We spend a lot of time teaching players that failure, or making a mistake is part of the journey when attempting a worthy goal. Our education continues through explanations of what to expect when they fail, how to overcome it and the mental toughness to work through it. Moments abound throughout a season for lessons to be taught concerning adversity.
Should they be prepared? Absolutely! Many have experienced setbacks and learned to cope or not, and in some cases, even avoid situations that lead to failure. Often it’s a monumental task on our part to change that mindset taking time and patience.
What about success? Has your team experienced success? Have you taught the traps that success can present? Have you prepared your team for that moment of success and the after effects? Are we teaching it as reactive rather than proactive? Ask any coach who had their first banner year what the mindset of his or her team was as they reported back for the following season. They can be complacent, content, individualistic, lacking in effort, not focused, and think they have it all figured out. Such was my experience.
We had just won the regional tournament by beating our cross-town rival in a shootout. The feeling was one you just can’t describe. I was so proud of our team and what they’d just accomplished. As we lined up for pictures with the trophy, a thought kept finding its way into my mind: “We are moving to a tougher district next year. How will that impact our ability to succeed?” The following year I did my best to remind them every day of what we were facing, but they refused to buy in and work harder and smarter to have a chance. We would exit the tournament early because our team had become complacent and content with last year’s success. As a coach, I had let my team down because we encountered a storm I hadn’t prepared my team for.
Teams who’ve won championships the year before can often lose sight of what they did to accomplish their goals. Convincing them of what it will take to repeat, or motivating them to reach greater goals can be a monumental job. Respecting success is a lesson worth teaching.
What steps can you take to avoid this trap?
· Explain what success looks like, the glitz and glamour, how to deal with the demands and sort through the accolades as an individual and a team.
· Remind the team that success is never a gift, it must be earned through tremendous effort and determination, and it comes with responsibilities.
· Congratulate your team on their accomplishments. Moving on to quickly can diminish their efforts. Allow them time to enjoy it.
· Ask what their feelings and reactions are to their success. Has it changed them?
· Ask how they think this season could be different with respect to opponents, their mindset, makeup of the team, what is expected, etc.
· Emphasize, as you see it, what it took to succeed last season.
· Have players develop specific team practice goals for this season.
· Paint a picture of what you see as possible this season.
· Remind the team of distractions and obstacles that lie ahead.
· End one practice a week with a team leader(s) led meeting on a topic they see as urgent. Meet with them and discuss the topic beforehand.
· Look back on everything you did last year and draw from it.
· Replace leaders lost through graduation with strong team leaders.
· Be consistent with your team, and don’t let success change you.
We are always aware of failure and do our best to prevent that mindset from dominating our players’ thoughts. Success seems to be different. We work toward a championship building on all the efforts and accomplishments along the way. But we seldom mention the other side of success to our players until we experience a banner year. It’s then we see it in our complacency and lack of effort when the following season begins. Could we have prepared them for these moments? I think so.
Here are some statements during your playoff run that may remind them what it took to get there.
· The road to the championship is littered with teams unwilling to work as hard as you have.
· Remember those hot days of practice, what you’ve sacrificed.
· We always push ourselves and our teammates. We haven’t arrived.
· There is no luck getting where we are tonight.
· We’ve practiced against the toughest opponent all year long, our teammates.
· Look around and know that your teammates believe in you.
· Respect your opponent. Know this game will come down to a battle of wills.
· I’ve never had a team that worked so hard together.
· You’ve earned the right to be a champion.
· I believe in every one of you. Believe in each other.
· Everyone’s role on this team is important and brought us here tonight.
· In our sport a team wins the championship, never an individual.
· Enjoy this championship, because on July 15th we begin work on the next one.
What about statements or an idea that serves as a wakeup call for reality when next year’s preseason practice begins.
· Set the tone on the first day with practice earlier than ever before. Explain that all the other teams are sleeping and our team’s desire and determination to repeat have to be greater than any team in the state.
· “Every team on the first day of the season is undefeated.”
· “No opponent cares what we did last year.”
· “Every team we play has our game highlighted on their schedule.”
· “Our awards, trophy, rings and honors, while wonderful, won’t score a goal, make a save, win a ball, create an assist or win a game this season.”
· “There are more people in our community and area that don’t know we won a championship than do know it.”
· “Only you and your teammates can prove that last year wasn’t a fluke and this program is building a dynasty.”
· “Demand more from yourself and your teammates at practice.”
· “You can’t have the championship without sweat, aches, frustration, all out effort, teammates, a few tears and the belief it can be done.”
· ‘If you’re not willing to give all you have, let your teammates know so they can find someone else.”
Working through success may be your biggest challenge. The key is bringing your team back down to earth from a moment they may have never experienced. We’ve all seen teams that weren’t able to wake up in time and followed a great year with a disappointing one. I believe by keeping it real and building a hunger to leave a legacy we can teach our players to enjoy what’s they’ve accomplished, and understand that today is a new day to accomplish much more.
I wish you and your team the best!