We are a very young team this year. Much of our roster is pretty much filled with freshmen. With youth comes immaturity, with immaturity comes ignorance, and any time ignorance is involved you can certainly count on mistakes. It’s been quoted, “Adversity doesn’t build your character. Adversity reveals your character.” I would definitely have to attest to that quote whole heartedly. However, I can see the potential in what we are currently building, and it gives me the highest confidence for the future. The only way you see the potential in a group during tough times is with a strong standard of excellence in place.
Even though the scoreboard doesn’t look pretty at the end of the game, we still continue to press on. Why? Because when you have a standard of excellence in place, the push for excellence won’t let you live in the past; only the present and the future are what truly matter. It’s my job to help my players understand that there is fruit at the end of their labor, but it is only attainable through positive attitudes and a willingness to come to work every day to get better. That’s what I’ve challenged them with each day, and it has paid dividends this season. In today’s blog we will explore six standards of success I have implemented during this season that have helped me keep my players focused and moving forward. Hopefully you will read something that will not only inspire you, but that you can also apply to your life as well.
The first standard is patience. No two groups of players are the same from year to year; therefore extreme patience must be exercised. Whenever you encounter a group with limited experience, you must understand that very rarely do they understand the process that it takes to achieve your level of greatness. Furthermore, the standard they think it takes to accomplish greatness seldom comes close to reality of what it really takes to compete on a high level. For example, ten out of the eleven players on my defense are playing college football for the first time, so during the first couple of weeks of practice with the team, they had no idea of the level intensity that was expected. Practice intensity and tempo would be very inconsistent from day to day. When I asked them how they thought they practice, some would give an honest account, but the majority weren’t even in the ball park of understanding the level intensity that it takes to get prepared for a season. That was evident in their response by telling me that they had a great day’s work. Good coaches understand that teaching their players championship qualities is a never ending job. Whether it is tempo, practice intensity, or teaching simple fundamentals of the job, patience should always be your number one approach.
Secondly I realized that repetition is essential, and is a necessary tool of learning standards of excellence. Repetition also instills confidence in the players as well. Nothing excites a player more than knowing he is gaining the trust of his coach by building a consistent pattern of doing the right things repeatedly. It is good for the players to make mistakes while practicing, as this allows the players to learn from their mistakes. One great tool that coaches use is filming each drill throughout practice. I would strongly recommend implementing the same tool in your operation. Recording your students or players will allow them to observe or hear themselves in action. This will help enforce the majority of your coaching tips that you provide on a constant basis. Not only do they get see their mistakes, but also view and hear the consequences of their mistakes. Encourage your players to make mistakes. Performing the fundamentals of your job in a repeated fashion is the only way you will learn how to perform your job effectively.
Thirdly I must be firm and consistent. Nothing spells dysfunction like inconsistent standards. My players must understand that the system of standards that I have in place are the same today as they were yesterday, and will also be the same tomorrow. It would be a major disservice if I ignored their wrongdoing, and let them get away with substandard performance without consequences. The players don’t have to agree with my standards, but ultimately as a coach, my challenge in this profession is to take them to a place where athletically they have never been. I understand what it takes to be great, so anything outside of what I teach is wrong, and must be corrected. My standard is the only one that applies during this process, because it helps to develop championship habits.
Respect has to be established whenever you work with people. I’ve been coaching long enough to know that players play for those that they have general and mutual respect for. Even though I am in a role of leadership, it’s my belief that the golden rule still applies. You must treat people with the same level of respect that you desire. The head coach I work for now coached me when I played football in college. I desire so much to do a good job for him because I have respect for him. He saw something great in my ability, and because of that I always perform at my best for him. I want to help him win. The same principle applies when you are in leadership; you have to earn a level of respect to the extent that your team will want to help you win. There are certain players that I have developed a strong dislike for, but that is beside the point. Whether I like them or not is irrelevant. I try my hardest to give them the same amount of respect that I want in return.
I must be resilient, and always press forward to enforce my standards even in the face of disappointment. Young people may show their frustration about a particular situation in ways that are not always in the best interest of the team, but even still they want to know that when adversity shows up that their leader will be in the forefront still continuing to lead them. Regardless of the age or maturity, players want to see their leader battle in the trenches right alongside with them. Beware of the whispers from those that are outside looking in. It never fails. When you are winning everybody is happy and satisfied. When you are losing, like we have this year, everyone has an opinion about what they think you should do. And at times you may consider a different approach to how you go about your routine. This is the time to really impress upon your team the importance of resilience. Stay steadfast on your core beliefs and your standards of excellence. Any waver in your approach will surely cause doubt and uncertainty among your players.
Your players must always know exactly where they stand. Their growth as a member of your team as well as a productive member of society is heavily dependent on your honesty. When I am being honest with my players I have to first make them understand that my feedback is not personal. My honest critique is to only help them excel at their craft. I personally had an amazing career as an athlete. I have had the opportunity to do some amazing things through football, and it has taken me places that I never thought I would go. I coach my players hard with great passion and plenty of enthusiasm because I want them to experience everything that I have had a chance to experience, and much more. A large part of that process is being up front and honest about their production. Without your total honesty they will never be able to grow to their fullest potential.
In closing I encourage you to keep plugging away. People, especially youth, sometimes struggle seeing the big picture, but that’s where you come in as a coach. You just keep pushing them every day, showing them piece by piece of what the overall mission is. In time they will fully understand what your true process what all about. I would like to leave you with a text that I received from one my former players soon after he graduated. This young man was one of first players that I coached, and it serves as a reminder of why I believe in what I do, and why I must continue to do all that I do for my team. I hope you are inspired to continue doing what you do for your team as well.
“Hey coach. Last week I had the awesome opportunity to walk across the stage and receive my degree. I am officially a college graduate. I would just like to take the time to tell you thank you for all that you are to me because without you much