January 22, 2018 • Coaching

Six simple ways teams can get better every day

Every coach’s goal is that their players get better every day in practice, and that the improvement can be measured through success in games.

Much of what happens in the athletic lives of our athletes is out of a coach’s control, but by focusing on the process we might find more success with our teams. Let’s look at six simple ways we can give athletes more control over their success and happiness.

Controlling and controllable

1. Focus. There are a million things going on in our student-athletes’ lives. It’s been my experience that athletes are usually some of the more engaged students on campus. They’re involved in student government and various clubs. They’ve got friendships and relationships to maintain. On top of all of that, they’ve got classes to study for, papers to write and study groups to meet with. 

But for two hours a day, we need their undivided attention. We need them focused on the task at hand, which is twofold. The goal is to get better individually each day while contributing to the team goals. That’s mental discipline and it’s not always easy, but it’s essential.

2. Attitude. 
Whether you have a freshman who came in with a lot of fanfare and will start immediately, or a junior who’s yet to earn significant playing time, they both need to have a team mindset.

If your stud freshman is in the training room with neck problems because she can’t hold up her gigantic head, then she’s got a bad attitude. If your junior is griping in the locker room that she’s better than one of the younger players, then she’s causing problems with her bad attitude. Seeing the positives in any situation not only make their individual experiences better, but it makes the team stronger.

3. Body language. 
Every team has that player who mopes when things don’t go their way. I’ve tried to make my team understand that part of the burden of being on a team means helping to motivate your teammates each and every day. Being a Negative Nellie isn’t a great way to keep a team’s spirits up.

Teammates should be able to look at one another and be motivated — not dragged into the abyss — by what they see.

4. Effort. 
Even awful players can give great effort, because it has no tie to skill. Effort is a choice to be made every drill, every day and every game. It’s our job as the coach to make our teams understand that choosing not to give all out effort all of the time means they’re choosing not to get better. And if they’re choosing not to get better, then they’re choosing to lose some winnable games. And if they’re choosing to lose winnable games, why are they playing?

5. Thoughts. 
Thoughts are powerful. They tell us that we can get to the ball that seems out of reach. They tell us to increase the weight that we’re lifting. They tell us to cheer on the struggling teammate. They tell us we can when it looks like we can’t. Thoughts encourage us, they motivate us, they inspire us and they move us to action.

6. Communication.
 I don’t know how many times I’ve had to articulate to a player that the only way her teammates know what’s going on inside of her head is for her to speak. Whether it’s being in a bad mood from a test in a class or a ball that two people are making an effort for, communication solves a multitude of ills.

If our players do these six things every day, our team is bound to get better. And that’s always the goal.

Dawn Redd is the head volleyball and assistant track & field coach at Beloit College in Wisconsin.

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