Too good to be true? Building a totally committed team

If you coach long enough, there comes a moment in every coach’s career when they realize that giving another fiery motivational speech or trying to get their kids to really care by using a series of rewards and punishments just doesn’t change anything.

The old Carrot & Stick just doesn't work like it used to.

Usually that’s followed by a period of frustration and choosing to ignore the problem and focus on other things.

Ignoring the problem doesn’t fix it though and it never goes away, so it slowly eats at us, and all that same time it keeps our team from ever reaching its true potential.

Ugh.. double whammy of frustration…

Then typically comes the first “a-ha moment.”

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Creating tougher kids, more wins, happier life

Help yourself & help your team all at the same time.

You know those moments you have as a coach where one of your hardest working kids finally has a breakthrough performance?

How awesome does that feel?!

It’s like all the hours, all the sacrifice and all the nonsense we sometimes have to deal with as coaches just falls away and you get this amazing feeling of pride and satisfaction… Man, nothing in coaching beats that!

I just had a senior on my team like that.

This kid was not a great natural athlete and not a great wrestler. He had a losing record all through high school. He hadn’t won a single match in our Sectional Championships at any point in his career going into his senior year.

Any one who’s ever had anything to do with wrestling can tell you this is not easy. Wrestling can be so physical and so personal most kids can’t take the continual losses that add up year after year and eventually leave the sport. 

Not this kid though.

Here’s what he did have going for him. He’d show up every day. Every practice. Every match. Every day. And he’d just focus on improving. Little by little. Day after day. Painstaking bit by painstaking bit. 

Every conversation with him was about how he was focusing on improving his technique, improving his conditioning, improving his strength. Even when he was going into matches - he was locked in on his own efforts. It like he was in his own world and everyone else was just an “extra.”  I don’t think I ever heard him talk about winning or losing.

This kid was focused.

But it was always a focus on the process. Never the outcome. Every match he’d come up to me before he took the mat and say “Coach, I’m just gonna stay aggressive and get to my attacks.”

And it ultimately paid off for him.

He managed to qualify for our Sectional Tournament, despite never having won a match there in his career, and wrestled his way into the quarter finals.

And then he lost.

He lost to a kid that beat him pretty badly earlier in the season and he found himself in the consolation bracket, one loss away from the end of his wrestling career. He could still take 3rd if he kept on winning, but, hey, he’d already come further than he ever had before. 

I watched him warm up for his next few matches and you’d never know “his back was against the wall.” You couldn’t see any pressure on his face. Same routine. Same focus. Same “I’m just gonna stay aggressive and get to my attacks.”

It kept on working. He rattled off three decisive wins to find himself in the 3rd place bout against the same kid who pinned him earlier in the season. The same kid who knocked him out of the quarterfinals was the opponent he’d be finishing his wrestling career against.

So here we were, biggest match of his career, and he warms-up looking like it was any other match. No pressure, no stress. This is such a great kid that I personally want nothing more than to see him win. Now I’m feeling stressed. Inside I’m sorta freaking out. Him? Calm as can be. And what happens?

He goes out, “stays aggressive and gets to his attacks.” And he wins. 11-4.

So proud of this kid. He had come SO far. And there he was. He sure didn’t look like anyone’s conventional vision of a mentally tough warrior, but you couldn’t question that he was.

Thinking back on his career, what really made the difference for him was his unwavering focus on “process over outcome.” What makes this even cooler is that we taught that kind of focus. It didn’t come naturally.

Finding ways to get our kids to focus on the process instead of the outcome has been such a huge part of our success in building mental toughness. 

Here’s exactly how we did it in our program, step-by-step…

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The small tweak that doubled our team’s commitment

It’s crazy the impact simple psychology can have...

So, figured I’d share a bit of an embarrassing story from early in my coaching career. When I first got hired as an assistant wrestling coach I was 23 years old. I was just out of college and my last experience with the sport was being on the team in college. I was young, but, in my mind, I knew it all. (I know at least some of you can relate to this!)

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Goal Setting doesn’t have to suck…

Goal setting sucks…

but it doesn't have to.

Whenever you read about coaching or the best ways to develop your athletes or team, it’s almost to impossible to get away from someone talking about goal setting.

Everywhere you turn you hear about it. Coaches and athletes talk about it in interviews. Whole books have been written on the topic.

Makes sense, though, right?

Set an objective of some kind and use it as motivation for you to get there!

Sounds great on paper.

Let me ask you guys a question, though: have you done goal setting stuff with your team?

The Ultimate Guide to Fundraising Quickly and Painlessly (and without giving away half your profit!)

How to not get fired by your AD in your post-season meeting...

When I first started coaching, I knew nothing.

I thought I knew a lot…But I didn’t.

It was even worse than that though.

I was 23 years old and I inherited a wrestling program with eight kids on the roster, no commitment, a wrestling mat from 1980 (it was 2002 at the time!), singlets from around that same time. It was a sad state of affairs.

My first year was rough.

We had no culture, kids quit (which hurts even more when you’re only starting with eight of them), you could hear crickets in the gym at our matches (if I listened carefully enough, I'm pretty sure I heard them laughing).

Me coaching back in the day.

I also had a rude awakening. I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did. It was embarrassing. It was frustrating.

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