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The Art of Coaching (Part One)

Coaching is an art, a skill, and a constant case of behavioral science. A good coach needs to be a good scientist. He or she must take careful notes through observation and constantly test out hypotheses. To get an athlete to improve is a serious responsibility. The coach must incorporate different environments, various motivations, and a specific set of tools to ensure the athlete can reach their maximum potential.

Tools Needed

1. Master

It takes 10,000 hours to master a particular skill. So they say. This involves patience while you learn from every mistake. You will not do it right all the time. Take notes of each workout and conversations you have with your athletes. How are you communicating and executing your plan? Is it well received?

What are you teaching? Are you teaching? Regardless of the level you coach, you must reinforce the basics everyday. Do you know the basics? You should be a student of your sport. Learn the science behind each movement (Newton’s Laws of Motion, Kinesiology, energy systems of the body, the Central Nervous System, hydration, nutrition, specific race plans). Take your new knowledge and apply it in light of your goal for the athlete and season. Observe and report. Remember you are a scientist just as much as a motivational speaker. Read, listen, and take someone out for lunch to learn from their experiences. (I personally have a goal to take 3 coaches out to lunch/coffee a year. This has helped my training philosophy greatly).

2. Simplicity

 There is such a thing as too much. Know when to stop. Under training is better then over training. Have a plan, but keep it simple. The more complicated the workout or training plan will call for a complicated explanation. The athlete may lose what you are trying to have them achieve in their training. This loss in translation can make or break a workout and season. 

3. Specificity

A simple Google search will bring a long list of activities one can do to get better (for example, 400m workouts by Clyde Hart or Jim Bush). If every coach did this, wouldn’t everyone be successful? Only you know your culture, school, team, and athlete. The big question here is how does it all fit in with what you are trying to accomplish. It is the task of the coach to write a meaningful training regimen with this big picture in mind. The coach is preparing the athlete to succeed at the highest level in and during competition.   Do not waste practice and be intentional with every minute you have in regards to your overall goal.  This takes planning and preparation.

The best coach learns how each athlete learns.

Then they meet them there.

Next post: The Art of Coaching Part Two - Demonstration, Memory, Vision Plan

In the Face of Criticism

In the Face of Criticism

As a Leader, you will try to make everyone happy.

This will never happen.

You will try though. I do. I like to be liked. Who doesn’t?
When you are leading, you must make choices everyday. It’s inevitable that someone will find some fault with your choices. There are usually two responses when this happens:

8 ways to Grow as a Leader

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1. Desire Growth

First, you have to want to get better. Are you satisfied with “pretty good” or just getting by? You may justify that you like to be comfortable in your job, but in reality are you striving for a reason to be lazy? Laziness is not a trademark of a leader. Lazy is for sheep. If you are reading this, you want to be a shepherd. You desire growth.

2.  Be Humble in the Face of Criticism

Correction is hard to take. But no one does it perfectly. Some of the best lessons I have learned as a leader have been challenging and hard. I like to think that correction from someone not only gives me the opportunity to change, but allows me to think through other perspectives. As a leader, you must have thick skin. You can’t build massive biceps unless you work hard and tear up your muscles at the gym.

3. Seek Wise Counsel

It is important to have people in your life that are readily available to give you wise and trustworthy counsel. I have 4 guys I regularly go to; each of these friends have a specific role in my life and how they counsel me in my leadership. Do you have anyone you can go to? One of George Washington’s best contributions was the invention of his carefully appointed advisors, known as the Cabinet. This wasn’t written in the Constitution, but he created this because he knew the importance of having a group of men around him to give him counsel. Who is in your cabinet? Do they know their roles?

4. Have a greater purpose

The famous quote by Eric Liddle states, “God made me fast and when I run I feel his pleasure.”

I recently had a talk with a mentor of mine who mentioned this statement. He talked about the importance of what I do and how I feel when I take part in it. Fill in the following blanks:

“God made me ________, and when I ________ I feel his pleasure.”

What would you place in those blanks? What is your greater purpose in your leadership?

5. Stop the Repeat

I have been an assistant coach for a number of head coaches who have said the same thing. “I have been doing this for 35 years. I know what I am doing.”  What I wanted to say in response was, “No, you did it once then just repeated it for 34 more years.” This should give you a healthy fear of repeating the same performance. Stop the repeat and get better. There is always something to tweak, change, or make better. Good leadership never settles for mediocrity.

6. Learn from Everyone

My dad used to tell me, “They teach you how to do it and how not to do it.”  Before I became a head coach, some of the worst coaches I coached for taught me a lot, mostly how not to do things. Are you looking to learn from the worst leaders?  They can teach you more than you may realize.

7. Read

Harry S. Truman once said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Read. Then read some more. Read with a friend. Read with a spouse. Gain new perspectives and further your understanding in order to improve on whatever you’re reading about. I try to read for about 30 minutes before I sleep every night. (Sometimes more if the book is really good). I sleep better and I learn something. Knowledge is in books, not on American Idol. 

8. Celebrate Small Victories

Do not be too important to be passionate about your role. Be enthusiastic with your leadership. Some of my favorite coaches to watch are Pete Carroll or Jim Harbaugh – their passion and excitement is contagious. Athletes want to be led by a coach that is charismatic in their beliefs. Do you believe in your own leadership? Don’t be too important to miss out on what is happening around you. Be excited about having Gatorade dumped on you after a win; tackle an athlete that just broke the school record; storm the court after a win. Show that you care.

Growth will happen when you seek it out. It will not happen because you were given a title. It is an unfortunate commentary, but a good leader is an exception not the norm. Be the exception!


Power of Friendship at Work

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Work is hard. It is even harder when you have to do it alone. Of course you have co-workers and maybe the occasionally acquaintance you talk to every once in awhile, but is it possible to have friends at work? Not only is it possible, it is necessary. Many people succeed or fail based on the support they have from their friends at work.
In Tom Rath's book, Vital Friends: The People You Can't Afford to Live Without, his research shows that employees who have a best friend in the office are more productive, more likely to engage positively with customers, share new ideas and stay longer in a job. Simply put, doing your work with friends will make you happier and more efficient.
My goal is that this post will do two things:
1. Identify some key individuals in your work place that are vital to your success.
2. Identify the key attributes that a friend at work can provide and how you can reciprocate.

Behind the scenes there are people that work tirelessly to ensure you are able to do your job. Do you know them? Do you go out of your way to support them? Do these people want to help you and want you to succeed? These people include but are not limited to:

The janitorial staff

The IT guy 
The Trainer (if you are a coach)
Your partner, co-worker or assistant coach
When developing relationships with these essential people you will need to do the following:

  • Get to know their name(s)
  • Exchange contact information
  • Systematically go out of your way to ask them how they are doing personally
  • Find out how you can serve them
  • Know how to talk with them. This person is not your therapist – refrain from venting your sorrows and frustrations to him or her. Learn how to talk to each person or group. How do they communicate best?  
  • Meet them in their workplace or home turf and spend time with them
  • Take them to a meal and spend time together outside of work when appropriate.

Here are 6 key friendships at work that will help you with your mission at work and in life:

1. A Motivator/Coach

This person pushes you, inspires you, challenges you, and keeps you accountable.

2. A Partner

He or she works alongside you, shares interests and the workload.

3. A Therapist

This person listens to you, gives sound advice, and asks good challenging questions.

4. A Fan

He or she sings you praises, supports you, keeps you encouraged, and helps you keep the big vision in focus.

5. A Fraternity Brother

This person is your fun friend. You laugh with each other, play games, do recreational activities together (for fun and to blow off steam). Very little, serious conversation is needed.

6. Your Think Tank

This person brainstorms with you, shares your vision, helps you set strategic objectives, and keeps you grounded and calm.

Do you have these people in your life? Have you sought them out in your workplace? Chances are, they are there and waiting to help. What kind of person are you to those around you? Be friendly and have a positive work environment where you can call your coworkers your friends.

"Two are better than one: they get a good wage for their labor. If the one falls, the other will lift up his companion. Woe to the solitary man! For if he should fall, he has no one to lift him up. 
— Ecclesiastes 4:9-10


Connection Between Mental and Physical Pain

Connection Between Mental and Physical Pain

Dr. Naomi Eisenberger has found that social rejection and physical pain are intrinsically linked in the brain, so much so that a lack of the former can impact the latter. What this means to your leadership. 

Good Leaders Make Hard Decisions

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It will happen. Someone will challenge your vision. Something will get in the way of progress. A cancer will develop and grow unless dealt with in the proper way. As a leader you will face opposition on your road to success. It isn’t fun, it isn’t easy, and it is always necessary. I once read, “To think that you are going to lead without making mistakes results in procrastination.” This in turn makes you simply ineffective.

So what do you do when you know you need to make the Hard Decision?

1.    Weigh your Options

What will be the fallout from this decision? Will it be positive or negative? Will people be angry even though it is the right call? Can you live with that? The best leadership advice someone told me was, “Choose you battles wisely.” Is this one worth fighting for?

“What is right isn’t always popular, what is popular isn’t always right.”

2.    Seek Counsel

Do you have a group of trusted advisors? Do you have someone you can bounce ideas off of or get advice from; someone who sees the bigger picture? You will not be able to see all angles yourself. There will come a time when you need to depend on other trusted friends who understand the Big Vision and endgame. This is a very important group because your leadership will succeed or fail based on the advice you receive. 

3.  Make decisions with the information you have now

Hindsight is always 20/20.  As a leader, you will never have 100% certainty that you have all information. You must act when you need to. You may be criticized later for not knowing certain information, but this can’t deter you from making a decision with the information you had at the time. You must do what you can with what you have at the time.

4.    Focus on the Future

Recently, two of my top athletes came to me and said they were only willing to make 3 practices a week accompanied with a short list of demands. These two athletes would guarantee victories for most dual meets. I had to make the Hard Decision. Character is more important than wins. I communicated to them my expectations about coming to practice everyday and putting their team first. They made the decision to not participate on the team this year. The Future consequences outweigh the immediate needs every time. The consequences will be a program full of athletes that respect and trust their leadership. These lessons will not only affect their sport but their future as adults.

5.    Own the Fallout

You will not be able to prepare for everything. Not making a decision is deciding to do nothing. This is leadership suicide. Don’t be afraid to fail. Make a decision, learn from it and become a better leader each choice you make. Own the consequences and take personal responsibility. Those you lead cannot be thrown under the bus because you listened to them. You are the leader and the final outcome of any decision is on you. 

Think like this:

Good outcome – your advisors get the credit.

Bad outcome – you take responsibility.

Regardless of the outcome (good or bad) your advisors, audience, followers, athletes, or employees will work hard for you because they feel safe in your leadership.

Decisions are at the heart of your leadership success. There will be times when the critical moment for a decision must be made and it can be difficult, nerve-racking, and accompanied with much anxiety. Great leaders balance emotion and anxiety with reason to make the best decision they can with what they have. They think about their employees, customers, athletes, and the future success of their program or organization.

Can you make the Hard Decision? When have you had to make the difficult choice? How did it turn out? 

6 Steps to Speech Success

There they sit with an attentive ear. They sit in silence with anticipation of what you will say. As a leader you are about to address your audience with something important.

What have you done to prepare for this event?

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I have been an assistant coach for a head coach who was never prepared for his team meetings. It showed. Before practice even began he had lost the team. How do you follow or respect your leader when they seem to have no idea where they are going themselves? 

Knowing what to say and how to say it is crucial to being a leader.

Here are 6 easy steps to help you:

1. Brainstorm

Spend some time thinking about what you want to say. Ernest Hemmingway has been attributed to saying, “Write drunk and edit sober.” Think like that. Put everything down, brainstorm, and get all your thoughts out on paper. Then read it over again, edit and organize your thoughts.

2. Organize

Put your thoughts in order. Basic psychology states that people will remember the first and last thing you say. Organize your speech with that in mind.

3. Your Delivery

How are your going to say what matters? Some issues you must be passionate and inspirational about. Others you can breeze through. You audience will become conditioned to pay attention more or less based on your different tones of voice. Don’t mix this up.

4. Stay Focused

Keep ideas clear, relevant, and simple. If you say too much, too much will be lost. I personally believe in addressing only 3-4 things at a time. If I miss something, I’ll get to it tomorrow.

5. Rehearse 

I don’t always practice my speeches out loud or in front of a mirror, but I always go through them in my mind before hand. A quick rehearsal helps me keep all the steps in mind and is beneficial for my delivery.

6. Work the Room

Make eye contact with individuals. Be seen. Napoleon was supposedly short. I’m sure most of his speeches were from his horse. I’m sort of vertically impaired, so I have my team sit or take a knee so everyone can see me. Get feedback. Have another trusted leader watch you and give you feedback. Ask them to tell you if you have any weird ticks or habits. Do you say “um” too much?
As the leader of the group it is your job to cast vision, objectives, and goals. You are the face of the program, organization, or group. However, getting up in front is the first step. Know what you are going to say, organize your thoughts, prepare your delivery, stay focused, and rehearse. Now watch your group soar!  

Communication: The Most Important Factor to Leadership Success

Good communication is one of the most significant aspects of your leadership. In today’s world there is so much technology that is used for communication. Your target audience has a variety of ways to receive information from you.  This is an exciting and ever-changing world that we live in, but here is your problem:

How do you effectively communicate to so many people in so many different formats?

How can you reach everyone according the their preferred methods of communicating?

Your athletes, parents, administration, fans, and other interested parties are already using these tools for communication.

 Are you?

 Here is your solution and guide for leadership communication in the 21st century:

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1.    Team App

I think we are one of the first teams to create an app for our program. This has been a game changer! I send out notifications, have resources, schedules, maps, lists, etc. all on this thing. This tool is used for people already in our program who need to know inside information.


2.     Mass Email with MailChimp

Email is outdated. Crazy, right? But it is. When emailing a large group of people you need a way for your audience to receive information that is quick, easy on the eyes, and very informative. MailChimp is fantastic. It’s free (unless the group is too large) and allows you to create an online newsletter sent as an email. In my experience, 78% of people who receive my newsletters view them on a phone. Mailchimp makes it easy to read, scroll, click, etc. You design a custom template for every email. For you, the work is relatively minimal.

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3.   Team Website

You need a place where you can put important information, update it regularly, and people can find it easily. I love directing people to our website. This reminds me of that saying, “You can give someone a fish and he can eat for a day, or you can teach a person to fish and he can eat for a lifetime.”  Once people know where the information is, they can get there by themselves the next time and keep going back to get what they need. I typically don’t hear from them again. Use Squarespace and develop your own site. You can do it for $8 a month!

4.     Twitter/Instagram/Facebook

Create updates people are interested in. Other people can add pictures to the group with a #hashtag. This allows your audience to have a group to belong to.  Your program can be the cool group on campus. 

5.     Phone call

Some people still like phone calls. Bring back the personal touch in communication.

6.    Texting

Quick and easy. 99% of my athletes and coaches prefer this mode of communication. They can get back to me right away, or once they have thought about a response. Often times, they are somewhere they can’t talk, so it’s quicker.

So which on is the best one? Answer: all of them. Start with asking your audience how they like to give and receive information or which one they prefer to communicate with.


- Best way to reach you (phone, text, email)?

- When can I expect your reply (immediate, hour(s), days)?

 It is simply impossible to become a great leader without being a great communicator. – Mike Myatt Forbes .com