What exactly is a hungry team and what does it look like? Are we able to recognize it? Have you shared the term and concept with your team?
We know that great talent trumps average talent most of the time, but what about teams that are evenly matched? We hear a lot about one team out working or being more determined than the other, and that’s how they come out on top. Where does that determination originate? Is it the personality of the team, the leader, their work ethic in practice or an obsession with what they are determined to accomplish?
I believe it comes from a deep-rooted hunger driven by many factors. Have you witnessed a game where one team seems totally committed to winning every 50/50 ball, every ball out of the air and plays with reckless abandon? Where does that drive come from? Is it a natural trait in some players? Why doesn’t every team have it or play this way?
Teams can often become content simply staying where they are with no drive or hunger to accomplish more, regardless of our efforts. Why is that? Often it’s what we allow them to do, giving in to mediocrity and comfort. Plus some players may not want to pay the price for attempting greatness knowing how much effort is required or the heartache if they come up short.
Why should they be hungry? We live in a society where compliments and encouragement dominate even when not merited while reality and honest appraisal are frowned on for potentially hindering self-esteem. As a coach we need to know which players have or are capable of developing hunger. Why? They’re the foundation of what we want to build and possibly the leaders we need to push us to greatness.
How can we create and develop a hunger in our team? Let’s look at some ideas:
1. Culture- Create a culture where losing without complete effort isn’t comfortable or accepted. A price must be paid for losing in competitive activities in practice. Not demeaning, just demanding. Build a practice environment that carries over to the game. Players need to learn that losing isn’t fun.
2. Bad losses- If your team played poorly or needs motivating, keep reminders of what they gave up or the score of a bad loss in the locker room. Hungry players won’t like it and will be motivated to prove doubters wrong. Avoid making excuses for the team and own it.
3. Benefits- Can you convey to your players why they should work hard to achieve greatness? Many have no clue what greatness is. Can you paint a picture or bring in others who have been there? Hold that vision up every day.
4. Reward- Highlight players who embrace hunger. Reward their determination. They may or may not have the talent of other players, but they represent what you’re building and want to see.
5. Model Relentlessness- Be relentless with every aspect of your coaching. Hunger starts with you. Set the standard and model it. When you’re satisfied with less than the best, your players will be as well. Keep your hunger burning bright as an example for your players. There will be days when it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
6. Honest/Real- Be upfront with players concerning their performance and efforts. If they aren’t carrying their weight they need to know it. If they need to sit out a game or lose their starting position, take care of it. When you talk with under performing players do it in a professional manner in your office away from the rest of the team.
7. Warriors- Designate one or two practices a week for 1 V 1 or 2 V 2 wars. When you establish an environment where players are competing against each other with a price for losing, you’re building hunger. You’ll readily see the warriors on your team, and their fire must spread to the rest of the team.
8. Adversity- Take your team to a homeless shelter or bring in a guest speaker who is battling adversity. Let them see what real, everyday hunger is, the ability to survive or the effort it takes to get through a day. They need to know what you’re asking is possible and how blessed they are to be able to attempt it.
9. Championship Venue- If you didn’t reach the championship game, take your team to see what it’s like. They need to experience all the fans, the glitz and glamour, the recognition the players receive and the jubilation of the winning team. Hopefully the experience will build hunger in your team to reach this level of greatness. They need to also know that teams that win it all will always be remembered and their legacy celebrated with reunions. If all else fails, show them a championship ring and remind them how good it would look on them.
You come to work every day with a hunger to lead your team to greatness. Frustration can grow when you don’t see the same hunger or drive in your team. How can they possibly know if they haven’t experienced it? Never stop sharing your vision of what hunger looks like.
It will take every ounce of energy you have, every moment of maintaining composure and the ability to make tough decisions to build a hunger in your team. Does it mean you’ll win a championship? No, but your team will know they gave it all they had every day, and left it all on the field. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
I wish you and your team the best in the post season!