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Your Team is Not All In – Rope ’em In

Whether you are coaching a 12-year-old team or a collegiate team, as much as we want to believe our players are ALL IN with the program, it’s often not the case. Even with my ten years in the corporate world, I found this isn’t true, and often less true the larger the company (and team). Culture is critical to keep them roped-in. If you are able to provide a positive environment for the whole, to have a role (they accept) for each person within the team, and as the leader, morally and ethically drive your passion…you have a chance.

I found this great perspective from a former coach and now high school athletic director on a comment through a post. I thought it was great, saved it, and wanted to pass along. I can’t remember the AD that posted this comment, but I believe I befriended them on social media, so thanks in advance you for allowing me to repost it 🙂

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I got out of college coaching a few years ago, and after reading/listening to the book GRIT, have found myself thinking a lot more about this, especially as I’m now a HS AD and have observed athletes and coaches from a 3rd party view.

A few thoughts…

#1 – Not every college player is striving to achieve greatness, and not every player on high level teams is personally driven to achieve greatness. Obviously, the more that are, the more likely a team is to achieve a high level result. There is a herd mentality though, so if a lot are bought into, those that aren’t will follow along, especially if the player leadership doesn’t tolerate complaining. If however, most are not bought in, it will back fire even more.

#2 – Knowing where your players are on the commitment scale and how personally driven they are, and adjusting your demands may have a positive effect on performance as long as you accurately determine when and where you can scale back. At some point if they are mentally and emotionally exhausted and/or not bought in, the benefit of the most well thought out and intentioned training is going to be diminished and may even hurt their performance.

#3 – There’s a reason why the kid that’s at Stanford and PSU is there, and the kid at Small Private College is there. It won’t be the same across the board. Some want less demands, others want more freedom, others just can’t play at that level, some it’s about priorities, others it’s about ability. I’ve seen and coached D3 kids who were tremendously committed, beyond D1 kids I’ve gotten to know. They either knew they weren’t physically capable of winning at a high level in DI and wanted the chance to compete for something bigger at the D3 level, wanted a chance to be a big fish instead of stuck on a bench for 2 years, or whatever. But there’s also a lot, that simply enjoyed volleyball, wanted to take it to the next level, and were sold on the vision that we as coaches told them. When they get there though, volleyball as a priority slips because they come to terms that they rather do the other things rather than devote a disproportionate amount of time to improving at volleyball.

#4 – Try and apply the situation to yourself. There are a lot of things that I myself enjoy, but if I went from doing it a 3-5 hours a week to 15-20 hours a week, and if I went from being given some basic information that I reached out for and researched on my own, to all of a sudden having someone hold me to a whole other level of success/accountability, constantly demanding I do more, do it better, and focus on all the aspects that I don’t really enjoy or that are outside influences to my success at it… well a lot of those things that I enjoy doing, I wouldn’t any more. There are very few people who really enjoy pursuing greatness in everything they do, and a lot of people who when they no longer view themselves as really good at something (which going from HS/club many players realize they are not as good as they once thought because the standards have been raised) that it’s not nearly as fun to really dig down and work.

My suggestion from afar would be this:

#1 – You need to recruit 3 types of players. Varsity players who understand and want the commitment you are describing (it’s going to be tough, very tough, because these players are obviously in high demand). Players who are not skilled enough, who want that, who you can mentor through the JV program and will take advantage of the opportunities you provide to catch up. And then JV players, who want to keep playing, and competing, but who are not being asked to do everything you describe.

#2 – Ask yourself what you’re really getting the most bang for the buck at. For example, in-season how often do you really need to lift? For how long, and what time of day? If you’re getting back from a road trip at 11 PM, lifting at 5:30 AM, watching film and practicing from 3-6 pm, are you really shocked that your kids are resisting? (not saying you are doing this, just pointing out an obvious situation) Can you cut up film with notes and send it to your kids electronically (HUDL) during the day so they can see the 2-3 most important things, and then talk to them about it at practice so that you know they watched and you can gauge their comprehension?

#3 – Ask yourself if each activity on each day is resulting in a better performance. If you’re doing mental training at 6 AM and they don’t want to be there, and so they’re not buying into it, is that having a positive impact on their performance? If the answer is no, then does taking 15 minutes out of practice, or making practice 15 minutes longer and doing it then change the answer?

#4 – If you’re building a team from the ground up, going 0-60 overnight is probably going to result in a lot of head banging. Find a handful of kids that want to do it voluntarily, then use their experiences to motivate others. For example, your OH is frustrated with her serve receive. So you bring her in to watch video. You isolate the problem, show a correct version, and create a plan to correct the skill. The player sees improvement. Another, less motivated player is frustrated she’s not playing. You suggest she comes in to watch video with you a few times, because when you did it with your OH it helped her. You have your OH approach her and let her know that taking the time to watch video, put together a plan, and come in early/late a few times really paid off. Now your less motivated player is going to be more likely to buy in on her own, without you needing to demand it, you simply offer it.

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