“Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.”
John Wooden

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

That’s Not Coaching. It’s Child Abuse.

By Harlan Coben

May 30 (Bloomberg) -- The coach called one player a “f*****g retard” in front of his teammates. He told others that they shouldn’t enjoy themselves after a game because they played like, well, a compound obscenity sometimes used as a derogatory term for the female anatomy.
In the coach’s attempt to motivate his boys during one halftime, he gathered them around him and told them that they were playing as though they were (pardon the shock value) undertaking a sexual act with, yes, their own grandmothers. It seems kind of small by comparison, but he also threw clipboards and kicked equipment, insulted the players’ families, cursed out coaches and referees, and humiliated and berated and singled out several players to the point of tears.
No, this isn’t Rutgers University or the latest collegiate scandal. This is a volunteer father coaching my son’s grade-school lacrosse team in my New Jersey hometown.
Why are we still allowing this?
The above story isn’t unique. We’ve all seen these guys on the sidelines. We parents may not condone it, but we’ve learned to accept it. We put up with this behavior because we worry that if we question it, there will be repercussions for our kid. He’ll get less playing time, we fear. She will be moved down from the A to the B team. He will be the brunt of even more abuse. We see our choices as putting up with it or denying our kid the sports experience. We start to justify it in our minds. “Hey,” we tell ourselves, “this is how Woody Hayes coached. The guy really knows the game. Maybe it’s a good thing.”
I, too, was guilty of thinking like this.
But we know better. And it has to stop.
Maybe the screaming and shouting worked for another generation. It doesn’t work now. And even if it did, even if your sixth-grade program ended up with a record of 11-2 with abuse when it would have been 9-4 without (and the evidence strongly suggests that the opposite is true), so what?
New Jersey has just adopted some of the toughest anti-bullying legislation to which our own children are accountable. Shouldn’t we demand the same from our coaches? Could you ever imagine a schoolteacher or debate coach behaving in such a manner?
What I’ve noticed -- and yes, this is anecdotal -- is that the best teams with the best coaches seem to be have the calmest sidelines. Rather than shouting specific instructions at players -- and chastising them for every mistake -- these coaches have already taught their players what to do. They trust these kids to take responsibility. Sure, the kids mess up, but there is a lot to be said for playing without fear. They play better, learn to be instinctive, and -- gasp -- have more fun.
Click on the link below to read the rest of the article:

Monday, June 20, 2016

Life Lessons from my “Old School” Sports Dad

June 14, 2016
I remember the conversation like it was yesterday.
I was a sophomore in high school, and I was mad. I was offended. I was aggrieved… I had been benched.
When I got home from school, I wanted someone to tell me how I was right, and the coach was wrong. I wanted someone to tell me that I was great, and my teammates who had replaced me were not. I wanted someone to validate my feelings..
Luckily for me, I had chosen to have my “woe is me” talk with my dad. He was an old school guy, born and raised in the Bronx. He had been forced to retire from his dream job — the NY City Fire Department — after destroying his back during a fire. Life had been good to him, and tough to him, and he certainly wasn’t intending to make it easy on me.
His goal wasn’t to make me feel better that day. His goal was to make me BE better.
“John,” he said, “regardless of whether you think your coach is right or wrong, regardless of whether you think you are better or worse than your teammates, that is really all beside the point.”
I sat quietly. You do not interrupt my dad.
“The question you have to ask yourself is ‘have I done everything in my control to earn a starting spot?’”
I thought about it. “Yes, I’m better than those guys,” I protested.
“That is not what I am talking about,” he said. “That’s one man’s opinion. Here are some things that are not. Do you show up early and do extra work? Do you stay after and work on your game, or even run laps and improve your fitness? Do you pick up the cones when training is done? Have you gotten up before school yet this season to do extra work on the track, or against the kick back wall?”
“No,” I answered, not liking where this was heading.
“Well, until you have done anything and everything you can do to show your coach and teammates beyond any doubt who deserves to be out there, you have nothing to complain about. I suggest you get back to work and leave your coach no choice but to put you in, because right now he clearly has a choice.”
Conversation: TERMINATED.
This was a defining moment for me as an athlete. Our relationship was not always rosy when it came to sports, There were certainly other things he said and did that did not affect me in a positive manner. For whatever reason, though, this lesson had the desired effect. From that day forward, as a high school, collegiate and professional player, I always believed that I had nothing to say until my actions spoke first. It was up to me to leave no doubt. In the words of inspirational former Cornell Lacrosse player George Boiardi, as told by Jon Gordon in his great book The Hard Hat: 21 Ways to be a Great Teammate,“Well done is better than well said.”
I get a lot of emails and inquiries about kids ‘playing out of position,’ about being ‘forced’ to play for a tough coach and struggling for playing time. Since the recent changes in US Soccer birth years, I have heard a ton about kids having difficulties adapting to new teammates and age groups. And I get it.
Click on the link below to read the rest of the article:

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

3 Ways Coaches Can Inspire Their Athletes

May 31, 2016
A few nights ago I went to a graduation. Not a high school or a college graduation, but one far smaller, and far more personal. In fact, there were only seven kids, one of which was my 9-year-old son TJ. He and six others were being recognized by their amazing teacher for their dedication, hard work, and persistence in overcoming their struggles with a language-based learning disability that strikes one in five children. They all have dyslexia.
The teacher began the ceremony with a talk about self-efficacy.
“Self-efficacy,” he said, “is the belief that your effort and hard work matter. It’s a child’s belief in their ability to achieve their goals and complete tasks. In our schools, in our sports, so many times these kids lose that belief because of a learning disability. They are called slow learners, they are called frustrating, they can’t sit still so they are called disruptive, and yet, in reality, they probably work harder than anyone else in their class. They just have a disability that impedes their progress, through no fault of their own. They work so hard, and yet are led to believe that their work does not matter. So they eventually give up.”
One by one the seven kids were called to the front of the room, and their teacher described their unique gifts, their unique paths, and how they had overcome their own unique struggles in school and in life. He gave each of them an award related to their contribution and development, not just in reading, but in art, in laughter, and in relationships with others. He caught them being good at things and recognized them for it. And as he described each award, I saw an amazing thing: a smile on each kids face that could light up a room.
As the famous conductor and speaker Benjamin Zander says: “Look at their eyes. If their eyes are shining, you know you’re doing it.”
I saw seven pairs of eyes shining that day. Which brings us to an important question:
Are your players’ eyes shining when you coach?
Does your presence make your athletes day a better one?  Do you recognize each and every one of them for their unique gifts and contributions to the team? Or do you only spend time with a few of your players, likely the starters and/or upperclassmen. Have you ever wondered why you had a roster full of talent, but no team? I have.
Many years ago I had a group with lots of talent, but no team. We had players dissatisfied with their role. We lacked effort in training. We were outworked in games. I had front row seats watching our season go down the tubes. Thankfully, I also had a friend and mentor who happened to be a 6x national champion NCAA soccer coach, Jerry Yeagley from Indiana University, whose words stick with me to this day:
“John, coaching isn’t just running practices and X’s and O’s. It’s about culture, and unity, and recognizing every player for what they bring to the table. Your problem is you have a bunch of piano players. Every team needs some piano carriers too, and if you want people to carry the piano in training and games it’s up to you to let them know that they matter too.”
Those words from Jerry nearly two decades ago changed how I coached, how I led, and how I set up my teams. But something far more important happened that day.
The fact that the legendary Jerry Yeagley cared enough to help me – an unknown, unimportant college assistant and youth coach – made my eyes shine.  He made me feel like the most important person in the room. He made me remember how my favorite coaches made me believe in myself and let me know that my contribution mattered. And he made me feel like I was progressing, and I had a future in coaching.
What I realized that day was this: If I can make my players feel like Coach Yeags just made me feel they would run through a wall for me, and for each other. If I could get them to believe in themselves like his words made me believe in myself, then nothing could stop us. I learned that day that coaching isn’t only about X’s and O’s, but about relationships. I realized for the first time that if I could win the relationship game, I could help my teams win the game on the field too.
I realized that I had to make my own players’ eyes shine!
Most coaches ignore the relationship game. They assume that players know when they are doing well and when they are not. They forget how great it feels to get a compliment, or to be trusted and believed in. They forget what it was like as a player to see progress, and have your contribution recognized. Maybe that is the way they were coached, so they assume since they were OK with it, everyone is OK with it. But they are not.
Another mistake coaches make is that they spend too much time focusing on their top performers. Yet what about the other players on the team, the ones who don’t get the recognition? The ones whose names don’t appear in the paper, and may not even appear on the game day roster. They may never score the winning goal, or make the big save, yet they are a vital part of the culture of championship teams. They make practices better. They are the top players #1 fans. They can be your biggest allies, or your worst adversaries. How do we serve them?
I recently had the opportunity to see business and organizational health guru Pat Lencioni  speak about his excellent new book The Ideal Team Player, and he discussed three areas bosses often fail their team members. In essence, he was discussing how we fail to make our people’s eyes shine.

Every athlete, whether a star player or the last one off the bench, needs three things from a coaching staff. The presence of these three things will help get every player to buy in. The absence, or worse, the antithesis, will destroy your culture, and tear your team apart.
Here are three keys to making your athlete’s eyes light up, improving performance, and building a championship culture:
Click on the link below to read the rest of the article: