players prepare for games, you may have noticed superstar players doing ball handling drills before they ever shoot a practice shot. You can do tip drills and dribbling exercises at home.

Every time you pick up a basketball and work it around your body, your ball handling skills will improve. Some ardent coaches even have their players carry a ball around with them everywhere possible.

Like the previous skills, there are on court drills you can do to make practicing ball handling skills more fun. You can work on your power dribble, or set up cones and do figure eights.

The objective is to make the ball feel like a part of your hands. When you are comfortable with the feel of the ball, you’ll have better control. Like everything else in basketball, to improve your ball handling skills, there is no substitute for practice.

Summary

We all want to improve our basketball skills. However, some players are reluctant to work on the little things. Try these three tips to improve your basketball game. Each one will help you toward the ultimate objective, scoring more points than your opponent.

This is a guest post by Sasa Cvetkovic, founder and owner of Basketball Phantom Blog

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Picking up the Trash

Heard a really cool story this week. One of my son’s best friends’ cousin is lacrosse player in another state. He is a rising senior, and while quite talented, wasn’t on a lot of D1 radars for lacrosse. Then, after a few fabulous outings at some national lacrosse tournaments, the interest level started quickly rising.

Not that unique of a story at this point, athlete does well and gets some opportunities.

But what happened next is where this story gets really interesting.

This young man got a call from the head coach of one of the top college powerhouse lacrosse programs, some would argue THE top program.

The coach requested the young man and his parents come that weekend for a visit and meeting. They did.

And this story is what still gives me goosebumps: The coach began the meeting with this:

“We saw you play last weekend and were impressed. So we came down to the field after your last game and looked for you. We found your teammates. They were hanging out, taking off their pads, having a good time. But we couldn’t find you. We looked and looked, but to no avail. Then finally we saw you. You were over in the team tent. Picking up trash, cups, and cleaning up. In that moment you went from an average recruiting target of ours, to THE top target. You see, lacrosse is a sport generally consumed with young men who are entitled, selfish, and uncoachable. But what we have found is that recruiting players who will pick up the trash helps us build a culture that wins championships.”

Gives you goosebumps, right?

And as a sidenote – can you guess what 2 books this coach recommended as summer reading for this young man?

Not surprising at all – Legacy by James Kerr, and The Hard Hat by Jon Gordon.

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‘You should be angry’

As a follow-up to my previous note on our Season-Ending Awards Banquet

I left the players with a final challenge, specifically talking to everyone who didn’t win an award or hear their name called.

I asked them: “If you didn’t win an award or hear your name called tonight – are you upset? Hurt? Angry?”

And then I challenged them with this:

“You should be upset. Angry. Did you know anger is one of 8 core emotions that make you human?

But do you know you have 2 choices with what to do with each of those core emotions? 1 is a positive choice that will improve your life, and 1 is a negative choice that will make your life worse.

Specifically with anger, here are your 2 choices:

1 – Negative choice: Self-pity and depression. You can sit around and feel sorry for yourself and fall into depression.

2 – Positive choice: Passion. You can choose to let your anger today to fuel a passion. A fire to have better results next time you are in this position.

I hope you choose the positive choice. Picture yourself sitting here next year. What’s it going to take to hear your name read? If you need help with understanding that, I’d love to give you feedback on how you can make that happen. Then go make it happen, live the next year with passion to be great and win.”

I hope you are living your life with passion. To be great. To win. It’s easy to fall into self-pity, so take action every day to stay focused on the bigger prize. Make winning your habit starting today!

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Coolest Awards Banquet. Ever.

Just got done with our post-season banquet.

Best one.

Ever.

A huge shout-out to Scott Rosberg from Great Resources for Coaches. I interviewed him back on WYC Podcast Episode 75, and he shared this awesome idea:

Don’t have a bunch of awards based on talent-level. (Offensive MVP, Defensive MVP, Most Goals, etc.)

Instead, base your awards on things 100% controllable by the players.

I know, doesn’t seem like rocket-science, but why did I never do this before?

We did it, and it was awesome. Here are the categories we came up with:

  • Positive Energy
  • Hardest Worker
  • Best Teammate
  • Field general (best communicator on the field)
  • Do the dirty work
  • Hardest working rookie
  • Leave the jersey in a better place

These were all voted on by the players.

Then we had 1 Coach’s Award, chosen by the coaches, utilizing the criteria above.

And we had 2 MVP awards, which were voted on by the players.

So we ended up with 10 awards for 33 players.

The one other thing we did was read all of the names who received votes for each category. That way kids(and their parents) could hear their name, even if they weren’t walking away with an award.

I left the players with a final challenge, specifically talking to everyone who didn’t win an award or hear their name called… Insert cliffhanger here… I’ll share the details of that in next week’s post.

 

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Praising excellence in opponents

Joe Ehrmann, author of Inside-out Coaching, teaches us that the origin of the word compete means to strive together.

In James Kerr’s Legacy, we learn of the All Blacks’ Haka – a ritual which is a call to compete.

Do you view competition as a time to celebrate hard work with your opponent?

Or is at a time to show your superior coaching acumen and belittle your opponents.

Teach those you coach to not get so wrapped up in beating your opponent that you miss an opportunity to appreciate excellence. Set a goal to tell your competitor ‘nice play’ at least once per game. It demonstrates class and sportsmanship, takes away the fear of being outplayed, and sets a bar of what excellent looks like.

My son is our face-off man on our lacrosse team. He bumps knuckles with his opponent before every face-off. It’s a tiny gesture, but a huge gesture. He scores a lot of goals and was voted as co-MVP of our team, but nothing he does on the field makes me prouder than his sportsmanship demonstrated through this gesture.

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

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5 Simple Questions (to ask your coaches)

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”​
– George Bernard Shaw
Coaching staffs all have disagreements. They should. You have smart people with different solutions to common problems.

But how often do we discuss these ‘elephants in the room’?

We are 3/4 of the way through our lacrosse season, and we had some unresolved elephants in the room.

So we had a a coaching meeting last week, and I asked these 5 questions to start the dialogue:

  1. List 2 things going well with our team
  2. List 2 things we could do better as a team
  3. List 2 things I am doing well to support you as an assistant coach
  4. List 2 things I could do better to support you as an assistant coach
  5. List 2 elephants in the room – some dynamic that is going on with our team or coaching staff, that everyone knows about, but no one is talking about

A powerful, honest conversation ensued. No one’s feelings were hurt, and as the head coach I got great feedback and we implemented a few tweaks that will powerfully change the direction of the remainder of our season.

Build trust, be open and honest, and value everyone and your team’s dynamics will be infinitely improved.

Make winning your habit starting today!
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The Ultimate Guide to Sharing Tryout Results – Guest post from TeamGenius

The Ultimate Guide to Sharing Tryout Results

For youth sports coaches and league directors, the hardest part of tryouts may not be the evaluation sessions themselves – instead, it can often be communicating the results to the athletes and their parents.

Having kids involved in youth athletics can bring many positives to their lives. It keeps children active, builds teamwork and social skills, teaches determination and perseverance, and allows kids to see the benefits of hard work.

These are positives coaches and directors want to be involved with and want to watch young athletes partake in.

Unfortunately, youth sports can also teach other lessons, like how to cope with the disappointment of not making a team, and dealing with the reality that they weren’t skilled enough to be on the squad they wanted to join. These are hard life lessons that can come at young age for youth athletes.

For these reasons, it’s important for coaches and league directors to communicate tryout results properly to kids and their parents and should be included on any tryout prep checklist.

What to do

It’s important for youth sports coaches and directors to start communication early with parents and players so there are no surprises at the end of tryouts. Entering evaluation sessions, parents and players should be informed as to the number of teams that will be formed, how many athletes will make the squads, and what the options will be for the players who are cut.

To accomplish this, leagues should send out communications to parents far in advance of tryouts (even as early as 1-3 months before the evaluation sessions). This email or letter can include information about registration, the tryouts format, and any potential cuts.

On the day of evaluations, coaches or the league director should address the parents in person to ensure everyone knows the format and expectations for the day. Information as to how many players will make the team can be shared at this time.

After the tryout sessions the directors will need to determine how and when to communicate results to all athletes. Those who did not make the team will need to be notified and given options as to what other teams or leagues they can join, or how they can improve for next year. For those who made the squad, they will need key information like schedules and equipment requirements, and any pre-season meetings they will be expected to attend.

How to do it

While it can be pre-planned for when coaches and directors should address parents and athletes about tryouts, it can be much more difficult to determine how to relay the results. While each league may choose to convey the evaluation outcomes differently, here are some suggestions to consider:

Keep it private: For some leagues, the most convenient way to reveal tryouts results is by posting a roster to their league website. This is a quick and easy option, so it can be appealing. However, leagues need to make sure to protect players’ privacy when using this method. Posting players’ tryouts numbers instead of their names is one way to avoid sharing who made which team.

Make it personal: The Springfield (Ill.) Area Soccer Association (SASA) used to post tryout results on their website, but they’ve recently opted for other methods.

“I feel the best way to communicate results is an individual email to parents,” Andrew Lenhardt, the Director of Coaching at SASA, said.

Lenhardt feels that sending individual emails to parents allows the league to send a personal note to the player and discuss their individual scores and placement.

Another way to communicate results is to have a one-on-one conversation with each player, or make a phone call to each competitor. According to Dr. Justin Anderson, a sports psychologist at Premier Sport Psychology, this is the best way to share the news with youth players.

According to Anderson, this allows coaches and directors to be honest with the athletes and give individual feedback.

“Be authentic. Share reasons why (they didn’t make the team). Allow it to be a growth opportunity. Give them things to work on,” Anderson said.

Be available: No matter how the results are communicated to players, it’s important for the coaches and directors to be available to answer questions from athletes and their parents after the teams are announced.

Players will likely have questions as to why they were placed on a specific team, or why they didn’t make a squad, and want to hear directly from those who determined the rosters.

Who to tell

While the method of revealing tryouts results is difficult to determine, leagues also need to decide who they will communicate the results to – the parents or the athletes, or both.

This can depend largely on the age of the players. For young athletes, the news will likely come better from a parent, initially. Then coaches and directors should be available to answer any questions from the player later.

For middle school and high school athletes, results should be conveyed to the players themselves. They are old enough to be able to hear what they need to work on and what it will take to make the team the following year.

There is no perfect way to tell a young athlete he or she did not make a team. However, by keeping the child’s feelings and development in mind, and planning out how to communicate the outcomes, tryouts results can be better received.

Author: Chris Knutson

Bio: Chris Knutson is co-founder of TeamGenius, a leading player evaluation software that helps youth sports organizations by streamlining tryouts and player evaluations. 

 

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Dang. I saved our lacrosse team $7600

I was just doing some math – and realized I saved our lacrosse team $7600 in uniform costs by doing a little homework.
Our county has a ‘deal’ with one of the big sports apparel companies. As a club sport, we have the benefit of getting the same 40% discount, but we don’t have to use that company.
So I priced out getting our uniforms with that discount. For 44 sets of uniforms, which included 2 pairs of shorts and 2 jerseys, the price was $10,400.
That was a tough hit for our parents, so I did some research. What I ended up with was awesome uniforms from a brand name – total cost: $2,800.
​​​​​​​That savings of nearly $175 per player was huge for our program, considering parents were already paying close to $700 to play a club sport.
I know most of us coaches don’t have time to do this kind of research and just end up ordering whatever is suggested. 
But what I did is pretty easily repeatable, and if you or a team manager have a few minutes, you could save your program a boatload of cash.
I’m would love to share these ideas – if you want more info – just click below, which will send me an email and I’ll share the goods.

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The Big 3 (ways to win at sports)

“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all time thing.
You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time.
Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”​
– Vince Lombardi
I am not a ‘winning’ apologist. It’s in the name of my podcast.
I spend a lot of energy talking about building strong children and developing awesome team cultures.

​​​​​​​That is why winning is important. One of the fundamental cornerstones in building strong children is teaching them to not be satisfied with ‘good enough.’ 
That’s what’s so powerful about competition. It is a measuring stick that provides tangible results on how we are progressing.

The key is defining the end goal. John Wooden defines it like this:
Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.
A win, in and of itself, should not define whether you were successful. If you let it, you will become complacent after a win. You shouldn’t. You should continue the striving ‘to become the best you are capable of becoming.’
We discussed this at length in this week’s podcast. Strategies on how to lead your team to perform it’s best.
Lynden Gwartney has studied winning coaches in sports and compared the results with military leaders who have been successful on the battlefield.
Looking at 45 components of successful teams, he narrowed it down to his ‘Big 3.’
  1. Find your opponents weakness and attack it
  2. Stick with what’s working
  3. Find your opponents strength and neutralize it
These are great in-game tactics for a coach to use to give their teams the best chance to perform at a high level and have success in the game. (And dare I say, give their teams the best chance to win?)
Check out the podcast with Lynden here.
Make winning your habit starting today!
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Overfunctioning = Underfunctioning

Newton’s third law of motion:
 For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. 
Had a great conversation this week with a friend who was one of my mentors and church youth group leaders when I was a rambunctious teenager.
He is now a certified leadership coach through the Resilient Leadership program in Washington, D.C.
We discussed the empowerment experiment I am going through with my current team, and he provided a powerful A-Ha moment.
I was drawn to start the conversation with him when I saw he was part of a new podcast titled ‘The Overfunctioning Leadership Podcast.’
Overfunctioning. That word drew me in.
As we discussed the empowerment experiment, he shared the simple, yet profound concept:
When there is an overfunctioning leader in any group, whether it is a sports team, a work team, or any group environment – the team members will always underfunction.
There are no exceptions to this rule. It is a law of nature, specifically Newton’s third law of motion. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
He validated that our empowerment experiment is dead on. If the coaches and parents are doing all of the work, the children have no opportunity to ‘carry the water’ or ‘sweep the sheds.’ How can leaders be developed if we are taking away their opportunities to lead?
So we will continue to look under every rock for opportunities to allow our athletes to own this team and experience. To be empowered. To lead.
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Silent Saturday – An experiment

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists,
when his work is done,
his aim fulfilled,
they will say ‘we did it ourselves.’ “
– Lao Tzu
Our fall practices culminated this past weekend with a scrimmage against another local team. As a continuation of our empowerment experiment, here is a quick summary of the conversation I had with my main assistant coach (who is 24 years old) after our last practice:
 –
Me: ‘Hey man. We’re going to implement a silent Saturday approach to our coaching during our upcoming scrimmage. The only 2 things we are going to yell from the sidelines are substitutions and praises.’
 –
Assistant: ‘But 2/3 of these kids have never played in a lacrosse game before. I think we’ll be setting them up to be confused and frustrated if we aren’t giving them some guidance.’
 –
Me: ‘Your concerns are valid. What if we do this: 1- Utilize our experienced players to coach up the newer players and explain to them where to be/what to do on the field. 2 – Use timeouts and play stoppages to answer questions to minimize their frustration’
 –
Assistant: ‘I will try it out. I don’t agree this is the best way to do it, but I’ll give it a try.’
 –
Me: ‘OK I respect that. Let’s debrief after the game, and we’ll write down what we were most tempted to yell out as instructions, and that way we’ll know those are areas we need to focus on in future practices to better prepare them for gameday.’
 –
I read a post by my friend James Leath this week that was discussing the same thing, teaching in practice and letting players play in games. He said it like this:
‘make sure every athlete understands the expectations you have for them and the knowledge to live up those expectations.’
You can read his full post here: James’ blog
 –
I told James about my experiment and here is how he said he does it:
I keep a 5×8 card in my pocket and fill it up after the game with areas I need to teach better in practice. The game is not the time, it’s too late!
So full disclosure – it was very hard to bite my tongue during the game! 🙂 But we did it for the most part, and the whole experience was much more enjoyable – for the coaches, players, referees, and parents!

We are meeting as a coaching staff next week – and we are going to take the notes from after the game and use that as a starting point as we prepare for practices in the spring.
John O’Sullivan writes about this process and summarizes the issue very well:
“It’s the introduction of adult values into kids’ games,
When I grew up, it was children competing against children.
Now, more often than not, it’s adults competing against other adults through their children.” 
– John O’Sullivan Changing The Game Project
Teach in practice, let kids play in games!
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3 Types of People in this world – #NationalAnthemProtest

“If you can’t fly, then run,
If you can’t run, then walk,
If you can’t walk, then crawl,
but whatever you do,
you have to keep moving forward.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
I have talked to many of you asking if/how you were talking to your teams about what is going on in the NFL with the National Anthem protests.
Here is what was discussed on the team I coach:
There are 3 types of people in this world.
These are hats we all wear at times. But getting the right balance is the key.
  1. The Watchers
  2. The Talkers
  3. The Doers
There is a time and place for each one. The healthiest balance I have found is:
Think about one of the best agents for social change our country has ever seen, Martin Luther King Jr. We remember his ‘I have a dream’ speech and the march on Washington. But I recently have been reading about his life, and the protests were a small percentage of what he was all about. He spent most of his time visiting struggling communities and finding ways to help them. And he struggled with dedicating 1/7 of his time to ‘watching,’ or resting, and this paid a toll on his relationship with his family.
So the challenge I gave to our team was to spend less time debating whether one side is disrespecting minorities or the other side is disrespecting our military and police.
Spend that time instead doing something about it.
We all agreed we want to respect our military, and we want to respect people of all races.
So we are going to do something about it:
  • We reached out to a school in our area that has mostly minority students in a struggling economic area. They have a lacrosse team, and we asked their coach if we could partner together to help their team and do a service project together in the community.
  • We are pursuing a way to support military veterans in our area. We would love to start a wheelchair lacrosse program in Nashville for veterans, although the start-up costs are very high so we are weighing all options.
I hope you have the same type of conversations with your team and your family.
Quit debating which side is right. Less talking. More doing.
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A Novel Experiment to Empower Athletes

I’m a sports dad and coach who has spent the last 3 years researching the dynamics of youth sport families.  And I have been noticing a disturbing trend.  Does this routine sound familiar to you?:


Three days before gameday you leave work early to fulfill your volunteer commitment to your child’s sports club. You spend a couple of hours lining the fields, securing goalposts and emptying trash cans.

The night before the game, you run all over the house trying to piece together the uniform and equipment needed for the game. And you are the last to bed.

On gameday, you are the first to rise and you wake your child up to say “we leave in 30 minutes”.

Your child calls out: “Where are my game shorts?!” (everything else was set out for him, but you forgot to take his shorts out of the dryer.)

You prepare a healthy breakfast for your child.

You pack the oranges in the cooler for the team snack and load up the car.

You get in the car and confirm that your child has cleats, jersey, warm weather gear, cold weather gear, bottles of water, mouthguard and ball as you drive to the game.

You are running late so you offer to drop your child off, and he asks if you could carry some of his gear in after you park the car.

As game time approaches he realizes his water bottle is empty, so you offer to fill it while he warms up with the team.

At halftime, you shuttle the snacks out to the team.

After the game you and other team parents remind the kids not to leave behind water bottles, orange peels or any other trash.

Your son asks if he can go to another player’s house after the game so you offer to take his gear home (of course you put the uniform directly into the laundry machine to prepare it for tomorrow’s game).


Have any of you ever had days that felt like that? Isn’t it time we empower our kids to handle these responsibilities themselves?

Teachers make it a priority to empower students.  It’s a prevalent theme with child psychologists.  And we need to embrace it.  Empowerment:  The act of teaching our kids to fulfill personal, social and civic responsibility.  We need to teach our kids….but we also need to train ourselves.

Many have referred to our generation of parents as “Helicopter Parents” and “Controlling”.  And I’ll be the first Gen X parent to admit:  We handle way too many of our kids’ responsibilities in an effort to control and engineer situations.  But most of these responsibilities are things that any 10, 12 or 14 year old can handle so let’s have the kids own the experience.


I recently joined the board of a new local Lacrosse program and noticed this type of behavior starting to creep in.  As the responsibilities of the founding board members started piling up it occurred to me that starting a new club or sport program is a great opportunity to empower the kids.

So we took a step back as a parent board, and asked ourselves;

‘What activities needed to get this team off the ground could be done by the kids?’

The answer was – A bunch of it!

So we are setting off on an endeavor to truly let the boys own this team. We are having our player/parent kickoff meeting next week, and we have broken down all of the assignments into 6 categories. We have a parent liaison assigned for each, but they each have specific assignments that will be done by the boys. Things like:

  • Organize and create folders for player paperwork
  • Create website to share pictures
  • Research and plan community service project(s) for the team
  • Backstop net building/goal building
  • Organizing snacks and carpools
  • And more

I am preparing the same type of ownership of much of our practices. 3-man groups that each will have specific assignments during practice.

It always comes back to the saying:

‘Anything you see in your children: you either taught it or allowed it’ 

No one wants to be responsible for raising entitled kids, so let’s not allow it. Let’s raise hardworking, gritty kids, who take ownership in everything they do. They sweep the sheds, they carry the water.

So begins the Anti-Entitlement Experiment, or better said, the Empowerment Experiment.

This post was co-written with Ian Goldberg from iSport360, check them out: iSport360 link.

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Finish This Sentence: ‘I Am Unstoppable At ___’ ??

‘Crave the result so intensely that the work becomes irrelevant’ – Tim Grover in Relentless
My latest read has been Tim Grover’s book Relentless, From Good to Great to Unstoppable.
My biggest takeaways have been very similar as Jim Collins’ Good to Great.
From a coaching standpoint, many of you have shared with me the question:
‘What do I do with athletes who don’t seem to care near as much as I do?’
That question kept going through my mind as I read this book.
What if we asked our athletes which one applies:
  • I want to be a good lacrosse player
  • I want to be a great lacrosse player
  • I want to be an unstoppable lacrosse player
If they answer either of the first two, that’s OK, as long as you ask a follow-up question:
  • So what are 1 or 2 things in your life where you want to be unstoppable?
Maybe their family is struggling to pay bills, so they have to work a part-time job. They are choosing to be an unstoppable family supporter.
Maybe they want to get into a tough school, so academics are their first priority. They are choosing to be an unstoppable student.
The key as a coach is push the young people we coach to be better than they think they can. Being ‘good enough’ at everything is not OK. Push your athletes to find 1 or 2 things where they are choosing to be unstoppable.
So to answer the question from the title of this email, in my coaching profession, I am unstoppable at:
Teaching kids, through the avenue of sports, to be unstoppable
What are you unstoppable at?
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Why wait until their senior year to develop your captains? ?? Captains Part 4 of 4

The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership‘ – Harvey S. Firestone
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Do you train your captains on how to lead?
Then when those captains move on, do you feel like you are starting all over again?

Here is a way to take your leadership development to the next level:
Don’t wait until they are a junior or senior, when they become captain, to start training them. Instead – develop an emerging leader group.
Identify some leaders at each age level, and establish a big bother/big sister mentoring relationship. Work closely with your captains and more elder players to challenge them to teach leadership skills to their younger mentees.
One tip in doing this – eliminate the words ‘freshmen,’ ‘sophomore,’ etc. from your team’s vocabulary. These are divisive words. These players are your teammates. Nothing more, nothing less.
The most important way your captains and elder leaders will teach them, just like you as a coach, is through their actions, not their words. Carry the water. Pick up the trash. Encourage someone struggling.
Not only will setting up these mentor relationships help the young leaders grow, the elder mentors will typically develop a sense of pride and take on more responsibility as they sense the importance of their role.
As we wrap up our series on captains, do this:
1 – Train your captains on how to lead
2 – Train your future captains on how to lead from Day 1 entering your program
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Anatomy of a Teammate ?? Captains Part 3 of 4

Team – A number of people organized to function cooperatively as a group
Teammate – A partner
Selflessness – Putting other people’s needs, interests, or wishes before your own​​​​​​​
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I’m going to keep this post short and sweet because I want you to spend 7 minutes watching this video instead of reading a post. 
I met Patrick Murphy, the coach of Alabama softball, at a recent conference. He told a story about calling timeout in a key situation, walking up to the girl he was coaching, putting his arm around her, and saying ‘I am going to love you no matter what the result of this at-bat is.’

The core value you will see plastered all over their facility is: 
PERSON
———-
ATHLETE
​​​​​​​Person over athlete. That is the type of people Coach Murphy is developing, and it is contagious.
​​​​​​​Watch the video and see how this attitude has permeated into Brittany.

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Quit Worrying About You As A Coach & Start Focusing On Your Captains ?? Captains Part 2 of 4

The secret to winning is not what you think it is.
It’s not the coach. It’s not the star.
It’s not money. It’s not a strategy.
It’s something else entirely. – Sam Walker – The Captain Class
I just finished reading Sam Walker’s The Captain Class. He studied the most successful professional sports dynasties over the past 150 years and looked for common traits those teams had.
​​​​​​​If you’re like me, you assumed it would be one of these:
  • A legendary coach
  • A superior organization structure
  • A G.O.A.T. player
Spoiler alert – the common trait he found on the 16 teams he deemed as the ‘tier 1’ dynasties was none of these. Instead, it was a captain that possessed the following 7 characteristics:
  • Doggedness and its ancillary benefits
  • Playing to the edge of the rules
  • The hidden art of leading from the back
  • Practical communication
  • The power of nonverbal displays
  • The courage to stand apart
  • Regulating emotion
What is fascinating about his list is the contrast in what we currently think of as the best leaders/captains. Michael Jordan’s and Derek Jeter’s teams did not make the cut.

The leaders of his 16 tier 1 teams were not interested in talking to the media or being great public communicators, in fact they were the opposite. They did not want the recognition of being the face of the franchise. 
As a Cavs fan I have constantly wondered about Lebron James’ self-declarations as being ‘the greatest player on the planet,’ and how that affects his relationships with his teammates. We’ve seen one answer to that recently with one of the other best players on the planet, his teammate Kyrie Irving, asking to be traded, citing not wanting to play with Lebron.
Lebron’s characteristics, similar to Michael Jordan’s, do not fall in line with this list the best dynasties possess. It doesn’t mean they won’t win, Jordan and James have multiple championships. Walker argues that it just means their non-team-first attitudes make it hard to have sustained success.
The biggest takeaway I had from this fascinating book was:
As a coach, I need to spend less time trying to become ‘the perfect coach,’ and much more time trying to develop my leaders and captains with the 7 characteristics on this list.
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I found it. The best icebreaker & team builder ?? Captains Part 1 of 4

“Being positive won’t guarantee you’ll succeed. But being negative will guarantee you won’t” – Jon Gordon 
If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I am huge on starting practices with energy builders that build team comradery.
​​​​​​​And recently I’ve been fascinated by diving into studying the concept of leadership and captains on teams.
So what could be better than developing your leaders while playing games?
When I first met Adam Bradley a few years ago, he was in the process of developing a curriculum that did just that. The cool thing is that he partnered with an expert company on games, Game On to ‘gamify’ the experience, because we know lecturing kids on leadership isn’t a sticky way for them to learn, getting them involved and participating in activities/games is.
I don’t endorse many products, but the biggest no-brainer of a product I believe in is the curriculum Adam and his team have developed at Lead ‘Em Up. In talking with Adam, I wanted to help spread the word, so he offered a discount for Winning Youth Coaching followers – just enter discount code ‘wyccoaches’ and save 10% off at checkout at leademup.com.
This post starts a 4 part series on captains & leadership, inspired by my friend James Leath’s post about the book The Captain Class. (read that post here).

Here’s the plan for this series:
1 – Captain training – Lead Em UP
2 – The Captain Class
3 – Anatomy of a Teammate – leadership video by Coach Patrick Murphy
4 – Emerging leader groups
​​​​​​​I hope you don’t find this post ‘salesy’, I just wanted to share one of the best coaching tools I have found. I look forward to diving into the a-ha moments I have been having reading through The Captain Class.
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The 10-80-10 Principle: Growing your Superpower ??

“THE LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE IS TO MOVE AS MANY OF THE 80 PERCENTERS INTO THE NUCLEUS (10% core) AS YOU CAN”
I recently (finally!) read Urban Meyer’s Above the Line. Loaded with great coaching lessons, the one that jumped out to me was the concept of the 108010 Principle.
In a nutshell, any organization or team will be made up of:
  • 10% – The nucleus – Your leaders who will do whatever it takes to make the team better
  • 80% – The average – Good team members who do what it takes but don’t typically go above and beyond
  • 10% – The naysayers and negative. Jon Gordon would call these the energy vampires.
The interesting concept here is that Meyer says he used to spend a lot of his energy trying to get the bottom 10%ers up to the middle. His realization is that this was not the best use of his time, as it rarely worked.
The best use of your time as the leader is to recruit your top 10%ers to target high-end 80%ers to bring them up to the top 10%.
He and Tim Tebow used to start their conversations with ‘What 80%er can we focus on today to move to the top 10%?’
I was having a conversation with a high-school track athlete this week, and he was relating how he and one other sprinter on his team had committed themselves this summer to outworking all of their competition and preparing to compete for the state championship in the 4×400.
His frustration was that the other members of the team were not committing themselves the same way.
I relayed this 108010 concept to him. We discussed a change in approach – instead of trying to get the whole team on board, instead could he and his other teammate that was equally committed target 1 athlete that was in the 80% to try to bring up to the top 10% with them?
It is an interesting shift in paradigm. It reminds me of the Clifton Strengthfinders concept – instead of spending countless amounts of energy trying to bring your weaknesses up to a mediocre level, spend your energy taking your strengths to an even higher level. Your superpower.
Do you know who your high 80%ers are? Who is the low-hanging fruit that you and your top 10%ers can target to join the nucleus? Spend your energy growing your nucleus – grow your Superpower.
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Summer Showcases? Here Is The Best Way To Stand Out ??

I was having a conversation with another dad today and we were brainstorming on the best way to get an athletic scholarship.
​​​​​​​Naturally we discussed getting athletic exposure.

But then my mind triggered an image I had seen that showing the % of schools that can recruit a kid based on their GPA.
It is easy for us as coaches and parents to make sure we are doing right by our kids by getting them as much exposure as possible to demonstrate their athletic skills.
But how about the academic portion? If we tell a kid they are doing good to just keep a 3.0 GPA – they will miss out on 50% of the schools that can recruit them!
It is an easy aspect to forget as we schedule travel teams, showcases, and videos highlight reels – but let’s develop all-around athletes that have every chance beyond high-school to excel in life!
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A Cavs fan tribute to the Warriors ?

As a Cleveland Cavs fan, I really, really want Lebron to bring another championship to The Land.
– 
But do I?
As I watched Cleveland collapse at the end of game 3, I could not help but notice the stark difference in the way each team played.
Cleveland: Iso’s and stagnant ball movement
 –
Golden State: Insane ball movement – 29 assists on 40 made baskets!
 –
It’s easy as a Cavs fan to sit back and complain about Kevin Durant ‘wimping out’ and instead of beating his competition, joining them.
 –
But that was not my primary feeling after game 3. The big thing was this: Golden State does all of the little things well, and Cleveland does not. GS will have a shorter players beat a taller player at jump balls in key situations. They utilize the game clock and get 2-for-1’s at the end of quarters and take the last shot. They just play smart and with discipline.
It is the epitome of a team buying into playing selflessly vs. a team that seems to be mostly playing individually.
 –
Just look at guys like Iguodola and Green – they thrive off being tough defensive players.
 
Even Curry and Thompson have to embrace giving the reigns over to Durant.
 –
There was a great article in SI a few weeks ago about Steve Kerr’s leadership and empowerment, and how amazing it is that he has built this team and culture to where they can still perform at this amazing level without him. I encourage you to check it out, it’s a fascinating read: si.com/nba/2017/05/16/steve-kerr-nba-playoffs-golden-state-warriors-injury-leadership
 –
So while I will always be faithful to my beloved Cleveland and would love to top last year’s epic 3-1 comeback with an even more epic 3-0 comeback – part of me loves to see discipline, selflessness, and culture prevail. 
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Abundance Vs. Scarcity Mentality

‘Instead, I have an abundance mentality: When people are genuinely happy at the successes of others, the pie gets larger’ – Stephen Covey
As coaches we all would say growing our sport in our local area so more kids can enjoy it is the ultimate goal, right?
Yet how much time and energy do we spend scheming X’s and O’s so we can beat our cross-town rival?
Compare that to how much time we spend strategizing how to grow our sport.
I was very excited and encouraged recently when one of the local high school lacrosse coaches reached out to all of the other coaches in our county, to pull together a meeting with all of us, with the sole purpose of discussing how we can grow the sport in our county.
We met for the first time last night, brainstormed on a bunch of ideas, and agreed upon the goal of making our county the hotbed of lacrosse in the state of Tennessee.
‘A rising tide lifts all boats’ one of my mentors Dan Miller says.
Such a simple step by this coach, just sent an email to see who was interested.
A roomful of different personalities. A roomful of different styles. A roomful of different backgrounds. Yet no one could deny that growing the sport as a whole will benefit all of our individual programs.
I’m sure when we play each other in the spring we will want to beat each other to a pulp and that intensity will not go away. But maybe a little voice in our ear will remind us of this higher objective when something gets us heated during the game. And the kids and parents who witness us living out our pursuit of this higher objective will be more drawn to the sport than ever.

Another mentor of mine used to say: ‘Hit them hard then help them up.’ 
 
Let’s create men and women who fight ferociously yet have a sound understanding of perspective and respect. The origin of the word compete means ‘to strive together.’
Could you pull together a meeting of your local coaches and get this same kind of conversation going? Do it.
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But Arguing With The Refs Gets Me More Calls

I have long struggled with how much/how little to lobby for calls with referees.
In my mind I think ‘Stay focused on coaching my team, all the calls will even themselves out in the long run.’
Of course as it is written ‘The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.’ I often walk away from games feeling frustrated with my interactions with the officials (on both sides- frustrated with their responses, and frustrated with how I interacted with them.)
To help me work through this – I have engaged with some really smart coaches and worked through the best approach. So here is what I am committing to for next season. Might not be perfect, and might have to tweak it for the next year, but I feel really good about starting here:
  • In the offseason – study the rules inside and out. It is impossible to have an intelligent conversation with an official if I don’t understand the rules.
  • Before the game when talking to the officials – let them know I respect the difficulty of their job, so I will not be yelling out rules infractions from the sideline. I will then ask for their permission, in return, during play stoppages (timeouts, between periods) to approach them with any clarifications or concerns I have.
  • Some leagues/officials insist that only the head coach talk to the officials. Ask for permission that during these stoppages, if I will be busy coaching the players, if occasionally it would be OK with them for me to send an assistant coach for a rule clarification.
  • A really wise coach suggested that during these conversations, when possible, to try to stand next to the official instead of face-to-faceIt is not a confrontation, it is a conversation. Likewise, my body language during these conversations is critical. From a distance it should look like a conversation not a confrontation.
  • There will occasionally be circumstances where player safety dictates an immediate discussion with the official, and player safety trumps these rules and need to be handled immediately.
  • It is important that this approach be communicated clearly to your players and parents. The players must know that you will defend them and lobby for them. They need to understand this approach is the most effective and appropriate way to do that.
This approach will be a challenge for me, as I am a perfectionist so bad calls drive me crazy. But it will free me to stay focused on what our team is doing, and in turn will send the message to our team to stay focused on what they can control.
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The Culture Bus – Key Takeaways From A Rollercoaster Ride Season

The rollercoaster ride season
Our lacrosse season wrapped up this past week. I appreciate you following my ride, a wild one with many ups and downs it has been.
Here are my key takeaways as I look back over the journey:
1 – Crucial Conversations – I had a good heart to heart conversation with the head coach about two-thirds of the way through the season. I was really honest with my frustrations and he received the feedback very well. Things weren’t perfect after this, but they were significantly better. My biggest regret is that I did not have the courage to have this conversation much, much earlier in the season. As I embark on the new adventure to start a new team – the importance of communication strategies within the coaching staff and dealing with different opinions in a healthy wayhas become one of, if not the most important strategy as we assemble a coaching staff.
2 – Positive energy/ Icebreakers  – Starting every practice with some type of teambuilder/icebreaker/positive energy activity was very successful. I kept a list of what we did and some other ideas as well, reply back to this email if you want me to shoot you a copy of that (it’s in an Excel spreadsheet, and hopefully you can decipher my notes.)
3 – Leadership Development – Reading The Hard Hat by Jon Gordon with the seniors, and having them present the ideas back to the team was a huge success. I had several of the seniors come up to me at the banquet and tell me how much that book meant to them.
4 – The importance of a coach – As I observed many of the boys’ reactions and body language to how they were being coached, I was reminded of what a huge opportunity we have as coaches. We can tear them down and belittle them, or we can pour into them and love them and let them know how much we believe in them. In their successes, and more importantly in their failures, we can help them develop a growth mindset where they truly believe they have the ability to accomplish great things on and off the field.
I am excited to stay in touch with these players and hopefully be able to continue to push them and support them in any way I can.
Thank you again for following along this journey, I will probably do the same thing and share my experiences starting later this summer as we lay the foundations for our new team.  It’s definitely going to be an #Epic2017!!
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Coaching A-Ha Moment – Crucial Conversations ??

 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” — MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. Mastering quoted by Kerry Patterson in Crucial Conversations
Does this pattern sound true of many (of you?):
  • Pre-teen – Pretty much blurt out whatever is on your mind
  • Teen – Your mouth starts getting you in trouble, so you learn to say less of anything controversial
  • Adult – It is easier to hide your feelings so unless something is going to immediately impact you in a severely negative way, just keep your thoughts to yourself
Unfortunately I would say this accurately describes me. It has negatively affected my relationships with my wife, my kids, my friends, coaches I have coached with, and everyone else I interacted with.
The good news is I have been becoming aware of a better way to live life over the past few years. Recently reading the book Crucial Conversations has really inspired me on how much better life is when we engage in important conversations, instead of suppressing our feelings.
This is so true with our coaching staffs too. Think about it – can you think of a group of people who are more passionate, competitive, confident, or strong-willed?
While this is a recipe for passion, it is also a 100% guarantee that there will be differing opinions on the best way to do things – That’s OK, there should be!
Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress — Mahatma Gandhi
I strongly encourage you to read Crucial Conversations in the offseason with your coaching staff, and then to set up a plan on how you are going to communicate as a staff to make sure everyone’s opinions are being heard and frustrations are in the open instead of being suppressed.
recent podcast guest Coach TJ Rosene shared that his teams establish that all communication must have 3 elements:
  1. Truth
  2. Love
  3. Transparency
Make this a goal with your teams this season!

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in baskets of silver – Proverbs 25:11
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Always learning – 2 Coaching A-Ha Moments ?? – Part 1

‘Let go of the outcome. When you let go of the outcome you dramatically increase your chance of achieving it.’ – Brian Cain
It’s fascinating how the more you know, the more you realize you need to know.
I’ve had 2 big coaching A-ha moments recently. I’ll share 1 this week and 1 next week.
Last week I listened to Brian Cain’s interview on the ABCA Call’s from the Clubhouse Podcast. One of the best podcasts I’ve listened to, I highly recommend it. http://www.abca.org/resources/calls_from_clubhouse – It’s episode 26.
In this episode he shared a story about core values. Here’s an activity you can do with your players today:
Hand every player a 3×5 notecard. Ask them to write down 2 or 3 things that your team is known for. When outsiders describe your program, what do they say about you? Or, said another way, what are your team’s core values.
This is a fascinating activity, because although your team’s core values may be crystal clear to you, and maybe even your coaching staff, are they crystal clear to your players? Remember what George Bernard Shaw said:
‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’
Don’t beat yourself up about the results of this activity. You will probably get a list of 30 to 50 or more ideas. Use this as a launching point for a discussion about who you are.
Then start the process of incorporating these core values into everything you do:
  • Tie them into your coaching points
  • Incorporate them into your goals for each game
  • Make your most important season-ending awards based on these criteria
  • Communicate them, communicate them, then communicate them some more
If you want to hear more about Brian Cain’s methods of helping define the core values of a team, one of the recent WYC guests Randy Jackson shared some great stories: winningyouthcoaching.com/wyc-097/
Next week we’ll dive into one of my new favorite books, Crucial Conversations.
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The 4 Cornerstones Of Championship Culture – Part 7 Of 8- Leadership Development

‘We all need an unreasonable person in our life that holds us to a standard higher than we believe we can attain.’


The 4 Cornerstones of Championship Culture – WYC is excited to partner with Upward Sports to kick off 2017 with an exciting new way for your to raise your coaching game for you and your coaches!
4th Cornerstone – Developing Leaders
This week we have the privilege of learning from Jim Harshaw Jr.
Jim is a TedX speaker, a consultant, and a former Division I All American wrestler. He also hosts a podcast called Success through Failure.
Success through Failure
Jim is passionate about developing leaders who embrace failure as a necessary part of success. The failure along the way is only because we set our goals high. The more successful the person, the more failures they have in their past. You don’t see the grind and struggles and times they wanted to quit after they succeed, but it’s there. ‘Failure is an option. In fact, it’s quite likely.’ We should set audaciously high goals. Then reverse engineer the process it will take to get there. And then forget about the goal. All you can control is your actions. Set action goals.
Be an action taker and don’t let your fear of not reaching a lofty goal prevent you from shooting for it: ‘There are 2 pains in life: the pain of discipline, and the pain of regret’
Our special thanks to our corporate partner for this series – Upward Sports- check them out at upward.org!
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The Culture Journey Week #24 – Rough week

Week 24
Regular Season week #3
Positive Energy
Crazy weather this week so we only had 1 practice, and it was shortened because of a field conflict, so no goofy games or book reading this week.
Culture Update – Rough week
Felt like we took a few steps backwards this week. We only had 1 game, and to be honest I was embarrassed to be on our sideline. Our head coach berated several players very publicly, as well as berating me during a play he didn’t like how I coached the play. Felt like last year and some of the ground we had made took some serious steps backwards. He seemed a little more agitated than he had been recently, maybe something outside of lacrosse was bugging him. Either way it needs to be addressed, we are off the next week and a half for spring break, so I plan to talk with him about it when we get back in town. Hopefully we can nip it in the bud. It’s a little scary because when we get back we have back-to-back games against teams we lost to a combined 40-1 last year.

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. It is exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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The 4 Cornerstones Of Championship Culture – Part 6 Of 8- Leadership Development

‘If your dreams don’t scare you- you’re not dreaming big enough’ – Chasing the Lion
The 4 Cornerstones of Championship Culture – WYC is excited to partner with Upward Sports to kick off 2017 with an exciting new way for your to raise your coaching game for you and your coaches!
4th Cornerstone – Developing Leaders
This week we have the privilege of being joined by TJ Rosene, head basketball coach and 3x national coach of the year at Emmanuel College, director of coach development at PGC Basketball, and co-host of the Hardwood Hustle podcast.
Captains
TJ had a very unique answer when I asked him how his teams choose captains. He said they don’t. I was very interested in this idea, in fact I wrote a previous blog post about this: click here.
When leaders arise who he wouldn’t have chosen – he is honest with them and works to develop them and train them how to be a better leader. He is also honest about what the 2 or 3 behaviors are that will affect their teammates adversely if they don’t work on improving them or eliminating them.
Leadership development
The first step is asking the players who wants to lead. They create levels of leadership around 4 traits: Character, Courage, Consistency, Communication. They define levels 0 to 3 with tangible steps on to how to reach level 3 for each characteristic, which is hard to attain.
Our special thanks to our corporate partner for this series – Upward Sports- check them out at upward.org!
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The Culture Journey Week #23 – The Bus Trip

Week 23
Regular Season week #2
Positive Energy
I continued what I have affectionately self-named ‘Coach Craig’s Goofy Games‘ to start each practice.
This week’s best game:Great Teammate Tips Challenge
After one of our seniors shared the 2 new tips for the week from The Hard Hat, we broke into 4 teams: freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. I gave them each a page from the sketch pad which we use to write the tips on (by the way – love this sketch pad I bought for $14 on Amazon: link) and gave them each a Sharpie and asked them to write down as many of the 8 teammate tips they could remember. The correct number ranged from 3 to 7 (the seniors obviously had an advantage since they are reading the book.) It was good to get the groups brainstorming together, plus put the emphasis on how much are they really listening to these tips being presented by the seniors.
Culture Update – The Bus Trip
This weekend we had 1 of our 2 bus trips, a 3 hour ride over to Knoxville to play 2 varsity games and 1 JV game. I had been thinking about this for some time, because last year our bus trips were a bit shocking to me how immature and disrespectful much of the conversation was. We discussed this as a coaching staff, and decided rather than trying to ‘police’ the conversation, to instead fill the time with productive activity. We brought a DVD with the 2015 Div II lacrosse national championship game which was 1 hour 45 minutes long and played that as soon as we left. Then we spent the last hour bringing up the different position groups to the front of the bus with the coaches to discuss the gameplan for the day. This seemed to work really well and our mindset getting off the bus seemed to be much more focused and excited to play great lacrosse vs. last year where they were just goofing off and not focused. The results on the field paid off as well as we played a great first half and won the first game.
The return bus trip was less organized but we stopped for pizza then most of the boys fell asleep as it was a long day and we were all pretty exhausted. Overall it was a night and day better experience vs. last year.
We also continue to have the seniors presenting 2 of the teammate tips from Jon Gordon’s The Hard Hat, this weeks we covered points 7 and 8:
7 – Do it for your team, not for applause
8 – Show you are committed

Have a great week and keep fighting for your culture everyday!

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. It is exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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The 4 Cornerstones Of Championship Culture – Part 5 Of 8- Mental Toughness And Relational Resilience

‘In society we think of competition as going head to head with someone else and trying to beat them. But if you look at the Latin root of the word – it means To Strive Together. You put your best foot forward and I’ll put my best foot forward. Even if I lose, I will thank you as my competitor for bringing your best that day.’ – Joe Ehrmann, paraphrased
The 4 Cornerstones of Championship Culture – WYC is excited to partner with Upward Sports to kick off 2017 with an exciting new way for your to raise your coaching game for you and your coaches!
3rd Cornerstone – Creating Mentally Tough Athletes
This week we learn from Sara Erdner, PhD student in Sport Psychology & Motor Behavior at the University of Tennessee.
Sara has done research in the area of resilience, and here are 5 keysher research has uncovered as the keys to being resilient:
1 – Positive outlook
2 – Intrinsically motivated
3 – Focused
4 – Confident
5 – Perceived social support is high
Sara also has done a deeper dive into the fifth point which is about relationships. Emotional support is the key and the concept of empathy is critical. Empathy is striving to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.Empathy is important to overcoming and working through the shame that has been put on you by your parents or coaches or others in your life.
Some of these are harder to control than others – but certainly choosing to be positive, to be focused, and to show empathy to others are things we can control with our choices every day.
Our special thanks to our corporate partner for this series – Upward Sports- check them out at upward.org!
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The Culture Journey Week #22 – Defining Who We Are

Week 22
Regular Season week #1
Positive Energy
I continued what I have affectionately self-named ‘Coach Craig’s Goofy Games‘ to start each practice.
This week’s best game:Towel Tug-of-War King-of-the-Mountain Style
We repeated the towel tug of war game I have previously described (to see the details click here), but this time we did it king of the mountain style. I sorted our roster by approximate size and weight and put them in ascending order so we started with the smallest 3 athletes first. Then whoever won got to stay and we brought in the next 2 kids. So if you kept winning you remained king of the mountain. It’s always fun to see surprising kids step up, we had one of our first year players win 5 matches in a row at one point.
Culture Update – Defining Who We Are
This week was quite a roller-coaster ride on our culture journey. It started with a game last Saturday that was quite embarrassing to be part of. We played selfishly, we played recklessly, and we got in a fight which included one player from each team getting ejected. But instead of letting this define us, we used it to fuel a heart-to-heart with our team at practice on Monday. We discussed whether we wanted to be known for being a chippy scrappy team that easily lost their focus, or whether we wanted to be known for being a smart, aggressive, great lacrosse team that respects the game and their opponents. We tied in our ROOTS core values and discussed respect for the officials and opponents particularly. It was a great discussion, but of course you always wonder who much of it will actually play out when push comes to shove in a game.
We had our next game on Wednesday. We won a hard-fought game against a solid opponent 6-5. We only had 1 or 2 penalties, we played unselfishly, and we respected the officials and opponents. What a turnaround in one game. Maybe we needed everything to go wrong in that first game to see the picture of what we don’t want to represent.It did, and we will continue to use that as a reminder that we have to be continually focusing on our respect for our ROOTS values.
We also continue to have the seniors presenting 2 of the teammate tips from Jon Gordon’s The Hard Hat, this weeks we covered points 5 and 6:
5 – Share Positive Contagious Energy
6 – Don’t complain
Have a great week and keep fighting for your culture everyday!

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. It is exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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The 4 Cornerstones Of Championship Culture – Part 4 Of 8- Creating Mentally Tough Athletes

The best aren’t born that way. They work harder and practice more to master their craft.’ – Jon Gordon
The 4 Cornerstones of Championship Culture – WYC is excited to partner with Upward Sports to kick off 2017 with an exciting new way for your to raise your coaching game for you and your coaches!
3rd Cornerstone – Creating Mentally Tough Athletes
This week we learn from Pete Jacobson, founder of Win Smarter and long time wrestling coach in New York
Pete has his teams focus on 3 things to create a culture of mentally tough athletes:
1 – Focus on the process not the outcome
2 – Embrace failure as a necessary step towards success
3 – For the kids to embrace #’s 1 and 2 – you need to embrace and live these as their coach
Do these 3 steps and you will create fearless athletes who are not afraid of failure. Their mental approach will be to embrace and get excited for challenges instead of fearing them.
Our special thanks to our corporate partner for this series – Upward Sports- check them out at upward.org!
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The Culture Journey Week #21 – Ninja Entourage & Coaching Staff Trust

Week 21
Spring practice week #4
Positive Energy
I continued what I have affectionately self-named ‘Coach Craig’s Goofy Games‘ to start each practice.
This week’s best game: Ninja Entourage
Shout out to Scott Hearon for teaching me this one:
Partner off. Do the motion of shaking the other person’s hand, but, point your pointer finger straight out towards the other person. When game starts, both players try to touch their pointer finger to any part of the other persons body except the arm he is fighting with. Whoever touches wins. Winners advance and find other winners to compete against, whoever lost joins the entourage of whoever beat them. Keep going until you’re down to 2 people for the championship match.
Culture Update
Our coaching staff continues to improve our internal trust and respect of one another. This takes time. The 8 week sessions we did in the off-season seem to be creeping into a higher trust and respect level amongst one another. With the understanding that the most important way we can influence our team’s culture is to demonstrate teamwork as a coaching staff.
We also continue to have the seniors presenting 2 of the teammate tips from Jon Gordon’s The Hard Hat, this weeks we covered points 3 and 4:
3 – Choose to be humble and hungry
4 – Pursue excellence

Have a great week and keep fighting for your culture everyday!

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. It is exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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The 4 Cornerstones Of Championship Culture – Part 3 Of 8- A Cause Bigger Than Yourself-Leaving A Legacy

‘It’s better to have flown than to have landed’- John Wooden

The 4 Cornerstones of Championship Culture – WYC is excited to partner with Upward Sports to kick off 2017 with an exciting new way for your to raise your coaching game for you and your coaches!
2nd Cornerstone – A Cause Bigger than Yourself – Leaving a Legacy
This week we learn from Ted Quinn, director of coaches programs at Nations of Coaches. NOC is a group whose mission is to equip, serve, and connect with men’s basketball coaches.
Ted broke down creating championship culture into 2 priorities:
1 – Know your why
2 – Prioritize building relationships with your players. Get to know them before getting to know their game.
The first priority as a coach is to know why you are doing it. Being a coach is a calling and usually is a huge time commitment that takes you away from your family a great deal. You need to understand what legacy you want to leave behind. Is it your win/loss record? Or is it more important to be a role model to the young men and women you coach, develop them as athletes and as people, children, teammates, future parents, workers, and leaders?
Know your why. Write it down and remind yourself of it daily. Say it out loud to yourself and to others. Leave the right kind of legacy.
Our special thanks to our corporate partner for this series – Upward Sports- check them out at upward.org!
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The Culture Journey Week #20 – Smart-Aggressive – A Poker Analogy

Week 20
Spring practice week #3
Positive Energy
I continued what I have affectionately self-named ‘Coach Craig’s Goofy Games‘ to start each practice.
This week we did the best game we’ve done yet:
I had forgotten one that I had learned from Dave Cisar at Winning Youth Football (I am a HUGE fan of his coaching guide!) It’s called towel tug of war. Use an old full-sized towel, wrap duct tape around both ends and in the middle. Have 3 somewhat equal-sized athletes each grab the towel with one hand at 1 of the 3 taped spots. Put a cone about 4 to 5 yards behind each player (should form a triangle.) Then it’s tug of war to try to touch your own cone. You can only have one hand on the towel and you must be touching the towel when you touch your own cone.
The added fun that Cisar adds – have all the players that don’t participate line up behind the person’s cone who they think is going to win. Then all the people who line up behind the wrong cone have to do a quick 5 push-ups or something similar for picking wrong. This adds a lot of loud fun cheering from all the players.
Smart-Aggressive – A Poker Analogy
It’s always a fine-line to challenge kids to play aggressively but not force things and take dumb shots. I was thinking about it this week and it’s really similar to effective poker players. I used to run a poker club of 20 really good poker players and we would send the winner of the club to Vegas to play in a World Series of Poker event. I was able to win our club twice and got to play in Vegas. Poker theory is pretty consistent in that the best players play a tight-aggressive style. I was thinking this week that this is how we want our players to play, although I renamed ‘tight’ with ‘smart.’
Attached is a visual of this, let me know your thoughts. I am going to roll this out to our team today.

Have a great week and keep fighting for your culture everyday!

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. It is exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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The 4 Cornerstones Of Championship Culture – Part 2 Of 8- A Cause Bigger Than Yourself-Leaving A Legacy

Ultimately, life is about relationships and having a cause bigger than yourself – Joe Ehrmann in Inside Out Coaching
The 4 Cornerstones of Championship Culture – WYC is excited to partner with Upward Sports to kick off 2017 with an exciting new way for your to raise your coaching game for you and your coaches!
2nd Cornerstone – A Cause Bigger than Yourself – Leaving a Legacy
This week we learn from Scott Hearon, founder of the Nashville Coaching Coalition. This group’s entire focus is to equip and support coaches in their work to build excellent programs that transform the lives of their players and empower them to perform to their greatest potential.
Scott’s group uses Joe Ehrmann’s book Inside Out Coaching as a key part in their training of coaching staffs. The high school lacrosse coaching staff I am a part of recently had the privilege of going through this training.
Unlike most coach training, the focus of most of our time together was not on how to teach better or run more efficient practices, but rather was to understand each of our pasts and uncover any tendencies we have to lose focus on the real reasons we coach.
Scott taught us that the single most important thing the kids watch in us as coaches is how we relate to and treat each other. A great analogy he used was the best thing we can do as a parent is to love our spouse.
One of the biggest legacies we can leave with the players we coach is to demonstrate that we not coaching to impress anyone else, but instead we are coaching because we love the game, we love the coaches we coach with, and we love our players.
Our special thanks to our corporate partner for this series – Upward Sports- check them out at upward.org!
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The Culture Journey Week #19 – Coach Craig’s Goofy Games, No Captains?, & Struggle

Week 19
Spring practice week #2
Positive Energy
I continued what I have affectionately self-named ‘Coach Craig’s Goofy Games‘ to start each practice. It’s hard work continuing to come up with creative games, but once we’ve done 10 or 12 different ones I’ll probably start circling back and repeating or letting the kids choose one they liked. Here is how I have structured what we’ll do each week:
Monday – Seniors share 2 of the Teammate Tips from The Hard Hat. I purchased an 18″x24″ drawing pad and we’re going to fill in the 21 tips as the season goes on. I’m thinking about asking the seniors if they want to encourage the team to each tap the list on the way out to do their group warm-up run each practice. (Think ‘Play for your teammates today’ type sign.)
Tuesday – 3 man competitions and everyone votes on who they think will win, losers do punishment (towel tug-of-war, 3 man ground balls)
Wednesday – Entourage-type game where players compete then losers cheer (rock, paper scissors; high-10 off-balance push; 1,2,3, yee,haw,clap)
Thursday – Position group games (Tell a story 4 words at a time; topics without repeats; put cards in order without talking)
Friday – Fun Friday – play a different sport (ultimate frisbee with tennis balls; sharks and minnow tag with tennis balls; kickball)
​​​​​​​I’ll be taking notes on how to play each of these games and will send something out when the season is over.
Captains
Interesting follow-up on captains. I definitely lost sleep over the weekend as I thought about the one kid who didn’t get voted as a captain (another one didn’t get voted either but I don’t think he had any expectations around being a captain.) I was interviewing TJ Rosene (from PGC Basketball, the Hardwood Hustle, and head coach at Emmanuel College) this week and I asked him about captains – he gave me a really unique answer: ‘We don’t vote for or assign captains. There are always a few players that step up as leaders. When the ref asks for our captains to come to center court, without looking at me, a few of them just naturally take their role as leaders.’
Anyone else ever try this approach? It really got me thinking and I can see the benefits of not having a popularity vote or having coaches have to choose and alienating kids.
Struggle
The biggest struggle we are having right now is how to quantify and track skill progress. We don’t really have any tangible measurable so the boys can get the satisfaction of knowing they are improving. John, Will or any other lax coaches – any lacrosse ideas for this?

Have a great week and keep fighting for your culture everyday!

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. It is exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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The 4 Cornerstones of Championship Culture – Part 1 of 8 – Core Covenants

‘Leave the jersey in a better place’ – The All Blacks in James Kerr’s Legacy 
Core values
This week we kick off the series discussing the importance of establishing your core values. This is defining ‘who we are’ and ‘how we do things around here.’ Our guest in this week’s podcast, Coach Lisle from The Hitting Vault, shares that he and his coaches establish their core covenants first, and then they only have 2 rules:
1 – Don’t be late
2 – Don’t let down your teammates
This really covers all the bases, because if you do something selfish, you will always let down your teammates. So don’t.
Your program needs to start with a cornerstone that clearly states how you do things. Then point everything back to this in how you act and how you make all decisions.
Our special thanks to our corporate partner for this series – Upward Sports- check them out at upward.org!
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The 4 Cornerstones of Championship Culture – Intro

‘Leave the jersey in a better place’ – The All Blacks in James Kerr’s Legacy 
The 4 Cornerstones of Championship Culture – WYC is excited to partner with Upward to kick off 2017 with an exciting new way for your to raise your coaching game for you and your coaches!
Each Monday we will launch a new episode with interviews of great youth sports coaches around the country, and will also feature a 2 minute coaching spot with the founder of Upward Sports, Caz McCaslin.
The series will be broken into 4 topics:
1 – Core values
2 – A cause bigger than yourself
3 – Empowering & Defining roles- Create mentally tough athletes through their understanding of their role
4 – The role of captains and leadership development
A special thanks to our corporate partner for this series – Upward Sports – check them out at upward.org!
 
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Making It Fun Part 4 – 4 Additional Ideas To Build Positive Energy Into Your Practices

Lead with optimism, enthusiasm and positive energy, guard against pessimism and weed out negativity.’ – Jon Gordon 

This has been a great series for me to remember the importance of having kids love the sport they play. Sure there will be times where the kids need to learn the value of grinding out tough workouts, but there is no reason we can’t bring the energy levels up in our practices by incorporating fun competitive elements into most of what we do.
This week we will wrap up the series with 4 additional ideas for building positive energy into your practices:
Freeplay
This past summer my friend John, who coaches lacrosse, had parents drop off their kids from 4 to 6 every Saturday and had pick-up games. Their was 2 or 3 coaches there to make sure everyone stayed safe, but other than that the coaches stayed out of the way and let the kids figure out teams, resolve arguments, pretty much do everything themselves. This is great not only for developing their skills, but it also teaches them conflict resolution and many other great life skills.
Positive Conditioning – The winners get to run!
During competitions within your practice, instead of punishing the losers by making them do some type of conditioning, you tell the winners they have earned the right to get stronger while the losers watch. You have to put all your attention/effort into recognizing the kids who are earning the right to run.
Small area games like Futsal
Kids that play futsal touch the ball 12x vs. traditional soccer. Simulate these type  of small area games with lots of touches for each kid by breaking into small teams and play within a small confined space.
Involving the parents
Tell your parents: ‘Come ready and dressed to participate at practice’ – They can help you coach, but also kids love competing against the adults, so have competitions and scrimmages against their parents or with the parents mixed into the teams.
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The Culture Journey Week #18 – Icebreakers, Tough Decisions, & The Hard Hat

Week 18
Hell Week – Spring practice week #1
Positive Energy
As I mentioned last week, we started off the season with our head coach asking the boys what being a good teammate means to them, he wrote their ideas down, then had all the players and coaches sign the sheet agreeing to be held to that standard. This is a big change from the previous year, where I can’t remember specifically how the season kicked off but it certainly wasn’t in this type of positive mindset. Then we lined up all the boys in a single file line, I taught them the proper way to shake hands, and we had each player go down the line and introduce themselves to every other player on the team. Good start!
The next challenge for our coaching staff was to turn around the negative culture that had come down on last year’s team like a dark fog. One focus we are implementing is to intentionally start the practice with positive energy. We have done entourage, aka rock,paper,scissors,cheerleader, and a game called moosh-ball to start our practices the last 2 days. They are somewhat goofy games, especially moosh-ball, but that is OK because they have been very successful in getting a group of ‘trying-to-be-cool’ teenage boys laughing, cheering, and having a good time.

The other nice benefit of doing these games at the beginning of practice is that it provides an extra incentive to show up on time to practice.
Captains
We did face a very tough decision on who would be our captains for this team. We have 6 seniors on the team, so we wrote their names on a sheet of paper and let each player on the team vote for 1,2, or 3 players. The vote totals came out with one clear choice, then 3 more that were lumped pretty tight together. We had the debate over whether to add the #2 finisher and stick with 2 captains, or whether to have all 4 be captains. The other issue was the head coach had a different view on who the 2nd captain should be vs. myself and the other assistant coach. Much to his credit, after much deliberation, he had the other assistant coach and me fill out votes and see what that did to the totals. It did move a different boy into the #2 spot. I also really like the leadership of the boy who finished in the #4 spot, so we finally agreed we would go forward with 4 captains.
The Hard Hat
Keeping with our theme of being a great teammate, we have purchased 10 copies of Jon Gordon’s The Hard Hat – 21 Ways to be a great teammate. 1 for each senior and one for each coach. We are going to read the book with our seniors and discuss 2 different points from the book each week.
We have a long way to go, but the atmosphere around our team this spring is light years ahead of where we were this time last year.

Have a great week and keep fighting for your culture everyday!

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. It is exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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Making It Fun Part 3 – Developmental Stages & Levels

‘The sweet spot: that productive, uncomfortable terrain located just beyond our current abilities, where our reach exceeds our grasp.’– Daniel Coyle in The Talent Code

Do you know what athletes think is fun?

Getting better.
Fun games help keep the energy level high in practice and are important, but there is no substitute for the #1 way to have practices that athletes love: They need to feel tangible progress towards getting better.
3 ways you can implement this immediately:
  • Live by numbers – Create core drills that can be measured numerically. The focus is on improvement.
  • Developmental stages. Kids graduate from levels by testing out of levels. Instead of belt colors (like in Karate), you can have shirt colors. When they are ready to master a skill, they test on it, and move on to the next level after passing the test. Moving up a level is a big recognition – have some type quick ceremony and do something like ringing a victory bell.
  • Stuart Armstrong from The Talent Equation is a master on this subject – He says to design your practices like a video game designer:
    • Create ‘levels’ that are within their reach, but it’s a big stretch that might feel just out of their reach. So when they figure something out – ask them ‘are you ready for level 2 now?’
    • Use terms like ‘power-up’ and ‘freeze’ to mix up games during practice. One team can ‘freeze’ the other team for 5 seconds
Be intentional with your practice design to focus on each kid knowing what their next step of progress is, and celebrate like crazy as kids reach their next level!
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The Culture Journey Week #17 – What Makes Up A Good Teammate & Handshaking

Week 17

Final pre-season Coach Meeting
We had our final pre-season coach meeting last night. I am encouraged by the progress we have made as a staff over the past few months. We are not perfect yet, but there is power in just sitting down and getting to know each other, listen to each others’ stories, and talking about our visions for the team. Even though we all have very different styles and certainly don’t see eye-to-eye on each others’ philosophies, there is a tangible growth and respect amongst each other that makes being together more and more enjoyable.

​​​​​​​As we come into the upcoming Hell Week to kickstart our practices, there are 2 things we are doing at our first practice that I am very excited about:

1 – What does it being a good teammate mean to you?
I am pumped about our head coach recommending that we start out our first team meeting next week by asking the team what their definition is of being a good teammate. We are going to have a large sheet of paper where we write all of their responses down. Then we are going to ask them if they all agree to being held to these standards, and if they do to sign their name on the page with these descriptions.

2 – Handshaking
The head coach also said he wants to start off the first practice with the kids lining up by class, then having each elder class shake hands with the younger classes and welcome them to the team, shake their hand, and tell them they are glad they are here and they will support them and help them any way they can.
I thought of James Leath’s post about teaching kids how to look each other in the eye and what a proper handshake looks like, so I asked the coach if we could teach the kids the proper way to shake hands and he liked the idea. Check out James’ article on this and what his first practice each season looks like (I have learned a great deal from James but this is my favorite must-read article): First-Day-of-Practice

We also discussed having all the coaches take turns talking through our ROOTS values (taken from PCA) over the course of the season so that we don’t lose sight of them the way we have historically. Quick, 5-minute or less, stories we can share to keep sight on who we are and how we do things.

It’s been quite a journey over the past 17 weeks getting ready for practice #1. We’ve taken baby-steps towards turning this team’s culture around, I’m pumped to get it started! These boys are worth it!

Have a great week and keep fighting for your culture everyday!

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. It is exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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Making It Fun Part 2 – Fun Games That Teach Skills

‘Nobody ever said “Work ball!” They say, “Play ball!” To me, that means having fun’ – Willie Stargell
Thank you to the many coaches who responded to my recent email asking what your biggest challenge currently is in coaching. One of the common responses I received involved coming up with creative new games to keep practices fun and engaging while teaching fundamentals and deleting the players’ skills. This week I’ll share some of the great games that many of my podcast guests have shared with me over the years. They are organized by sport, but be open-minded and look at other sports outside of the one you coach because many of these games can be tweaked to do in just about any sport.
Baseball & Softball
  • 1 kid is at home base, 1 at 2nd  – and they race to reach the other’s base (home to 2nd; 2nd to home)
  • Throwing/catching games – They start up close with a partner, then keep taking 3 giant steps back, once they drop a ball they’re out – but even after they’re out they can keep throwing (so they’re not standing around)
  • Keep everything competitive – Coach will break up into 2 teams of six and then have them all bunt and keep track of which team lays down more successful bunts, do the same with hit and runs, etc.
  • Baseball hitting game – Each player gets 7 swings and earns points based on result(kind of like Home Run derby)
  • Last player standing – player bats with 2 strikes – if they hit it fair they keep going.  If you strike-out you go play defense.  Then you add complexity – they have to hit it to the grass, etc.  Great game to teach the athletes to play in pressure situations.
  • Throwing accuracy – Kids weren’t hitting their targets when throwing – so she put a ball on a cone at 1st base and they took turns throwing from shortstop trying to hit the ball on the cone.  Then she said first one to hit she would give $1.
Basketball
  • Defensive slide duck-duck-goose: You play the normal game but have to do defensive slide when running around the circle.
  • Jump stop Mr. Fox
  • Split the kids in half and have them do drills towards mid-court so they meet their teammates and can watch/learn as they go
  • Break into 3 person teams and have shooting competitions
  • Spider – Ball handling game – 4 or 5 defenders, 3 or 4 offensive players – Players have to dribble to the other end of the court while the spiders are trying to knock their ball out of the court, if you get your ball knocked out you join the spiders.
  • Dribble tag – put it to music and do it for 5 to 7 minutes to keep it fun
  • Passing tag – have to pass the ball and ‘tag’ someone. Stop, catch, pivot, then tag. Timed drill –team with the lowest time wins. Can do it with more than 5 per team.
  • Cool dribbling drill – Put change (quarters, nickels, dimes) at spots on the court – kids have to go pick it up, then go put the change back using the opposite hand
Football
  • The give-up drill – 3 blockers defending a pad vs. 1 player
  • Defend the box
Soccer
  • Knockout
  • Bring out different style balls – tennis ball, big huge ball
Don’t stress yourself out doing continuous research on the perfect game. Find 4 or 5 that your kids enjoy and mix them throughout your practices to keep the energy level up and the kids having fun!
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The Culture Journey Week #16 – Competition For All Positions

Week 16
Player-Parent Meeting – Competition for all positions
This week kicked off our spring season with our parent-player meeting. I won’t bore you with too many of the details, but one of the statements that our head coach shared jumped out at me:
No guaranteed spots, open competition for all positions
I can’t remember whether this was in the slide deck in previous years, but our coach emphasized it and if we truly enforce this our team’s culture would vastly improve. As I have shared previously our team’s culture has been defined by individualism and entitlement. Our meetings as a coaching staff over the past 8 weeks have been centered around how do we drive accountability into our culture. A major step in doing this will be to use the bench as a motivator. We need to have open competition and let the players know that their behavior will dictate their role on this team. If players come with a willingness to work hard, learn, and be a great teammate – they will earn the right to play significant roles on this team. But if players come to goof off and their primary goal is to show up their teammate, they can enjoy their time watching the game from the bench.
Next week we have our final coaches meeting before our practices kick-off. My primary goal in this meeting is to ask the head coach to clearly define the assistant coaches rolesWe need to feel empowered to own our position group. Not to take away his power, but to help him meet his vision for this team by taking pride in our position group and passing that pride down to be owned by the players in each group. 
Head coaches – are you empowering your assistant coaches and valuing their input? Is their role during practices and games crystal clear? This is a great reminder to all of us of the importance of clear roles for everyone on the team – the players, the coaches, the parents.

Have a great week and keep fighting for your culture everyday!

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected]ngyouthcoaching.com if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. It is exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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The Culture Journey Week #15 – Servant Leadership, Life-Lessons, Codes-Of-Conduct

 
Meeting #7 with Coaching coach – Servant leadership, Life-lessons, Codes-of-conduct
Had our seventh meeting with Scott Hearon, the co-founder of the Nashville Coaching Coalition. We went through the chapters 6 through 8 of Inside-Out Coaching by Joe Ehrmann.
​​​​​​​Chapter 6 is about building community. In it is one of the best descriptions I’ve seen of what leadership and being a captain is all about:
Biff tells the seniors they have now earned the right to serve the freshmenServant leadership is the antithesis of self-promotion, of competing for positions of preeminence. It’s the opposite of hazing. It’s downward mobility based on the belief that if you want to be a leader you must first know how to serve.
​​​​​​​Next we invite the freshmen over and the varsity players give them an ovation. A couple of the captains will welcome them and let the frosh know how courageous it is for them to be here. They are admired and welcomed into our community.’
What could our team look like if we taught our captains and seniors to lead this way? That is one of the goals for our upcoming lacrosse season.
Chapter 7 is a discussion on teaching life lessons through sports. We did an exercise as a coaching staff where we each listed the top 3 educational points about life we want to teach the kids we coach. This was an excellent activity to better understand what really makes each coach tick.
This is also the chapter where Joe shares what his teams do on Homecoming week, specifically with regards to what they teach the boys about respecting the girls they are going to take to the Homecoming dance. This includes the boys writing a short letter describing how they will treat their dates and then several of the players are selected to share these with the team.  Powerful, powerful stuff – if you want to see more details on this it starts on the bottom of page 179 of the book.
Chapter 8 is about clear communication, and Joe reinforces the best way to do this is by having 3 different codes of conduct:
  1. Coaches’ code of conduct
  2. Parents’ code of conduct
  3. Players’ code of conduct
We did an activity where we rated from 1 to 5 how our communication with these 3 groups is on our team. The biggest eye-opener from this activity was we realized we put a players’ code of conduct in place at the beginning of the year, then rarely ever discuss it again the rest of the season. 
Next week we wrap up our sessions with Scott, have our kick-off meeting with the players and parents, and then in 2 short weeks we are off and running with practices!
I hope your seasons are going well – you have to fight every day for your culture – so start off 2017 fighting the good fight! It is worth it!

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. It is exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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Making it Fun Part 1 – Hidden Conditioning & Icebreakers

‘You can make more friends in 2 months by becoming interested in other people than you can in 2 years by trying to get other people interested in you’ – Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People
Today we’ll share 2 different types of ideas you can use in your practices:
1 – Icebreakers
2 – Hidden Conditioning
Icebreakers
Don’t underestimate the value of starting your practice with some type of activity to switch your athletes’ mindset from school, friends, homelife, etc. to being on this team. Here are some great ideas (thanks to Will Drumright and James Leath for sharing some of these):
  • Rock, paper, scissors, cheerleader – Everyone pairs off and plays best 2 out of 3. The winner moves on and finds another winner, the person who lost becomes cheerleader (or entourage if you want a more masculine word) for whoever beat them. Continue until down to 2 people. Make a big deal about who has the best entourage before the championship match. You can have coaches watching the entourages throughout the whole process and give award to the final 2 players and also the 2 best cheerleaders.
  • ​​​​​​​Clumps – Start by everyone running around then leader yells out a number and the players have to form clumps with that number of people.
  • 1,2, 3 – Partner up. One person starts with 1 the other says 2, then the first says 3, and so on. (try to mess up your partner, different voice inflections, etc.) After a couple rounds change 3 to a clap. Finally, change 1 and 2 to Yee and Haw.
  • The Pigeon Game: You start telling a story, when the kids hear ‘Pigeon’- they race to the other side. You make it fun by trying to fake them out, i.e.: ‘there was a boy name PETER who really liked PICKLES…’
Hidden Conditioning Games
​​​​​​​Starting or ending your practice with hidden conditioning games instead of wind sprints can improve the ‘funness’ of your practices immensely. Remember – it’s a game and the #1 reason kids play sports is to have fun! Here a few great ideas:
  • Play your sport with a different ball. Way bigger or way smaller than the normal one.
  • Ultimate frisbee is a great game for conditioning for any outdoor sport
  • Dodgeball and tag are classics that kids always like. Instead of kids standing around after they are knocked out make them jog around the outside perimeter of your game.
  • Fox and hound – Hounds have the ball, foxes chase them, if fox tags you, you have to give them ball
  • Relay races
  • Four-corner tag – 4 players at a time – each kid starts in a corner and runs to the middle, then you yell out a corner number, and the kid from that corner has to tag the other 3 kids in 10 seconds.  You see some great open-field juke moves with this.
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2017 Is Going To Be Epic. Let’s Start By Having Some Fun!

‘Nobody ever said “Work ball!” They say, “Play ball!” To me, that means having fun’ – Willie Stargell
What better way to kick off the year than to talk about one of the fundamentals of why kids play sports – having FUN! Next week we’ll kick off a 4 part series as we look at great ways to make our practices more fun. If you’re like me you’re always looking for more fun games to bring up the energy level during your practice, so I’ll share some of the best ideas I’ve learned along the way. Here’s what the series will look like:
Part 1 – Hidden conditioning games
Part 2 – Skill development games
Part 3 – Developmental stages & levels
Part 4 – 4 additional ways to bring the fun: Small area games, Freeplay, Positive conditioning, & Involving the parents
Happy new years and here’s to an epic 2017!
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The Culture Journey Week #14 – The Why

Week 14
Meeting #6 with Coaching coach – The Why
Had our sixth meeting with Scott Hearon, the co-founder of the Nashville Coaching Coalition. We went through the fifth chapter of Inside-Out Coaching by Joe Ehrmann. In this chapter Joe asks 4 questions:
  1. Why do I coach?
  2. Why do I coach the way I do? (who has influenced my coaching style?)
  3. What does it feel like to be coached by me?
  4. How do I define success?
We all answered these ahead of time for ourselves, and thinking through these was a very good exercise to take us back to why we coach. Most of our answers involved encouraging the young men and women we coach to be better than they can even imagine themselves being. And none of our answers for how we define success had anything to do with winning or losing. It had to do with players developing both on and off the field
This led to an interesting discussion on our upcoming season. We start practices February 1st and have about 4 weeks of practice before our first game. I had created a proposed tracking system for incentivizing players to compete in these practices and as coaches we would post the results at every practice. This was met with little buy-in (I need to work on my sales skills.) The concern mostly was that this would work for higher-achieving teams but our kids aren’t to a level to implement something like this yet. I disagree. We did have a good discussion around this and around choosing captains, and our head coach did say he would take the sheet I proposed with him and think about whether there was any portion of it we could implement. Progress comes in baby steps sometimes! 
I would love to hear your feedback on my tracking system – you can see it at winningyouthcoaching.com/preseason-practice-point-system/
I hope your seasons are going well – you have to fight every day for your culture – so start off 2017 fighting the good fight! It is worth it!

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. It is exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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The 12 Days of Christmas – 12 Truths about Athletes – Part 4 of 4 – The 1 Thing Every Athlete Needs

The emotional glue of any culture is its sense of identity and purpose – James Kerr quoting Owen Eastwood in Legacy
Merry Christmas! I hope you have enjoyed this 12 Days of Christmas series – as a reminder here is what we’ve covered in our 12 Truths about Athletes series:
3 Truths about players (from Ingle Martin):
  1. They want to contribute
  2. They want to belong
  3. They want to know they have what it takes
5 Things Athletes want from their Coaches (from John O’Sullivan):
  1. Respect & Encouragement
  2. A positive role model
  3. Clear, consistent communication
  4. Knowledge of the sport
  5. Someone who listens
3 Components of Effective Communication: (from TJ Rosene)
  1. Truth
  2. Love
  3. Transparency
This week we’ll wrap up the series with:
The 1 Thing Every Athlete Needs:
  1.  Purpose (from James Kerr in Legacy)
​​​​​​​More than encouragement.
More than positive reinforcement.
More than brilliant X’s and O’s.
While all of these are part of being a great coach, the ultimate goal is to create purpose for every member of the team. That is what makes a master coach. The ability to value every player and make them understand their importance to the team’s success.
In Kerr’s book written about the All Blacks rugby team, he uncovers that the team’s success comes down to the fact they are obsessed with ‘This connection of personal meaning to public purpose.’
Kerr goes on to quote:
  • Daniel Pink in his book Drive‘Humans, by their nature, seek purpose – a cause greater and more enduring than themselves.’
  • Victor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning‘What man actually needs, is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.’
  • Nietzsche said: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
  • And for the All Blacks, their purpose is to “add to the legacy…to leave the jersey in a better place.”​​​​​​​
The most important goal for your team in 2017 should be for every player to know their role and clearly understand how they are contributing to the success of the team. It will be more fun for each player and it will make your team much more successful!
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The Culture Journey Week #13 – The Elephant in the Room

Week 13
Meeting #5 with Coaching coach – The Elephant in the Room
Had our fifth meeting with Scott Hearon, the co-founder of the Nashville Coaching Coalition. We went through the fourth chapter of Inside-Out Coaching by Joe Ehrmann. In this chapter Joe discusses the 3 big lies being told to our boys about what it means to be a masculine man and the 3 big lies being told to our girls about what it means to be a feminine woman. I heard Joe speak 8 years ago and this was the message that stuck with me. We had an interesting discussion on these, it seems easy for coaches to confuse being competitive with having your identity tied to your success on the ballfield or in the boardroom. Teaching our kids to be competitive and strive for greatness is a great thing and we should be doing this as a coach. But teaching them that we will change our value of them based on their performance and success can be very destructive. Don’t know if all the coaches in our meeting totally bought into this lesson but it definitely sparked some interesting conversation and hopefully we will all be processing this and thinking through it going forward.
Scott also led us through an interesting activity around discussing the proverbial elephant in the room. Scott had us all draw a picture of an elephant on a blank piece of paper. My artwork ability was definitely the worst in the room. Then Scott led a discussion around every coaching staff having some elephants in the room around what’s going on with the dynamics on that staff and the leadership of that team. He asked us to each think about what our staff’s elephants in the room were, then to write done the primary one inside of our elephant. Mine is attached. I really struggled with being honest in mine, but I said a quick prayer then just went for it. Mine was ‘We are all afraid of Tom(the head coach.)’ Some of the other coaches’ statements were about the team not playing hard or caring very much, skepticism, and our inability to win. But mine was much more internal to us as a staff. Tom immediately acknowledged that my statement didn’t surprise him and he knows he comes across that way, yet he somewhat feels that is part of being the leader. It opened up a very interesting discussion and hopefully we can keep being honest with each other and learning how to improve how we work as a staff.
We’ll be off for the next few weeks with the holidays so look for the next post the first week in January where we’ll be looking into chapters 5 and 6 from the book, and I’m sure so more activities from Scott to stretch our comfort zones. 🙂

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. It is exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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The 12 Days of Christmas – 12 Truths about Athletes – Part 3 of 4 – The 3 Components Of Effective Communication

Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication” – Coach K
I recently had the opportunity to attend a coaching clinic with TJ Rosense from PGC Basketball and the Hardwood Hustle (a couple of my favorite sports resources.) I took multiple pages of notes (if you get a chance to see TJ he is one of the best I’ve seen!) – but one of the biggest takeaways I had was his discussion on how communication is a cornerstone of his program’s culture. He shared that communication needs to have all 3 of these components:
  1. Truth
  2. Love
  3. Transparency
Effective communication requires all 3 components. TJ’s teams make a regular practice of this by spending 5-8 minutes at the beginning of practice discussing different topics, such as:
– ‘My commitment Monday’ – Players commit to one thing that week in practice
– ‘Tough Tuesday’ – Share something you’re struggling with
– ‘Wisdom Wednesday’ – Share a quote or something you’ve learned recently
– ‘Thankful Thursday’
– ‘Fun Friday’
– ‘Servant Saturday’
Of course all of these topics work best – if YOU start. The players need to see your honesty, love, and transparency role-modeled.
TJ finished our time sharing:
​​​​​​​”Everything about culture is a teachable skill that you can improve.”
Practice the skill of communication with your teams starting this week!
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The Culture Journey Week #12 – Dictators, Bullies, Narcissists, Saints, & Misfits

 Week 12
Meeting #4 with Coaching coach – Dictators, Bullies, Narcissists, Saints, & Misfits
Had our fourth meeting with Scott Hearon, the co-founder of the Nashville Coaching Coalition. We went through the third chapter of Inside-Out Coaching by Joe Hermann. In this chapter Joe lays out the 5 main categories of transactional coaches – dictators, bullies, narcissists, saints, and misfits. While we can all sometimes slip one of these types of coaches, Joe made the great point:
‘When I feel (one of these) coming on, I try to comprehend the emotion and regain my rational self. I refuse to let unhealed wounds dictate my behavior or coaching style.’
We all have triggers that can push us into one of these transactional coaching styles, next week we are going to discuss what those triggers are and how we can be conscious of them and stop ourselves from slipping into being a type of coach we don’t want to be.
We also shared the 3 coaching archetypes that we each use as role-models.I couldn’t narrow it to 3 so I came up with 5. I based mine on the coaching characteristics I prioritize – the 6 F’s: Fun, Fundamentals, Friendship, Fight, Failure is part of the process, and Forge your own path.
1. Fun – Aaron Kail – One of my lifelong best friends, I worked in several management jobs with him and his teams were always having fun while I was just leading to get the job done. I learned from him that people will work much harder when they are having fun.
2. Fundamentals – Dave Cisar – Author of Winning Youth Football – Dave taught me about how keeping things simple and being awesome at the fundamentals is much more effective than complex playbook and always trying to come up with the next clever play. It reminds me of Joe Daniel’s quote:
​​​​​​​’Keep things simple so that your kids build confidence: confident kids play fast, fast kids win games.’
3. Friendship & Fight – Herb Brooks – The USA coach from the Miracle game – The scene in the movie Miracle where coach asks each player ‘Who do you play for’ has been very inspiring to me on the power of coming together as a team and playing for a cause bigger than yourself.
4. Failure is part of the process – Carol Dweck – Author of the book Mindset – Failure is part of the process and to have a growth mindset is to embrace failure as the best teacher. I love the quote from Willie Cromack 
‘Who will be brave enough to try that new move we have been practicing in the game today?
5. Forge your own path – Doug Keim – A childhood mentor of mine, Doug always had great insight on what was on the hearts of the kids he led. He was a youth group leader and they would give us printouts of what we were supposed to talk about each week, but Doug would often crumble those up and throw them in the fireplace and ask what was really on our hearts. Living life passionately pursuing your dreams and re-writing what society is expecting of you is a powerful lesson that Doug embodied. This is a complicated topic because I firmly believe in living according to high standards and morals, but where this fits in is not trying to just go with the flow but instead thinking out of-the-box to solve problems by doing what is right not what is popular. I have seen this play out in my coaching by questioning everything we do as a coaching staff and not accepting the answer ‘We just do that because that is what everyone has always done.’
More great conversation came out of hearing each other’s coaching archetypes, some of whom ranged from William Wallace in Braveheart, to Coach K, to childhood coaches. This is a really cool activity to do with your coaching staff and I would strongly encourage you to ask the other coaches you coach with who their role models are.

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. It is exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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The 12 Days of Christmas – 12 Truths about Athletes – Part 2 of 4 – The 5 Things Players Want from their Coach

The 80/20 rule for coaching
What we often do:
  • Spend 80% of our time strategizing on the gameplan and creating the next great Sportscenterworthy play on the back of a napkin.
  • Spend 20% of our time planning our practices to build culture, teamwork, and improving the fundamentals of each player on our team.
What the good coaches do:
  • Spend 80%(or more) of their time planning their practices to build culture, teamwork, and improving the fundamentals of each player on our team.
  • Spend 20%(or less) of their time strategizing on the gameplan and are never worried about creating the next great Sportscenterworthy play on the back of a napkin.
This week we look into the 5 things players want from their coach, as shared by John O’Sullivan at the Way of Champions transformational coaching conference. The 5 things are:
  1. Respect & Encouragement
  2. A positive role model
  3. Clear, consistent communication
  4. Knowledge of the sport
  5. Someone who listens
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of spending 80% of our time on things the players don’t really care that much about. Let’s be transformational coaches that are focused on being these 5 things instead of being worried about being seen as an offensive genius or game strategist. It’s what the players want and it’s what they need!
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The 12 Days of Christmas – 12 Truths about Athletes – Part 1 of 4 – 3 Truths about what players want

“I just want to get a jersey with my name on it and be part of the team”
“I am playing on this team to add it to my extracurricular activities for my college application”
“I want to win the state championship and be the MVP of this team to lead us to great accomplishments”
These are 3 responses from 3 different athletes I have talked to in the past year. I asked them the simple question “Why do you want to play on the team?.” Think about how different these answers are. Think about how differently you would interact with each individual knowing their goal. But if you are like me how often do we fall prey to not asking this question and listening to the answer?
As we approach the Christmas season, I want to share with you 12 profound answers to why athletes really play sports, and what they want from their coaches. I’ll break it into 4 weeks leading up to Christmas.

This week I’ll share with you 3 truths about what players want, shared by Coach Ingle Martin, multiple-state champion coach at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, Tennessee:

  1. They want to contribute
  2. They want to belong
  3. They want to know they have what it takes
That’s it. It’s that simple. I have used these 3 facts as a basis of many of my coaching decisions since hearing Coach Martin share these. I hope they help you as much as they have me.
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The Culture Journey Week #11 – Dorothy, Moses, and Coach Simmons

Meeting #3 with Coaching coach – Dorothy, Moses, and Coach Simmons
Had our third meeting with Scott Hearon, the co-founder of the Nashville Coaching Coalition. We went through the second chapter of Inside-Out Coaching by Joe Hermann. This is a fascinating chapter where Joe shares his 3 coaching archetypes he uses as role-models – Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, Moses, and his college lacrosse coach Roy Simmons Jr. We shared as a staff who we each related the most to, and our votes were split between Dorothy and Coach Simmons. Dorothy embodies the ultimate team-player who believes in her teammates and how that belief turns into them each overcoming their own self-doubts. Coach Simmons’ strength is his empathy and self-awareness that allows him to not focus on his own winning or ego but instead focus on the needs of each individual. We ended this discussion by Scott challenging us to come up with our own 3 coaching archetypes and share them with each other at the next meeting. Who would yours be?
We also shared our coaching shields with each other. As a reminder from last week – Scott shared his shield with us and challenged us to create our own, with the 6 sections being:
1. Top left box: Draw an Early Formative Memory in your life (something from your childhood/HS years that had a significant affect on your life)
2. Top Right: Draw a more Recent Formative Memory (could have been 10 years ago or yesterday…an event or set of circumstances that affected your life)
3. Middle Left: Depict your Outside Self (the way you want to be perceived by others)
4. Middle Right: Depict your Inside Self ( those things inside of you that you work to keep away from others)
5. Bottom Left: Draw how athletics has enriched your life
6. Bottom Right: Draw how athletic experience might have harmed you in your life
Powerful and sometimes tearful revelations came from sharing these, really deepening our relationships and opening up follow-up discussions where we can really empathize and get to know each other at deeper levels. Next week we are reading chapter 3 from the book and sharing our 3 coaching archetypes with each other.

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. It is exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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The Culture Journey Week #10 – Telling your story

Week 10 
Team Update
Good conversation with the coaching staff this week. The head coach had met with a few parents who had some questions about the team’s direction. He shared with them our commitment as a staff to drive more ownership and accountability amongst the team members. We discussed as a staff the changes we need to start making to make this happen. We began with discussions around our ‘Hell Week’ which is late January and kicks off our spring season. One really positive part of the discussion was around providing immediate feedback to the effort each athlete is putting forward each day that week. We discussed some evaluation criteria and how we could post results on a daily basis on how each individual is doing. This would include effort, attendance, attitude, teamwork, and other items TBD. A lot more work to do here but definitely starting to head in the right direction.
Meeting #2 with Coaching coach – Telling your story
Had our second meeting with Scott Hearon, the co-founder of the Nashville Coaching Coalition. We went through the first chapter of Inside-Out Coaching by Joe Hermann. If you haven’t read this book or heard Joe’s story in this first chapter Joe talks about some unimaginably painful things he endured growing up. The reason he shares this is that he has learned that as a coach that if you are still dealing with your own baggage then inevitably you will dump that on the kids you coach. Scott led us through a great discussion on a time we felt we really impacted a kid we coached in a positive transformational way, and a time we felt we selfishly dealt with a kid in a transactional way. It’s very cool to hear each other’s stories and better understand where we are each coming from.
Scott ended the time by sharing with us his story – displayed visually in 6 section hand-drawn pictures on a shield. I had heard Drew Maddux at Christ Presbyterian Academy discussing having his players share in this format, so it was very cool to see it firsthand. We closed with Scott giving us each a blank cardboard shield and gave us the assignment to draw our own stories which we will share with each other over the next few sessions. We are so blessed to be having this experience as a coaching staff. 

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. It is exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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4 Gamechangers I’m thankful for in 2016

As we approach the Thanksgiving Holiday in the U.S., I decided to make a list of some coaches who have had a significant impact on me in 2016 whom I am thankful for. This list could include almost everyone I’ve talked to and interviewed this year, so to be scientific I decided to take the top 4 downloaded podcasts I recorded in the first 9 months of 2016.
4 Gamechanging Coaches I am thankful for:
Scott Rosberg – WYC Episode 075
Huge Takeaways:
  • Scott’s discussion around positive conditioning, where the winners get to run instead of using running to punish, has been the hottest topic I’ve covered this year.
  • Creating core covenants and then basing season-end awards around those convenants is another fascinating topic with practical applications from this episode.
  • Learn more at: coachwithcharacter.comproactivecoaching.info
Adam Bradley – WYC Episode 067
Huge Takeaways:
  • Adam is co-founder of one of the biggest gamechanging tools for coaches – Lead ’em Up. The reason this is such a cool product is that it factors in that kids don’t want boring lectures about character development, so this product gamifies the lessons. Adam has taught me a great deal about the importance of team captains and their importance in creating a winning culture on your teams
  • Learn more at: leademup.com
Stuart Armstrong – WYC Episode 068
Huge Takeaways:
  • Stuart’s work around task design and player development in Great Britain is changing the landscape of youth coaching. A huge takeaway from our conversation was his discussion around task design: ‘Task Design is critical – because many people get uncomfortable when they see someone struggling and not being able to get there quite yet- so they either jump in and solve it for them, or they move on. But this never allows the learning to happen. The moment when they are close to figuring it out is actually the sweet spot.’
  • Learn more at: thetalentequation.co.uk
John Doss – WYC Episode 081
Huge Takeaways:
  • John has become a close friend over the last few years, I believe in surrounding yourself with awesome people who are action-takers and risk-takers. John doesn’t just listen to, read, and study anything he can get his hands on to become a better coach – he takes action. John was inspired by one on the WYC guests in 2015, Willie Cromack from Episode 063, to do a service program with his team. They set up their Mission 2 Assist program to benefit a wheelchair lacrosse program and have raised nearly $10,000 to date. It is a genius idea because it kills 2 huge birds with one stone: focusing on assists instead of goals, and building gratitude with the team by focusing on a cause bigger than themselves.
  • Learn more: bblaxassist.com
2016 has been an amazing year, and I am so thankful for all the awesome people I’ve had the opportunity to meet and be inspired by. A special thank you to these four for all they are doing for youth sports
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3 Not-so-secret Secrets about Parents – Best Stolen Ideas – Part 7

One of the favorite questions I ask every coach I interview is:
‘What is the best thing you have ever learned or stolen from another coach?’
As we wrap up this series, here are 3 really good nuggets about relating with parents and being a parent-coach:
  1. Always remember that everything a parent does – is because they love their child.  In return – as a coach you ask the parents to remember that as a coach – you have to worry about all the children in the program (not just their one kid they love.) – Rich Czeslawski
  2. David Klein learned from his Dad: ‘You can please all of  the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.’ Almost without exception every team has 1 or 2 negative parents that you cannot please, don’t try to appease them and do the right things and stick to your guns.
  3. 3 things to say to your child after every game: – Dr. Lindsey Blom
    1. I love you
    2. I love to watch you play
    3. What do you want to eat?
A great resource to use as a coach to enhance your relationships with parents is from my good friend Janis Meredith – a very affordable book called 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents. An effective use of these is to buy them for all the parents on your team and go through some key points in your pre-season parent meeting. If you buy 10 or more they are only $4 each.
Teams are not just made of coaches and players, they are a community of people supporting the same cause, so include the parents in your planning! It will enhance the experience for everyone.
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Culture Journey Week #9

Week 9 – Tourney wrap-up & Meeting #1 with Coaching coach
Tourney wrap-up
Well, not exactly a glowing report from our tourney last weekend, but a lot to be learned as coaches. Our team went 0-3 and ended the last game with a fight. We had moments of playing together as a team and doing things the right way, but many more moments of doing the opposite. As I reflected afterwards the words that kept running through my head were:
‘Anything you see on the field you either taught it or allowed it.’
This team does not have natural leaders and we have to coach accordingly. We cannot just sit back and assume things are going to happen the right way. We need to set standards of how we will play and behave and then hold everyone accountable to those standards. Setting those standards is step 1, then effectively getting buy-in from the team will be step 2. I think we skipped step 1 a bit as a coaching staff this fall and tried to get the kids to come up with the standards, but with the lack of maturity and leaders on this team we need to do a better job of creating the vision for what being on this team means. Excited for the opportunity to do this better in the spring.
Meeting #1 with Coaching coach
On a much more positive note, had a fantastic meeting last night with Scott Hearon, the co-founder of the Nashville Coaching Coalition. It was the first of an 8 week study on the book Inside-Out Coaching by Joe Ehrmann. I cannot say enough good things about what Scott and this coalition are doing. He guided us through the introduction of the book where Joe compares what it means to be a transactional coach vs. a transformational coach, and what each of those types of coaches did to impact Joe through his athletic career. The coaching staff was very open and honest and I am so excited to walk through this journey with this group. 
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I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. We recently had our first meetings this past Wednesday, and it was energizing and exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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5 Brilliant Ideas to Create Championship Cultures – Best Stolen Ideas – Part 6

“If you want to gauge the culture of a team ask the last guy on the bench how he likes being on this team” – Jim Tressel

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One of the favorite questions I ask every coach I interview is:
‘What is the best thing you have ever learned or stolen from another coach?’
If you know me at all, you know my passion is around developing great winning cultures on teams. Here are 5 Brilliant ideas to improve the culture of your team:
  1. Ingle Martin, state championship coach at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville – 3 truths about players:
        1 – They want to contribute
        2 – They want to belong
        3 – They want to know they have what it takes
  1. Tim Corbin – National championship coach at Vanderbilt –  Empty your bench in inning changes – Anyone on the bench, between innings, go out and throw/stretch to stay involved.
  2. Asking for commitment: When running team sprints, Jason asks each player to raise his hand when he’s ready to give his absolute best on the next sprint.  Raise your hand when they are committing to their teammates that this will be their best effort.  They don’t run the next sprint until they are all raising their hands. – Jason Hahnstadt
  3. Nate Sanderson – Nate’s team created a culture where they immediately gave high-fives to any player who made a mistake. The power of touch and positive encouragement was emphasized. They created an environment where they weren’t allowed to say ‘my bad.’ They make it a race to see who can be first to give a high five to someone who has made a mistake. Link to 3 minute video showing his team doing this in the state championship game: Youtube Link
  4. Strength Coach Will – Try to not overcoach during games – have your leaders figure it out. It’s not a video game – don’t try to control every action.

Culture eats strategy for lunch. Next week we wrap this series up as we discuss being a parent-coach.

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Culture Journey Week #8

Week 8 – Leading by example – Gameday

It’s been a fun, challenging 8 weeks in our fall practices leading up to our tournament this weekend. But absolutely no regrets and we’re slowly turning the culture around for this team.

Last week I shared what the leadership team came up with for our in-game goals. So this year we practiced applying these goals within everything we do in practice. The biggest highlights were in communication and building a positive environment. A few of the leadership team members really took to heart the importance of calling their teammates by name throughout every drill in practice and this week it really became contagious. I saw juniors and seniors asking freshmen to remind them of their name and then calling them by name throughout practice. We coaches could probably have done some type of game of some reward to have made this happen earlier in the fall, we’ll think through that before the spring. I also saw more fist-bumps and smiling during practice this week than I had at any point previously.

The leadership meeting this week was pretty brief, and the emphasis was us as coaches letting the players know we were handing over the reigns to them. We let them know we were going to rely on them to be our leaders and primary communicators.

There are several things it seems we are repeatedly reminding the kids of during the game, and we asked the leadership team to take over that role and help keep themselves and teammates accountable for:

  • Run the slow break
  • Call out what offense we are running and the players on the bench and field ‘echo’ those calls
  • Communicate on who is onside when running clears
  • Keep the communication on defense high throughout the game

The last and most important thing we discussed was positive energy. We discussed catching each other, and especially the new kids, doing things right. We discussed how yelling ‘You gotta catch that pass’ in any circumstance doesn’t help the other kid. Rather give them a fist bump after setting a great pick or winning a groundball. If you see a new kid doing something wrong, quietly show him the right way to do it on the sideline.

Should be a fun weekend. We are done practicing until the end of January, but next week our coaching staff starts our 8-week training on the book Inside Out Coaching, so I’ll keep these posts coming with updates from that.

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. We recently had our first meetings this past Wednesday, and it was energizing and exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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6 GameDay Strategies – Best Stolen Ideas – Part 5

“Push yourself again and again. Don’t give an inch until the final buzzer sounds.” – Larry Bird

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One of the favorite questions I ask every coach I interview is:
‘What is the best thing you have ever learned or stolen from another coach?’
Here are 6 GameDay Strategies:
  1. Pre-game warm-up – ‘How you warm-up is how you play the game.’ They start with high-intensity pass-catch drill. Then 4-corner pivot drill. Fast-paced, 6 or 7 drills. Everything together (take warm-ups off together.) Part of development is players learning how to prepare to win. – Gene Durdin via Kevin Furtado
  2. James Leath: ‘I have one formation and 8 plays (really 4 plays that can go either right or left.) I often yell what play we are running out from the sideline. If I say “Sweep left” half the defensive players think it’s going to their left.’
  3. ‘You need to have a couple of end-of-game lead-protection strategies: we have a four-corner offense with a back-door cut built in; and a sidelines inbound play that is very effective’ – Andres Montana
  4. ‘There is no magic 8-ball with the secrets to winning. Have a simple philosophy and outwork your competition on the fundamentals’– Mark Linden
  5. Terry Francona, World Series champion manager, when asked if he gives a big pump-up speech before games: ‘I rarely say anything. We are prepared to do what we need to and are confident we’ll do it.’
  6. Dave Cisar: ‘I can usually tell within 5 minutes what our competition will be like on gameday. If they are unorganized, doing a bunch of warm-ups that don’t translate to gametime situations like sit-ups on a wet field, or overly hyped and yelling, I tell our assistant coaches to get the back-ups ready because they will be coming in early.’
Be a great gameday coach and take your team to the next level! Next week look into one of my favorite topics – culture and commitment.
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6 Mental Toughness Tips – Best Stolen Ideas – Part 4

“The greatest accomplishment is not in never failing but in rising again after falling” – Vince Lombardi

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One of the favorite questions I ask every coach I interview is:
‘What is the best thing you have ever learned or stolen from another coach?’
Here are 6 Mental Toughness Best Practices:
  1. “When coaching a kid in a game – if you want to pull them out to teach them something – don’t pull the kid out and put them at the end of the bench.  Pull them out, teach them, then put them immediately back into the game.  That way kids don’t see coming to the bench as a punishment, they see it as an opportunity to learn.” – John Doss
  2. “When you take the time to teach your boys, there’s an implied confidence, that you believe they can achieve, and that’s praise in itself” – John Wooden
  3. Ed Sheft – Mental toughness – You have to know you are better than your competitor
  4. Charlie ‘The Spaniard’ Brenneman – “The way I overcome fear and nerves is to know that I have outworked and out-prepared my competition”
  5. Chip Kelly – after tough loss, talked about moving forward not looking back: “We run a forward-looking operation”
  6. “Practice is everything” – Pete Carroll
Teach our kids to be tough by believing in them! Next week we’ll look at some great in-game strategies.
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Culture Journey Week #7

Week 7 – Communication & Goal-Setting for Games
Our plan this week was to focus on communication, but as we are only one week out from our Fall tournament, I decided to tie this into starting to set goals for what to accomplish in games to have a successful tournament. This was probably our best conversation yet, and all of the coaches except the head coach attended and interacted throughout the meeting.

A quick follow-up from last week’s frustration – I did set up a coaches meeting and it felt like the head-coach is seeing some value in what we are trying to accomplish. I really think the deep conversations around this are going to come through the coach training we are doing with the Nashville Coaching Coalition in November and December.
Here are the goals we came up with in this week’s leadership meeting. The nice thing about doing them this week is that we discussed making sure we are focusing on practicing these habits in our practices next week leading up to the tournament.
  1. 50% Face-off wins. Ideally this would be much higher, but last year we hovered around 30% so 50% would be huge. One thing we’ve done much better this year is we brought in a coach who is a face-off specialist and we’ve spent 30+ minutes practicing face-offs in every practice. The cool thing we discussed in the meeting was that this is a 3-man goal, because in lacrosse face-offs are often won by the one of the two wings winning a groundball. Last year we would just track who took the actual face-off and not pay attention to the responsibility of the wings. One thing this conversation did point out was that next week we need to spend more time practicing and teaching the wings the best way to position themselves.
  2. 50% or our goals be with an Assist. Again long-term this number should be higher, but 50% would be a huge step forward for this team. This was another good conversation, as the boys asked would it count if you made a pass then that player makes a good one-on-one move to score. Since the main reason for this goal was to encourage team-play and for the players to realize good offense involves passing and making good choices instead of selfish ‘hero-ball,’ and considering one-on-one dodging in lacrosse is still an important element of the game, we agreed that we would consider a possession where the ball has moved in our offense and then a player gets an opportunity for a good shot, we would consider this assisted. We’ll see how this goes in the tournament and can modify it for the spring.
  3. Zero turnovers on shots on goal where we have no one behind the goal to retain possession. (For those not familiar with lacrosse, it’s different from most sports in that if you take a shot on goal and the ball goes past the goal and out-of-bounds, the team with the player closest to where the ball goes out of bounds retains possession.) Last year we gave up too many possessions where we either had players out of position or a player rushed a shot early in the possession before we could set up a player behind the goal.
  4. We have an offensive slow-break play which we are supposed to run every time down the field that is not a fast-break. It requires all the players focus and remembering to run it, and we were horrible at having everyone execute it last year. So we set a stretch goal of running the play at least 6 times per game.
  5. 90% successful clears with Zero offsides penalties. This is mostly a matter of focus and awareness, but considering you are have a 4 vs. 3 number advantage on clears, you should successfully execute most of them.
  6. Zero dumb penalties. This was another interesting conversation. We discussed that penalties arising from aggressive plays by playing physically on defense and going hard after groundballs, while no penalty is ideal, we could live with a few of them per game. What we can not live with are retaliation penalties where a player is just frustrated and takes a cheap shot at the opposition. We left it with the coaches having discretion as to what a dumb penalty was.
  7. Communication after first couple possessions. Just like in basketball, communication on defense in lacrosse is imperative. It also is a sign of discipline and is very intimidating to the offense if you have 7 defensive players all loudly communicating their responsibilities. What we observed last year was our team would do this the first few possessions of each half and then it would wain. This is a little tough to quantify and track, but we agreed this would be a top goal. The coaching staff then challenged the non defense players that they could affect this as well even though they don’t play defense. All of the leadership team needs to set the example of the importance of communication in everything we do. Call each player by name when calling for the ball, address the coaches by their full name (not ‘Hey Coach’), and make sure they know the name of all of the new players and call them by name during practice.
I am going to create a tracking sheet that will simplify me tracking these goals during the games, which will also serve the dual-purpose of keeping me occupied because one of my personal goals for this season is say much less during the games and let them figure things out on their own. Should be interesting!

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. We recently had our first meetings this past Wednesday, and it was energizing and exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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Culture Journey Week #6

Week 6 – Head coach buy-in

No leadership meeting this week as we got rained out. But there was still a lot going on. A few updates:

Head coach buy-in
Last week we finished the week with our leadership meeting coming up with consequences for missing practices. I wasn’t overly satisfied with the solutions we came up with, but did feel like it was a start and a move in the right direction. I passed them on to the head coach at the beginning of our first practice this week and asked for his thoughts. They were not positive to say the least. Without mincing his words, he felt that it didn’t fix the problem at all so we weren’t going to do it. This opened my eyes to the fact that the head coach and I weren’t on the same page with what we were trying to get done. I had a feeling this was the case, but this verified it. I consulted with several of the members of the culture mastermind I am part of, and it is apparent I need to set up a time to grab a coffee with the coach and get back on the same page. It has been a little awkward with me doing the leadership activities without much involvement from him, so this is a good time to make sure he understands I am not trying to undermine his authority and I have no desire to take over coaching this team. I’ll share next week how this meeting goes.

On a more positive note – I am continuing to challenge the players to communicate better by calling other players by names and the leadership team is picking up on this and doing the same. There is definitely a more positive vibe starting to happen in our practices. I also complimented one of the players who often can be a little tougher to coach at the end of practice on Wednesday because he had a great practice and was really focused and showed great effort – and the head coach thought I was being sarcastic and said ‘Really?’ – and when he realized I was being serious he went and gave that player a high five. Positive end to our week.

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. We recently had our first meetings this past Wednesday, and it was energizing and exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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9 Tips to have Great Practices – Best Stolen Ideas – Part 3

“Practice is everything” – Pete Carroll

One of the favorite questions I ask every coach I interview is:
‘What is the best thing you have ever learned or stolen from another coach?’
Here are 9 Tips coaches have shared with me on Having Great Practices
  1. Use Mini-games – it’s all about the # of touches
  2. Everything in short bursts – John Wooden would talk in 20 second bursts
  3. Rick Pitino – ‘As I go through practice, I try to make corrections in 7 seconds or less.’ There needs to be a rhythm and pace to your practice. For youth- maybe this needs to be 20 seconds.
  4. Learned from Dave Cisar: Conducting everything at a much faster pace. Teach against air and instead of running a play every 2 or 3 minutes, run 4 plays per minute
  5. Design your practice in 4 quarters – and the energy level builds up throughout the practice
  6. Kids will lose focus as the practice goes on – so when you need their full attention teaching them something – do it early in the practice
  7. Passion and energy as a coach – including sensing when the team just needs a break or some fun – sometimes just play some loud music and have some fun
  8. ‘Short lines, lots of repetitions, learning fundamentals’ – In baseball – Instead of having one coach hitting to the infield – have two coaches hit to each side of the infield and players run to the next line
  9. Bill Bellichick – Put 6 hours of preparation into a 1 hour practice
Be organized and have a great system! Next week we’ll look at some great ways to build mental toughness.
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Culture Journey Week #5

Week 5 – Leadership Meeting Part 2 of 4 – Commitment & Accountability

This week we had our 3rd leadership meeting with the players. As a reminder, in our first meeting we brainstormed about what our goals were for this team, and then decided to break down the next 4 meetings into diving into some actionable improvements as follows:
1 – Excellence in Practice
2 – Commitment & Accountability
3 – Communication
4 – Keep eye on the prize: Team>Individual

Commitment & Accountability
This week we had a shorter meeting, which we spent diving a little deeper into last week’s discussion around players’ commitment. Specifically around practice attendance and being involved in our two fall fundraisers.

  • Practice attendance: We decided it was too cumbersome to track each player’s attendance for allowing them to participate in our Thursday scrimmages. After brainstorming, the boys really thought having to run additional laps at the end of the practice was the best incentive to not miss practice. We did also discuss that many of the players have jobs, tutoring, or other commitments that were also important and would be excused absences. So the consensus was that if a player was going to miss practice they had to send an email or text to one of the 4 coaches ahead of time for it to be excused. If they do not, they will run 2 sprints at the end of practice. I’m not a huge fan of using exercise as a punishment so I don’t totally love this solution, but we are going to try it for the remaining 3 weeks of our fall session. I welcome any feedback or suggestions for a better way to do this in the spring. Ideally, practice attendance should not be optional and peer pressure and playing time should eliminate this being an issue. But we’re not there yet, so we’ll see how this band-aid goes.
  • Fall fundraisers: This was a good discussion. The expectation is that every athlete attends both of our fundraisers, the only exception being several of our seniors are taking the ACT on one of the dates. We agreed that we are going to hold everyone else accountable for 100% participation and attendance and not really give anyone the option of not being there.

There still has not been a natural leader step up in this group. It’s an interesting challenge because the most talented players are not natural leaders, but instead several of the slightly-less talented players are starting to step up and become more vocal. I really look forward to the coach training we are going to do as a staff in November and December and discussing how we can use a program like Lead’EmUp to train our captains for the spring. Choosing the captains will be an interesting process because of the lack of selflessness and team-first attitude our best players struggle with.
I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. We recently had our first meetings this past Wednesday, and it was energizing and exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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7 Character Development Lessons – Best Stolen Ideas – Part 2

“You don’t handle people, you work with people” -John Wooden, when asked how he was going to handle one of his players

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One of the favorite questions I ask every coach I interview is: ‘What is the best thing you have ever learned or stolen from another coach?
7 Character Development Lessons:

  1. You’re not developing an athlete, you’re developing a person
  2. It’s not about you being a great coach, it’s about you knowing and developing young men and women
  3. ‘It’s not what you get from playing, it’s who you become because you play’ – Character development is the key in coaching.
  4. Make whoever you are talking to feel like the most important person in the room
  5. Talk TO/WITH your players, not AT them
  6. Ken Stuursma shared a story with me about a conversation with an old-time cowboy, Lou Skeridan – who taught him that kids come to you with their hearts wide open, and you have 2 choices:
    1. You can build into it and make their heart bigger, or
    2. You can crush that and make their hearts smaller
  7. Robert Murphy shared a story about Coach Mike Denney – He taught Robert the importance of character and creating a family environment. He lived it too – he recruited Robert out of high school, and Robert chose to go to his rival – and yet every time he saw him he always came over and shook his hand and said hi.

Love ’em up! Next week we’ll share great ideas on practice formats.

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Culture Journey Week #4

Leadership Meeting Part 1 of 4 – Excellence in Practice

This week we had our 2nd leadership meeting with the players. As a reminder, in our first meeting we brainstormed about what our goals were for this team, and then decided to break down the next 4 meetings into diving into some actionable improvements as follows:
1 – Excellence in Practice
2 – Commitment & Accountability
3 – Communication
4 – Keep eye on the prize: Team>Individual

Excellence in practice
We went through our practice schedule from start to finish and came up with the following improvements to implement immediately. The head coach joined us for this session, but let me lead the session and let the players do 98% of the talking. Here’s what we came up with:

  • Communication: I asked the players if any of them knew all of the other players names, particularly the new kids. None of them did. They agreed to make an effort to learn every players name, and equally important to start calling each other by name as they communicate. This included the coaches. Instead of ‘Hey Coach,…’ they committed to ‘Hey Coach Craig,…’ They also committed to try to call one of the new kids by name each practice and tell them they are glad they are here.
  • Not cutting corners: We start each practice by jogging 4 laps around the field. There are varying speeds with the athletes, and I asked if we should run this together or continue to run in small groups based on speed. This was a really interesting discussion, but they agreed there was a social aspect to hanging out with their buddies and didn’t find it important for practices to run as a group. They did agree that for pre-game runs they should do it together, just not for practice. The one area they did agree was to stop cutting the corners on the runs. If the lines weren’t obvious, they asked for 4 cones for the fastest runner to lay out the first time he goes around the field.
  • Organize the ball-hunt: In lacrosse there are usually several times in each practice where you send the team out to go look for stray and lost balls. Two improvements they came up with: 1 – If you make a wild pass or shot, regardless of the drill, you should immediately chase your own. 2 – They came up with a system to organize how the balls are retrieved instead of chaotically throwing them back towards the middle.
  • Positive energy – We discussed the importance of having fun while working hard. I asked if they wanted to end practices having a couple players share something good they saw someone else do in practice. There were a few who expressed concerns of ‘sappy’ or ‘cheesy’ to this, but they all talked and agreed it was worth a try.
  • Practice attendance – Since it’s an optional fall session, we agreed that there were excusable reasons for missing practices. But random inconsistency was agreed upon as not being acceptable. Several players suggested punishments for kids who miss such as running laps. i threw out there the idea of instead of punishing unexcused absences, instead creating a reward for players who didn’t miss practices. We came up: Players who have no unexcused absences that week get to participate in a scrimmage that will be the last 45 minutes of our last practice of the week. Players who have an unexcused absence will do other drills during that time. An unexcused absence was defined as any absence where the player has not emailed our head coach ahead of time explaining why he would miss practice.

It was fun to watch the team during our next practice implement some of these new procedures. Particularly calling other players by name. Of course being high-schoolers they over-emphasizes this sarcastically, but it still added a fun element to the practice. There is slowly starting to be a more fun, positive culture. It’s amazing how just talking about everything is starting to have a positive effect on the team. Next week we’ll talk more about commitment and accountability.


I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. We recently had our first meetings this past Wednesday, and it was energizing and exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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6 Tips To Be A Better Teacher – Best Stolen Ideas – Part 1

“A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.” -Ara Parasheghian

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One of the favorite questions I ask every coach I interview is: ‘What is the best thing you have ever learned or stolen from another coach?
Check out these 6 tips to become a better teacher:

  1. It all starts with being organized and prepared
  2. Keep things simple
    • Keep things simple and only run a few plays and then practice them over and over again until you have perfected them. The details are important. RUN LESS PLAYS!
    • Be great at 1 or 2 things vs. being good at 6 to 8.
    • Having a very simple playbook – and letting the kids name the plays so they can remember them
  3. Whatever level you are coaching at – get to know the coaches at the next level, and ask them about expectations for new players – then implement some of these standards and let the kids know you are doing it to prepare them for the next level
  4. When teaching skills – break everything into 3 steps. Using this you can see progress every practice, not just at the end of the year:
    • Practice walking through it. You can do this without even including a ball at first.
    • Practice with slight opposition
    • Practice in game-type setting
  5. Talk softly around kids – Instead of yelling so the kids can hear you – train them to listen by talking softly
  6. Showing is much more effective than telling – use video recording of the athletes on an iPad or phone so they can see the corrections you are making (in their mind they almost always think they are doing it correctly already)

Teach ’em up! Next week we’ll look at lessons learned on character development.

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New Series – Best Stolen Ideas

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts” – John Wooden

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One of the favorite questions I ask every coach I interview is:
‘What is the best thing you have ever learned or stolen from another coach?’


This week we launch a new 7-part series that will share 40 responses I’ve received to that question during the first 91 WYC interviews. We’ll break the series up as follows:
1 – Teaching & Coaching Styles
2 – Developing character
3 – Practice format
4 – Mental Toughness & Learning from mistakes
5 – Game Strategies
6 – Culture & Commitment
7 – Parent coaching

4 of the answers to this question actually directly addressed upping your coaching skills by learning from others:

  • From Coach K – Go learn everything you can, but then make it your own. ‘You’re going to write your own story, make sure you use your own pen.’ – Paul Niggebrugge
  • Everybody steals most of their ideas, the key is to make it your own and individualize everything based on the needs of the team/person – Corey Bridges
  • Go to other teams/coaches’ practices! At every level. – Lee Miller
  • Alan Stein: When watching someone else do a drill that you are going to implement- Ask:
    1. Why are you doing it?
    2. How are you doing it?
    3. What is the end result supposed to be?

Think about the learning curve we are getting by picking the brains of the mentors of 91 of the best youth coaches! Get your notebooks out and we’ll dive deep next week!

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Culture Journey Week #3

Week 3 – Player Honesty – “I hate being on this team”

No meeting with the leadership group this week, our next one is scheduled for next Tuesday, where we’ll analyze everything that happens from start to finish in practice and come up with actionable plans for improvement.

I did have an interesting conversation with a player after practice yesterday. He came up to me and I said “I hate being part of this team. I sometimes hope I get hurt so I won’t have to come to practice and see these guys.”

Wow. Heavy stuff. This player is an upperclassman and has been around this group for several years. I dug in and tried to focus more on listening than providing an immediate solution. I would say I did a pretty good job of listening 80% of the time and talking 20% (something that doesn’t come naturally to me, just ask my wife.)

I asked him, without pointing out specific players, if he could identify what makes him hate being part of this team. While talking through several different things, it seemed to keep coming back to selfishness by some of the team’s players, and nothing being done about it. He did not feel like the players on this team cared for each other and there was no excitement for building relationships and working towards a common goal.

I let him know that we, as a coaching staff, acknowledged there was a lack of chemistry with this group, and specifically that is why we established my role as a culture coach. We discussed that this culture will not be changed overnight, and I reminded him what I shared at the first leadership meeting, that as a leader you have to be willing to do what it takes to change the culture, even with the knowledge that it might not be completely fixed before he graduates. Great culture isn’t built overnight and it will be a slow process working to turn things around.

He honestly shared that the selfish behaviors he observes makes him fall into the same trap and want to play for himself too. I challenged him here to be part of the change he wants to see. I told him that if a few of the leaders and the whole coaching staff starts building positive energy and rewarding the right types of behavior, it will slowly start turning the tide. I told him he took a great first step by telling me what he was feeling, as burying these types of feelings and keeping them inside will eat you up.

Tough conversation, and a pretty big smack in the face as a coaching staff to have someone tell you they hate playing for the team you coach. But as I have shared previously, it was not totally surprising. The culture on this team has a long, long way to go. But admitting you have a problem and getting past denial is step 1 – so we are going to get there!

Thanks for following this journey with me, it will be life-changing for everyone involved!


I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. We recently had our first mastermind meeting, and it was energizing and exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

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Culture Journey Week #2

Week 2 – First Leadership Group meeting – Discussing goals

 

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/. We just had our first meeting this past Wednesday, and it was energizing and exciting to be with likeminded world-changers.

 

Week 2 – First meeting with our leadership group

We had 9 players made up of juniors and seniors volunteer to be in the group.

We ended our last practice of the week 25 minutes early and I met with them along with another one of the assistant coaches. I discussed with the head coach whether or not he should join us, and we agreed that he would not, but rather we would have the group present back to him the summary of what we came up with, a good opportunity for the kids to lead by presenting back to him.

Agenda for meeting:

1 – Discuss the role of being in this leadership group

2 – Review what successful leaders do

3 – Brainstorm on how we will define success for this team

 

1 – Discuss the role of being in this leadership group

I shared 4 keys to leading change, adapted from Stephan Schwartz’s 8 Laws of Social Change:

1 – Share a common goal

2 – Be OK that you may not get credit for any changes made

3 – Be OK that the change may not happen while you are still on this team (it could take years)

4 – Believe that a small group can make big changes

I then asked for their agreement and commitment to these, and they all agreed

 

2 – Review what successful leaders do

I shared that as leaders, the priority is not to fix everybody else, but rather to fix ourselves. I shared the quote ‘Anything you see our team do, we either: 1 – modeled it and did it ourself OR 2 – allowed it.’ So the goal of this group is to figure out how we can model the behaviors we want the team to have.

I again asked for their agreement and commitment, and they all agreed.

 

3 – Brainstorm on how we will define success for this team

I lead a visualization exercise as follows:

“Close your eyes and picture our end-of-season banquet last year. What were you feeling at the banquet? Were you proud of something you accomplished individually? Were you proud of something the team accomplished?”

“Think about that for a second. Now switch gears and look forward to the banquet at the end of the upcoming season. What do you want the team to be celebrating? What do you want to be proud of accomplishing individually and as a leadership group?”

Then I had the group share their thoughts on this by finishing the following sentence: “I will consider this season a success if: ___________”

The responses were interesting, some were very win/loss specific, but there were several that dealt more with culture. Here is a sample of the responses:

  • Have a winning season
  • Beat our rival
  • Finish in the top 3 and win at least one playoff game
  • Have awesome communication – On and off the field, during all elements of practice and games
  • Be committed: Show up to practice; Be on time; Try hard during our conditioning; Work on your game outside of practice
  • Show up to fundraisers
  • Less hero ball & don’t hold the ball more than 5 seconds
  • Have multiple seniors sign scholarships to play lacrosse in college

I shared mine at the end: ‘Have everyone who sees us see both how much fun we have and how excellent we are at what we do, so they want to be a part of it.’

 

Next week’s plan

We have 4 more full weeks left in the fall session, so we are going to break down our definitions of success into 4 categories to create actionable steps and cover 1 category each of the remaining 4 weeks.

1 – Excellence in practice

2 – Commitment & Accountability

2 – Communication

3 – Keep eye on prize – Team>Individual

 

Interesting Observation(s)

There was good participation for the first 15 to 20 minutes, then the conversation definitely started to drift. Probably good to keep our meetings with this age group to no more than 20 minutes to keep their attention span.

 

I am excited to walk this journey with you. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

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Culture Journey Week #1

I am excited to walk this journey with you. The plan is to give weekly updates on my journey in turning around the culture of a program I help coach. I welcome any feedback, ideas, and suggestions you might have as you read through this. You are also welcome to share this with any other coaches you think could benefit from it, and please have them email me at [email protected] if they would like to be added to this email list.

If you are interested in diving deeper on building culture we have started a mastermind group that meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm EST, see the details at: winningyouthcoaching.com/the-culture-bus-mastermind/


The Background (I’ll only include this in this first post)
This is my 2nd year as an assistant coach for a boys high school lacrosse team.
My son is a sophomore on the team.
The head coach was hired and helped start the program 10 years ago. There are 2 other assistant coaches, one played for the program and is currently in his 3rd year of college, the other has been involved with the program right from the beginning.
There are approximately 30 kids on the team, only 5 are seniors, there are a bunch of juniors, only 5 or 6 sophomores, and 5 freshmen who have played for several years and 5 more freshmen/sophomores who are brand new to lacrosse.
Lacrosse is a spring sport that runs from February to May. We also do an optional fall tournament in early November with 8 weeks of practice leading up to it, practices are 3 days a week in the fall and 5 days a week in the spring.
I would rate the culture from last year as a 3 out of 10.
The good: The head coach means well and is very knowledgeable about lacrosse. The biggest malcontent player from last year was a senior and is gone.
The bad: The head coach struggles with ‘the curse of knowledge’ – he is older and has been around lacrosse his whole life, playing in college at the Naval Academy. This background also leads to him being pretty old-school in his style and not placing much of an emphasis on building culture.
Last year this team exhibited all of the ‘Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ by Pat Lencioni:
1 – Lack of trust
2 – Fear of conflict
3 – Lack of commitment
4 – Lack of accountability amongst the team members
5 – Failure to keep an eye on the prize

What’s been done
Over the summer
I approached the head coach in the offseason and let him know I had been to 3 different clinics/conferences over the summer that focused on building culture. I asked if I could take on the role as ‘Culture Coach’ for the team this year. He and the other assistant coaches were very receptive to this and acknowledged last year was one of the worst teams they had been around chemistry-wise.

Coaching staff training
I had the opportunity to meet with the Scott Hearon, the co-founder of a local organization called the Nashville Coaching Coalition. They do coach training to help programs build great culture into their program. 2 weeks after meeting with Scott he contacted me and said they had been given a grant and could train our coaching staff at no cost. This training includes meeting once per week for 8 weeks and we will go through the book Inside-Out Coaching by Joe Ehrmann. The staff agreed and we are scheduled to do this in November and December.

Leadership/Captain training
I proposed we purchase Adam Bradley’s LeadEmUp program for $329 to train our captains, we are discussing this and hopefully we can do this in the downtime from November to January before our spring season kicks off.

Leading up to the season
I have since attempted to get us together several times to establish some core covenants as a coaching staff before our fall session begins, never got much response or traction with this.

Week 1 – Establishing a PLC (Player Leadership Council)
The head coach asked me for any ideas I had been thinking of to build culture. I proposed we get ownership from some of the leaders of the team. So here’s what we did:
At the end of the last practice of the week, here’s what I communicated to the team:
“Are you guys excited about this team this year?” – An enthusiastic “yes” response from most players.
“Do you think there are things we could do better than we did last year?” – Again an enthusiastic “Yes, many things” from most players.
“Well, do you know whose team this is? It’s not mine. It’s not (assistant coaches). It’s not even (head coach)’s team. This is your team. So we would like to give you guys the opportunity to make decisions about how we do things on this team. From how we practice, what we do in practice, how we do things in games, you name it, we can discuss it. So here’s what we’re going to do – we are going to form a player leadership council. Any junior or senior on the team who is interested in being involved, we will meet weekly during practice to discuss how things are going and how we can do them better. This is totally optional, and it will not replace the role of captains that we will vote on for our spring team. It’s just a chance to step up your involvement and develop some leadership skills. Think about it over the weekend, and if you’re in then let one of the coaches know at the beginning of practice next Tuesday.”

Next week’s plan
The plan is to use a room in the library that is right next to our practice field and have a 45 minute kickoff meeting with the PLC. We will have them brainstorm on what their vision for this team is, and what we can do better from last year. Then we will start the process of going through our practice format and discuss better ways of doing things. For example, starting right at the beginning – we run 4 laps to start practice. The players all run at different paces, and cut all of the corners. Should we run as a team or in position groups or keep doing it as we have been? Should we put cones in the corners and commit to not cutting them?

Question if you have feedback: I am debating whether or not to include the head coach in this meeting. Do we come up with suggestions/improvements and then have the players propose them back to the head coach in a separate forum? I am leaning towards this option because I like the idea of the players getting to develop their leadership, presentation, and selling skills.

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Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch – Part 10 – Building a Program without Self-Entitlement

When NFL Pro-Bowler Joe Ehrmann lost his little brother Billy to a tragic fight with cancer, his introspection led to the realization that life is all about 2 things:
  1. Relationships
  2. Working for a cause bigger than yourself
Self-entitlement is a direct result of a focus that is opposite of those 2 values. It is no accident that the first and last components of this 10 part series on building championship culture involve creating a team-first and others-first environment. It is where everything starts and ends.
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Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch Part 10 – Case Study – Building a Program Without Self-Entitlement

John Doss is the head coach of Brownsburg Lacrosse, which is a program located in a suburb of Indianapolis. John understands the importance of selflessness in building a championship culture. So he set out to look for a way to build this into his culture, both on and off the field. What his team came up with is brilliant. The best way to describe their Mission 2 Assist program is to share their value statement:

What do we value at Brownsburg Lacrosse?

On the field, we all want to score goals, but what we REALLY VALUE are the plays that lead up to those goals. The unselfish pass to an open teammate. The “hockey assist” pass that leads to that pass. A hard fought ground ball possession. Tenacious defense that leads to a big takeaway. A critical save and quick clear that starts a fast break. That’s what we value on the field.

Off the field we value gratitude and servanthood. We appreciate the fact that we get to play a game we love and know that there are those that are not so fortunate. Because of this, we want to help others that cannot play lacrosse or cannot play lacrosse in the same manner that we do.

Why are we telling you this? Well, we found out that there is a national wheelchair lacrosse league and a local group is raising money to start a team here in Indianapolis. We want to merge our values to help them. This is a group of athletes and competitors just like us and all they want to do is compete, just like we do. 

How did they accomplish this? They tracked the plays they value, these “assists” that led to goals, over the course of their season. Then they got sponsors to reward those “assists”. John describes how they set this up in WYC Podcast Episode 81, check out all of the details here: Link to show notes and episode
They used the walk-a-thon type forms to fundraise – but used assists instead of goals as the pledge criteria. By the end of the season they raised almost $10k for the Wheelchair Lacrosse Organization.

Check out the homepage for The Mission 2 Assist program to see short videos on their program and for a link to a video that describes WLUSA- the Wheelchair Lacrosse Organization: www.bblaxassist.com

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Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch – Part 9 – Daddy Ball 101

One of the biggest culture killers in youth sports today is Daddy Ball. Should we just eliminate it? Is there a way to have parents coach their own kids and still have a great team culture?

coach-551562_640Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch Part 9 – The Mom/Dad Coach

I was an assistant lacrosse coach for 4 years, helping coach my son’s teams. Then he reached high school. The program he was going into was down a little bit down in attendance, and there only two assistants helping the head coach, and one of them was often working and not at practice. I approached the head coach and offered my services if he wanted another assistant to help in any area, particularly this was a team of 34 players so many of the kids played on the JV team, so I could help work with those kids when he was working with the varsity. (I hate kids standing around and watching.) Then I saw the look. ‘Oh boy, here’s another daddy-ball coach wanting to get in here and get his son all of the favoritism and playing-time.’ I could see the same look on the assistant coaches. Fortunately they expressed their reservations and after sitting down and discussing the expectations and my agreement to not show any favoritism, they were open to bringing me on board. Now I am going into year 2 in this position, and we have agreed to step up my role on the team and I will serve as the Character Coach.
It is possible to coach your own child on a team, and done well can be a wonderful experience, but you need to be aware of the possible negative effects that can creep up. Here are 5 tips that can make it be a positive experience:
  • Talk to your son or daughter about it before you agree to do it. Get their buy-in. Be very clear to your son/daughter that there could be negative comments from other kids and other parents. But also let them know that you are doing this to help every kid on the team and you will not be able to focus on them any more than the other kids.
  • Talk about the elephant in the room to the entire team. Don’t work too hard to treat your own kid as a coach – it’s good to be truthful and authentic in front of the team and treat your own kid from a parenting point of view sometimes.  Don’t be over the top – but kids enjoy and learn from watching you enjoy spending time with your child.
  • It usually works better to have assistant do more of the instructions to your kid. Also utilize your assistants to get an honest assessment of what position/how much your child should be playing. (Sometimes we need help taking off the rose colored glasses!)
  • Turn off the coaching hat. On car ride home – ask your child ‘Anything else you want to ask coach?’ Then go back to being a dad again.
  • The Team Manager can be a conduit to hear concerns/complaints from parents – embrace this! Have a great parent manager who keeps you in the loop of any concerns, and one that has your back and can help squelch 90% of the problems before they ever make their way back to you.
It is important for your child to have a positive sports experience early on – and if that means you need to step up and be coach, step up and do it. Don’t let the fear of the perception of being a daddy-ball coach stop you if you truly are doing it for the right reasons.
Check out the rest of this 10 part series on Culture: Go to blog posts
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Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch – Part 8 – 2 questions every young athlete needs to be asked

Stephen Covey teaches in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood.’ To better understand the kids you coach, there are two questions to start with.

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Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch Part 8 – Seek First To Understand

As coaches, we often jump to analyze, interpret and fix anything that is going wrong in our program. It is in our nature to continuously improve our program. And it should be. But the procedures and processes can distract us from why we are called to coach. If you have followed me for long or listened to my podcasts, you know my favorite quote is Frederick Douglass’
 ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’
Another quote, attributed to several different coaches, is
‘Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’
The only way we really get to know anyone, including kids, is to ask questions about them and hear their stories. 2 simple but important questions to start with are:
1 – What is your favorite thing about playing this sport and for this team?
2 – What is your least favorite thing?

Then you can start diving deeper. Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure you understand each kid’s expectations – are they on the team to just have fun, to put it on their resume, or to become a D1 college athlete?
  • If a kids loses his temper and explodes during a practice or game – go ahead and discipline him appropriately, but ask some deeper questions about his life outside the sport. Often there are stressors with their home life that are impacting them.
  • My friend Kevin Kennedy uses the phrase ‘Isn’t that interesting’ – Don’t be judgmental when coaching – rather, make observations and analyze why things are happening. Ask questions before judging.
  • I recently met the founder of an interesting company called First Team Reps – They have created a tool that provides feedback to coaches based on anonymous surveys of the players. Some of the questions help the coaches communicate better, such as ‘What plays don’t you understand?’ The cool thing is they end their surveys with the question ‘Are there any stressors outside of football in your life right now?’ They have found that since it is anonymous the kids are very honest and many will pour their heart out.
Tim Elmore writes in his Generation iY book: ‘Great teachers build a relationship so strong that it can bear the weight of truth.’ If kids understand that you have their best interest in mind, they will respond to and listen to coaching and constructive criticism. And more importantly, you will be building stronger children.
– 
Next week we’ll look into ways to build a championship culture when coaching a team with your own kid on it.
Check out the rest of this 10 part series on Culture: Go to blog posts
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Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch – Part 7 – Case Study – How A State Championship School Built A Trust-Based Program

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Coach Wooden often shared that ‘Love is the most powerful four-letter word.’ When building a championship culture, love and trust have to start at the top. Do your players trust that you have their best interests in mind? The answer to that probably comes down to whether you truly do have their best interest in mind. When it comes to loving your players and having them trust you – it has to be real. Do some introspection for your program – here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do you truly care more about the kids or about winning?
  • Does each kid feel like they are special? This takes a lot of effort, but each kid should feel they are special and have a special role that contributes to the success of the program.
  • Are you distracted by cell phones or thinking about other things while you are coaching at practices or games?
Case Study – One of the most impressive programs I have observed live out this philosophy of loving their players is Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville Tennessee. Drew Maddux and Ingle Martin lead their basketball and football programs, respectively. They specifically have built a program based on Joe Ehrmann’s philosophies. It didn’t happen overnight, they spent two years having weekly studies of Joe’s books with their coaching staffs. They brought in outside mentors/advisors, Randy and Scott Hearon from the Nashville Coaching Coalition, to help guide them through the process and keep them accountable. You could write a book on all of the things they are doing right – but here are 3 that really jumped out at me:
  • ‘To be a man, you have to see a man’ – Coach Martin focuses on developing himself and his coaching staff to be the type of men that the boys should emulate
  • Manhood Mondays – every Monday during the season they have different coaches and players create a shield with 4 parts to share with the team:
    • Tell a childhood story that defined them
    • Tell a recent story that defines them
    • How does the public view them
    • Who their private self is
  • Build a program not a team – If you have Varsity, JV, freshmen – various levels – treat them all as part of one program. Talk to each kid every practice and call them by name. Coach Maddux has a state championship program- but they don’t do cuts. If a kid wants to be in the program, then he is.
CPA is a program that is all-in on loving kids and developing future leaders. It starts at the top and it requires a deep desire for the kids to succeed, not for the coach’s winning record to look good (however the culture they have produced has led to remarkable achievements on the field and court, consistently competing for and winning state championships over the past 5+ years.)
So commit to truly loving the kids you coach. Recently I interviewed Coach Randy Jackson, a successful high school football coach in Texas, and he shared with me:
 ‘A child’s chances of being successful are vastly improved if they know 5 people truly believe in them. As their coach, are you going to be 1 of the 5?’
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Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch – Part 6 – 5 Tips to Turn the Dreaded Sports Parent into a Beloved One

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The dreaded sports parent. We’ve all experienced them. We’ve all seen viral videos of parents heads almost exploding while watching 6 year olds play t-ball. I was coaching my daughter’s kindergarten soccer team just a few months ago when the police had to be called to separate two fighting moms. We would all like to eliminate these types of culture-killing moments, here are 5 tips on how to turn the dreaded sports parent into a beloved one:
  1. Set the standards. One of my favorite coaching axioms is ‘Anything you see on the field – you either taught it or you allowed it.’ Replace the words ‘on the field’ with the words ‘in the stands.’

    ‘Anything you see in the stands – you either taught it or you allowed it.’  

    When you establish core covenants and set the standards for behavior for your coaches and players, do the same for your parents. This team is not just about the kids, it’s about the coaches, the parents, the community – we’re all in this together.

  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Some coaches, especially as you get into middle school and high school levels, like to create a separation from parents and let the kids pass along all the info to the parents. I am a big fan of making the kids take responsibility for communicating to the coaches if they are going to miss practice or have issues with playing time, etc. But to expect the kids to correctly relay the coaches’ messages back to the parents is very unrealistic. Many things will get lost in translation (picture the telephone game.) So bring the parents into the loop. A lack of understanding is one of the main parental frustrations with a coach.
  3. When communicating, establish the parameters. One thing I find a must is the 24 hour rule. This is simply a matter of courtesy, that if a parent has something to discuss, please do not do so for 24 hours before or after a game. This allows cooler heads to prevail. Another parameter to establish up front is if there are any topics that are off-limits. Specifically on that list could be playing time, any other player, or game strategy.
  4. Help the parents become a team – Skip a practice and have a pool party – parents wear nametags so they can all get to know each other.
  5. Stick to your guns – Do not let the fear of a repercussion from a parent affect your coaching decisions. Coach Ray Lokar shared a story with me: He went against his gut – in a game-winning situation – he didn’t let his son (who was his best player) take the shot – he was too worried about the perception from the parents.  When you’re the coach – you need to separate out emotions and do what’s best.
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Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch – Part 5: O Captain My Captain

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Part 5 – Captains
It’s easy for coaches to be control freaks. I am. It’s very hard for me to give up control of anything. I have trouble giving up control to assistant coaches, so it’s even harder for me to give up control to kids, i.e. captains.
But that is the old me, the one who often would get distracted by winning instead of developing young men. And ironically, the winning actually happens more for teams that have full buy-in. So this has become a huge learning point for me, developing captains that lead the team. Here is the breakdown:
Why are they important?
  • It’s your chance to develop the next generation of leaders! Teach them to be problem solvers, don’t do it all for them.
  • Buy-in. Work with the captains for establishing your team’s standards. Brainstorm with them on how to handle discipline – it starts with them!
  • Ask the captains what they are seeing in the game. Gametime should be minimal instruction – let the captains be your vocal leaders. Janis Meredith from Positive Sports Parenting teaches parents to use the acronym WAIT – Why Am I Talking – this often applies to coaches too. Listen more, talk less.
How do you pick ’em?
Your captains are held to a higher standard. If they are cutting corners when you are running laps then they probably aren’t good candidates to be a good captain.
There a tons of theories on how to pick them: do the coaches pick them, do the players vote, or a combination of these choices (coaches narrow it down to 5 then players vote, or visa versa.) I don’t know if there is an absolute wrong or right, but here’s what I have found works well:
  • Let the kids vote for 3 people
  • Tally the results, then look it over to see if there is a big gap between the totals. That can help you decide if there are 2, 3, or 4 captains.
  • You then pull aside each of them individually and let them know the responsibilities of being a captain. This is your chance as a coach to vet out anybody you have a concern over.
When do you pick em?
Waiting until the season starts is too late for a school team. Ideally at the end of a season, have all the non-seniors (returning players) vote for next year’s captains. That way you can be meeting in the offseason with the captains to plan for next year’s season.
How do I train them?
My friend Adam Bradley has developed a resource that is entirely dedicated to training captains how to lead teams. The cool thing is knows kids have short attention spans so he has made all the lessons in his 8 week character development series into games. It’s an awesome resource, go check it out:
What about non-recurring teams (travel teams, youth sports teams)?
All of the above applies, except for the timing. You probably will want to have several weeks of practice then have the team vote. Since you won’t have the benefit of an offseason to plan with the captains, the coaches will have to establish the standards and get buy in from the captains as early as possible.
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Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch – Part 4: Awards – You Improve what you Measure

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One of the easiest places to start when you are establishing a healthy, positive, championship culture is to look at what you are rewarding. In fact, if you and your coaching staff do nothing else but simply start focusing on recognizing and rewarding the right type of behaviors you see in practices and games, the culture of your team will improve dramatically:
  • If your team needs to quit being selfish – then reward the kid who gives the most high-fives during a practice
  • If your team needs to be tougher – then reward the kid who plays to the whistle and dives for the most loose balls
  • If your team needs to work harder – then reward the first kid back from water breaks and who doesn’t cut the corner or short the line when running
6 paradigm-shifting awards you can put in place to have a championship culture:
  1. Year-end Award Banquet – Instead of MVP – reward the MVT – Most Valuable Teammate. Or even better – have 6 awards: Most Improved, one for each of your 4 core covenants, and one for who best exemplified all 4 core covenants. And the same kid can earn multiple awards. Great podcast episode on this: Scott Rosberg (link)
  2. Celebrate a lot!  Kids will work harder when they are having fun! And spend most of your energy ‘Catching them being good.’ If you are focused on teamwork, and one of your big offensive lineman helps a scout team tiny defensive back up after a play and pats him on the butt – stop everything and acknowledge that action and celebrate like crazy!
  3. Levels – Establish levels that require mastering certain skills to move up – then celebrate like crazy when someone advances a level. 2 great podcasts on using this are Melody Shuman (link) and Robert Murphy (link).
  4. Living by numbers
    • Praise progress instead of purely praising results
    • Lee Miller from Elite Hoops Basketball – They have created 15 core drills that can be measured numerically. The focus is on improvement.
    • Quality at Bats – Instead of keeping on-base % or batting average – Keep the stat that rewards the behavior you want – a hard hit ball – Then set your lineup based on the highest Quality-At-Bat %
  5. Daily/practice awards:
    • Hidden victories in a game: taking a charge, diving for loose balls, assists more than goals
    • Leadership award – Who is serving the team? – Trophy passes around each week.
    • ‘Best communicator of the day – talk your actions, especially on defense’
    • Do awards in groups as much as possible – offensive line, etc.
  6. Postgame – spend the time having kids recognize teammates, not talking about all the things you have to fix
Remember, anything you see on the field – you either taught it, or you allowed it. So reward what you want to see!
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Special Insight on Culture – Live from the Way of Champions Transformational Coaching Conference

Interview with 3 J'sWOC screenshot
We’re taking a break in our 10 part series on culture this week to allow you to be able to peak inside the brains of some of the leading experts on creating championship culture.
I was blessed to be 1 of the 68 coaches who attended this conference, and since I know many of you would have loved to be there, I wanted to share a few powerful lessons I walked away with.  Also – just FYI – they are planning to do 2 or 3 more of these conferences around the country next year, so stay tuned at changingthegameproject.comor wayofchampions.com.
I could write many pages of notes on the lessons I learned, but I know many of you are like me, where you learn more through audio and video, so here are the most powerful videos that capture the essence of the conference:
  • 18 minute interview of Dr. Lynch, John O’Sullivan, and James Leath. Broken into 2 parts:
  • Nate Sanderson, girls High School basketball at Springville High School and Breakthroughbasketball.com coach, shared a powerful 4 minute video from his team’s state championship game last year – the amazing thing to watch in the video is observe what the teammates do for each other after any mistake. Nate’s quote: ‘We needed to interrupt the negative thought process in the midst of games,so we implemented what you see in the video.’
  • Dr. Jerry Lynch uses the acronym STRONG FACTS to list the steps to build championship culture.
    • Selflessness
    • Trust
    • Respect
    • Oneness
    • Never Quit
    • Gratefulness
    • Fearlessness
    • Awareness
    • Confidence
    • Thoughtfulness
    • Suffering
    • I summarize the last ‘S’ in the acronym, Suffering, from atop the Flatirons at Chataugua, in this 1 minute video:
      • Video Link
      • ‘The pathway to greatness is through suffering’
  • There are more than a dozen other great videos taken from the conference, check them all out here: WYC Facebook page
Also, for you audio learners, next week’s WYC podcast will be a compilation of the audio I recorded at the conference, so look forward to that. WYC Podcasts
Next week we’ll dive back into our 10 part series on culture and look at recognition and rewards.
  1. Team first – Link to post
  2. Team Cornerstones – Link to post
  3. Positive Environment – Which dog are you feeding? – Link to post
  4. Recognition & Rewards
  5. Captains
  6. Parents
  7. Building Trust
  8. Seek First to Understand
  9. Coaching your own kid
  10. Perspective & Giving Back
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Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch – Part 3: Which dog are you feeding?

Feeding the Positive Dog
I recently have started reading Jon Gordon’s The Energy Bus. The entire book is about the power of positive energy, and one of the great analogies he uses is how we have the choice whether to feed the positive dog inside of us or the negative one. The choice is ours. The same is true for the teams we coach. Are we going to create a positive atmosphere where everyone can thrive, or are we going to let energy vampires suck the life out of the program. Here are some great ways to build a positive culture and feed the positive dog:
  • Alan Stein – ‘You get what you bring as a coach’ – If you bring enthusiasm, and model the behavior you are preaching, and expect excellence of yourself – most of the time the players will respond in kind.
  • You have to deep down truly believe in each kid and what they can accomplish – then constantly be pushing them to where you know they can go. ‘When you take the time to teach your boys, there’s an implied confidence, that you believe they can achieve, and that’s praise in itself” – Coach John Wooden
  • Positive Conditioning – The winners get to run?!
    • You have to put all your attention/effort into recognizing the kids who are earning the right to run.
    • For poor effort: ‘You guys just lost your chance to become better. You lost your chance to condition.’
    • Learn more on how to do this from Scott Rosberg at Proactive Coaching on his podcast where he discusses this: Podcast link
  • Have kids play free:
    • Don’t pull them immediately after a mistake, if you do they will start to play tight and in fear.
    • ‘Make the right lacrosse play. Make the right decision and we’ll live with the results.’
    • Growth Mindset – we are a team that will: Teach kids that failing is a highly valuable part of the improvement process.  Eliminate pressure on the kids that makes them afraid to make mistakes.  Kids are often getting pressure from family members, parents, grandparents, uncles – so as a coach you have to be intentional to not negatively.
    • Will Cromack: Set goals to try a new move during a game that you have been working on in practice: ‘Who is going to be brave enough to try this new move during the game this week?’
  • Count high fives in a practice. Then try to beat that number in future practices.
  • Echo the coach’s commands – This echoing becomes fun for the kids and gets them all involved, and increases the energy level in the practice.
  • Say ‘Go make a great catch’ instead of ‘don’t drop this pass.’ When communicating instructions from the sideline – be careful not to go 0 for 2 – meaning your communication had: 1- a negative tone, and 2- no instructional value. Yelling ‘play harder’ or ‘catch the ball’ are examples of 0 for 2 communication.
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Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch – Part 2: Who are we?

Who are we? Establishing Program & Team Cornerstones
10 years ago one of my good friends Byron shared something life-changing in our adult Sunday school class. He shared a family crest he had developed with his family. It was pretty simple artistically speaking, but eternally powerful. His family had brainstormed and created 4 or 5 values that represented ‘Who we are.’ This provided the foundation for making decisions in the future – they just bounced them against their cornerstones. My family has adopted this same philosophy. We have an annual session where we brainstorm about who we are. I’ve attached the latest rendition of what we came up with. We keep it fun and sometimes even silly, so please understand the ‘Dog-botherers’ comment is an inside family joke and we love animals. 🙂
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Now we all know that if you try to focus on 10 or 20 things you will focus on nothing. So we then decide as a group on 4 or 5 of these values that will be our cornerstones.
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The more I talk to great coaches, the more I see this same type of process happening in great programs and teams. It starts with the coaches establishing the cornerstones of the program. But equally important is getting the buy-in from the team, so doing this type of brainstorming session with your team captains every year will establish your identity as a team. Here are some of the great ways I’ve seen this implemented:
  • Andres Montana – Learned from Bruce Brown at Proactive Coaching – Gather the coaches and 3 captains in preseason and define your Core Covenants – who are you going to be that season. Brainstorm by throwing words up on a board, then narrow it down to 2 or 3 that are going to define your team. Then you can order the livestrong-type bracelets that have those words on it. Check out Proactive Coaching’s guide to creating Core Covanants: First Steps to Building Successful Teams
  • Ken Stuursma’s program core covenants – from Raising a modern day knight:
    1. Accept responsibility
    2. Lead courageously
    3. Reject passivity
    4. Expect a greater reward
  • Chris Stricker’s program core covenants: CALI – Commitment, Accountability, Love, Integrity
  • Drew Maddux has Manhood Mondays – every Monday during the season they have different coaches and players create a shield with 4 parts to share with the team
    1. Tell a childhood story that defined them
    2. Tell a recent story that defines them
    3. How does the public view them
    4. Who their private self is
  • Rob Elwood’s team have 2 cornerstones:
    1. Gratitude – We thank our parents, the referees, our coaches, our teammates
    2. Be organized, everything has a place
  • John O’Sullivan – Great teams don’t have rules – great teams have standards.  Rules are meant to be broken – standards are expectations that the team agrees upon and holds each other accountable to.
In his book Inside-out Coaching Joe Ehrmann shares the goal: ‘Be a transformational coach rather than a transactional coach.’ It starts with your cornerstones.
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Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch – Part 1: Team First

Casting the vision for what the team is going to accomplish and getting buy-in is critical and what will drive your goals and practices. And the first step in building a winning culture is to create a team first mentality. Here are some best practices to get this done:

  • Ken Stuursma tells his kids every practice: They have to come to practice for somebody else. He states that selfish attitudes are garbage and selfish behavior is the first and most important thing to eliminate.
  • John Doss’ teams have helmet stickers with 3 chain links. In their pre-game talk they link arms and talk about how strong a chain is and how they are there to play for the person on their right and left.
    As a coach – make sure you ALWAYS do what’s best for the players, not what’s best for your win/loss record. Also, as a coach – do you say ‘My team’ or ‘Our team’?
  • Some coaches have only one rule: ‘Don’t let your teammates down.’ This one seems particularly pertinent with regards to Draymond Green’s behavior in the NBA playoffs.
  • Jon Gordon in his book The Energy Bus talks about having to eliminate ‘energy vampires.’ Lee Miller uses the analogy of every player and coach being either a proton or an electron – they are either bringing positive energy or negative energy.
  • Colby Patnode’s teams have 3 rules:
    – Protect the team
    – Protect the brand/game
    – Do your best


One of the hardest things to do as a leader is to get individuals to buy-in to doing something that involves the team’s needs being greater than the individuals. But when you do get this buy-in, that’s when something magical and transformative happens.

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The Experts’ Reading List

The Experts’ Reading List 
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One of the great things about interviewing talented coaches from all over the world is getting to pick their brain on where their mind is being fed. So we’ll take a break from our coaching series this week and I’ll share a great reading list that I’ve compiled from my podcast guests. Then next week we’ll start up a new series on Building a Winning Culture.
I’ve read 12 of these, how many have you read? My challenge to you is to pick 2 or 3 to read in the next 6 months, that is what I’m going to do. I’ve just ordered Pete Carroll’s Win Forever, Jon Gordon’s The Energy Bus, and Patrick Lencioni’s The 5 Dsyfunctions of a Team.
I’ve included hyperlinks to all of the books on Amazon, so just click on the name of the book and order it today! Don’t wait or you won’t do it. No excuses.
Also – my friend James Leath published a post with his reading list – check it out for some more great recommendations – Link
  1. Pyramid of Success by Coach John Wooden
  2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – the story ‘Father Forgets’ is timeless
  3. The Gold Standard’ by Coach K. – story of bringing together the Dream Team
  4. Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis – story of bringing a boy into manhood
  5. Lead for God’s Sake by Todd Gongwer
  6. Inside-Out Coaching by Joe Ehrmann – ‘Be a transformational coach rather than a transactional coach’
  7. Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx – about Joe Ehrmann
  8. Leading with the Heart by Mike Krzyzewski
  9. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
  10. The Best-Laid Plans of a High School Basketball CEO by Randy Montgomery and Matt Kramer
  11. The River of Doubt by Candice Millard – about Teddy Roosevelt dealing with defeat by challenging himself to a huge audacious goal
  12. Teaching to Change Lives by Dr. Howard Hendricks
  13. How Children Succeed by Paul Tough
  14. The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance by W. Timothy Gallwey
  15. The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone ‘Never cut anything, never dilute greatness, never pull back on your horsepower, and never put a limit on your ambition, drive, and passion. Demand obsession of yourself and all those around you.’
  16. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
  17. What a Coach can teach a teacher by Tharp&Gallimore – Followed John Wooden and analyzes the % of his communication
  18. The Sports Gene by David Epstein
  19. Mindset by Carol Dweck
  20. The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon – Get the energy vampires off the bus and surround yourselves with energy-givers and life-givers
  21. Double goal coach by Jim Thompson of PCA
  22. The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel
  23. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  24. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  25. Coaching Made Easier: How to Successfully Manage Your Youth Baseball Team—A Step-by-Step Guide to a Rewarding Season by Rod Huff
  26. Coaching Basketball Successfully by Morgan Wootten
  27. Win Forever by Pete Carroll
  28. The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh
  29. Positivity by Barbara Frederickson – Great book for self-talk
  30. The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine
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Achieving Peak Mental Performance – Factor #7: Let ’em struggle

The Growth Mindset – 7 Key Factors to Achieve Peak Mental Performance​​​​​​​
Factor #7 – Creating the mindset of an expert – by letting ’em struggle
One of my favorite movies is My Cousin Vinny (OK I know I’m dating myself a bit.) Vinny struggles in the courtroom because he has no experience. That is until the topic switches to something that he and his foot-stomping ‘my biological clock is ticking’ fiancé are experts in – cars. Then the entire mood shifts. Vinny’s demeanor changes from someone who is overmatched and overwhelmed to a confident and brash attorney.
Athletes can have the same type of overmatched and overwhelmed feeling in a game since they probably aren’t experts at their sport yet. So how can you help switch their mindset so they feel like they are an expert? This is where I rely on experts such as Daniel Coyle in The Talent Code and Carol Dweck in Mindset. Coyle debunks the 10,000 hour rule myth, citing:
‘The real goal: finding ways to constantly reach past the edge of your current ability.
The real lesson of 10K is not about quantity; it’s about quality. It’s about getting the maximum possible gain in the shortest amount of time — and to get that, you don’t focus on the time, but on the gain. You put your focus on improving the practice, which happens two ways: through better methods or increased intensity.
To be clear:
1. Certain kinds of learning — deep, or deliberate practice — are transformative.
2. That transformation is a construction process.
3. That construction process depends on your intensive reaching and repeating in the sweet spot on the edge of your ability.’
– 
Did you catch that: intensive reaching and repeating in the sweet spot on the edge of your ability.’
Building a mentally strong athlete means you have to let them struggle. Not a struggle of despair and stress of trying to accomplish the impossible, but rather a struggle of trying to accomplish a task that is just out of reach of their current ability. And here is where Dweck’s research ties in – the only way they are going to be able to reach that next level is by problem solving. Trial and error. Failures turned into successes.
So to be a master coach – you have to be constantly evaluating where your team and each athlete is at, and figure out how to stretch them into that ‘sweet spot on the edge of their ability.’ Here a few practical ways some of the coaches I have interviewed do this:
  • Construct developmental stages that kids graduate from.
    • Melody Shuman, founder of a martial arts school called Skillz Connect, identifies 7 or 8 skills appropriate for the age. She uses the Goldilocks concept to define these skills – Not too hot, not too cold, but just the right level that is a slight challenge, but attainable. Then she will focus on one of these in each practice. They have a test at the end of the practice, and if they pass they get their ‘stripe’ for that skill.
    • After they have passed the test for each of the skills, they graduate to the next level. Moving up a level is a big recognition and there is a group celebration.
    • Spend the time listening to 2 great podcasts on this subject:
  • Lee Miller from Elite Hoops Basketball calls it ‘Living by numbers’ – They have created 15 core drills that can be measured numerically. They keep track of the results, then they focus on improvement.
  • Fear of failure- Great analogy – Olaniyi Sobomehin, former Saints’ running back and founder of I’mNotYou.com, said his son hates to lose and might quit in the middle of a race. So he used the analogy of how obsessed his son is with Mario Kart to beat a level – when he fails to complete a level – he doesn’t quit, he keeps pushing reset until he eventually will beat the level.  So use this analogy to show your athlete the type of passion you need to accomplish something – quitting is the only way you will fail.
  • Scott Rosberg from Proactive Coaching reinforced that as a coach, be sure to use the words: ‘Look what you’ve become!’ or ‘Look what you were able to figure out’ – instead of taking any credit yourself.
There may be no bigger confidence builder than overcoming an obstacle and solving a problem. So let ’em struggle, then celebrate like crazy when they figure it out.
I hope you have learned as much from this series as I have in doing the research on it. If you missed any of the previous factors check them out here:
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Achieving Peak Mental Performance – Factor #6: Stop Telling Players ‘It’s just a game’

The Growth Mindset – 7 Key Factors to Achieve Peak Mental Performance​​​​​​​
Factor #6 – Why tell your mind ‘This is not important’ – When it really is?!
We’ve established the importance that playing present is a key factor, if not THE key factor in achieving peak mental performance. So of course the million dollar question is- HOW DO YOU PLAY PRESENT? In Factor 4 we talked about effective ways to mentally recover from mistakes, so forgetting about the past is part of it. But what I’ve found is the tougher part to master is not the past, but the future. In any situation where you’re doing something that is important to you – it’s natural for the mind to wonder:
‘What happens if I mess this up and I lose future opportunities to do this thing I love?’ 
One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen coaches and parents do (and I’m sure I’ve done it) is to tell a kid ‘It’s just a game – don’t get stressed or worry about it, it’s just not that important in the big picture.’ That is a lie. If it’s something they’ve been working hard to achieve, then it is important. And realistically – have you ever seen this advice work? Have you ever heard a kid say ‘Oh, OK, thanks coach, you’re right, I don’t care if I win this match, thanks, now I’m relaxed!’ So if it really is important, how do we train our minds to remove the future consequences from our thought process? I’ve asked this question to a lot of really smart people in this field, and here are some actionable steps to help:
  • For pre-game nerves: Don’t deny it or try to squelch it!  Embrace it – be excited that you are having pre-game excitement.  It means that this is important to you.  Your body is responding to make you as sharp as possible by waking up all of these feelings and nerves, and you can tap into that strength. – Coach Kevin Kennedy
  • Lighten the mood:
    • One method is a trigger mechanism – something you have practiced and evaluated what works with each individual – something to get the player to smile.  Maybe it’s slapping your leg.  Maybe it’s a teammate saying ‘Spongebob is ugly’, etc.  – Coach Robert Taylor
    • The Knute Rockne-type speeches by a coach often take the fun out of the game and cause the kids to tighten up – just let them go play and have fun – Coach John Doss
    • Be relaxed as a coach – Avoid phrases like ‘Try harder’ or ‘Run faster’ – these commands often tighten up a player’s muscles and stiffens them instead of loosening them up – Coach Jason Larocque
    • Make sure they know your approval of them is not tied to results but rather effort.  ‘In youth sports you cannot play with a piano on your back’ – Kids can’t play with coaches hounding them about mistakes and taking away their confidence. – Coach/Author Michael Langlois
    • The game/performance is just your showcase to have fun and shows off the hard work you have been putting in – Band Director Cameron Gish
  • Try to get the athlete to see the small picture – don’t get overwhelmed by thinking of the big picture – ask the athlete to think of a small victory they can picture – Coach Stacie Mahoe
  • Change the focus off themselves – It’s not about you – Show up to play for your teammates – Coach Ken Stuursma and Coach Creed Larrucea
The goal is to keep ‘Zooming In.‘ The starting point is a huge picture of all past failures and future consequences. Then, using tools such as the ones listed above, we are helping the athlete narrow that window to a smaller and smaller timeframe, eventually getting into a present mindset. I really like Stacie’s advice above to get the athlete to picture a small victory. Picture this conversation with a softball player worried about a big game:
Player:  I don’t know if I can do this, what if I go 0 for 4?
Coach:  Let’s forget about those next 3 at-bats, just focus on this one. Can you picture yourself driving the ball up the middle?
PlayerI don’t know. I’m so nervous I don’t think I can even swing the bat. What if I strike out looking without even swinging?
CoachHow about this: can you picture yourself taking an ugly hack at just one pitch this at bat? I mean a way uglier swing than those funny videos you girls were watching yesterday on your phone. Even if you totally miss the ball, do you think you can just get the bat off your shoulders and take a hack?
Player (snickering a little because she’s picturing a really ugly swing): I guess I could do that. Why would I want to take an ugly swing?
CoachWell, good point. I’ve seen your swing and it’s so natural and fun to watch. So let’s get one really good swing in this at bat and go from there.
Even if they miss, they have overcome their initial nerves. Then that second swing is going to be easier. Then you can turn the process around and start adding small goals. After they have a good swing at a pitch, ask them if they could picture connecting with a pitch and hitting it hard. And it grows from there…
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Achieving Peak Mental Performance – Factor #5: Keep It Simple Stupid

The Growth Mindset – 7 Key Factors to Achieve Peak Mental Performance​​​​​​​
Factor #5 – Simplify
Joe Daniel from The Football Coaching Podcast has one of my favorite quotes about simplifying:
‘Keep everything simple so that your kids build confidence, confident kids play fast, fast kids win games.’
That says it perfectly. The best way to quiet your mind is to not be thinking about a million things while playing. Here are a few other of my favorites that I’ve learned from great coaching minds:
  • Coach Shane Sams identifies 5 skills for each position – then those are the only skills they teach in practice for the entire year. For younger kids maybe only 3 or 4 skills. Repetitions are key – don’t keep changing things up.
  • ‘If your goal is to freeze an athlete – give them a whole bunch of stuff to think about’ – James Leath, head of leadership at IMG Academy
  • Renowned high school championship basketball coach at Christ Pres Academy in Nashville and former Vanderbilt star Drew Maddux uses the term ‘Boundaried Freedom’ – Create the culture and boundaries – and then give them the freedom to go make plays
I was watching the Golf Channel this week and they discussed how Jack Nicklaus credited much of his success to his ability to play present. The ability to stay in the moment allowed him to pay attention to details that many of his competitors missed – the wind speed and direction, the amount of power he was hitting with that day, and many other things that if he had complicated his mind with too many worries or concerns he would have missed. So Keep It Simple Stupid. You will have more fun and your athletes will go out there and play instead of going out there and thinking.
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Achieving Peak Mental Performance – Factor #4: Our mind is a powerful beast to tame

The Growth Mindset – 7 Key Factors to Achieve Peak Mental Performance​​​​​​​
Factor #4 – Playing present & Mistake recovery
Our mind is a powerful beast to tame. Another powerful lesson I learned from Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis is the concept of the battle going on in your mind between your 2 selfs. In summary – Self 1 is the mind and the loud voice, Self 2 is the body, the quiet doer. Where things get out of whack is when Self 1 starts to overthink the importance of what you are doing. Thoughts about past failures or future consequences of your performance will tighten up an athlete and make it impossible to perform at a high level. We’ll dive into a bunch of great ways to de-emphasize the importance of competitions in Factor #6, but here are a few fundamental ways to keep your mind focused on the present:
  • Tim Corbin, national championship baseball coach at Vanderbilt uses the term ‘Play in the middle.’ He teaches his athletes to not think about the past, not think about the future, but rather to stay in the middle. The only thing you need to focus on is the next play.
  • Ray Lokar, PCA coach and speaker, uses the acronym WIN – Whats Important Now. In high pressure situations – have the kids focus on ONE thing that is important (i.e. hold your follow through) – don’t tell them more than one thing or their head will be swimming with too many concerns.
  • Mistake recovery routine – You will make mistakes. You need to have a predetermined response to what you are going to do about them. Coach John Doss has a goalie that beats himself up after any goal allowed – he tells the kid he can take 3 seconds to be upset, then move on.  He will even count 1,2,3 out loud so the kid remembers. Many athletes have developed physical actions to ‘flush’ mistakes:
    • ​​​​​​​Make a small motion with your hand of you ‘flushing’ that mistake away
    • A double-tap on your chest – 1st tap is me saying ‘my bad,’ 2nd tap is me saying ‘I’m over it and am focused on the next play.’
    • A brush of your shoulder to ‘brush’ away the mistake
Quiet your mind. Gallwey uses the analogy of a cat waiting to pounce on a bird. The cat isn’t thinking about it’s posture, what each leg needs to do when attacking, or what the other cats will think about it if it misses. It simply is thinking about what that bird is going to taste like in it’s mouth.
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