Coaches at all levels of sports are constantly asking more of their athletes. But it's a two-way street. If you're asking more of your athletes, you need to ask more of yourself and improve as a coach.
Consider implementing these five steps into your program to better influence your athletes and lead your team to success.
Step 1: Commit to the Team
The influence you have on your program is special. Realize that you are being watched at all times. When you step off the cement walkway heading to practice, you are demonstrating there may be shortcuts to excellence. Don't skip a step when taking the stairs, or you will show that it's OK to miss a step when climbing toward greatness. Each day, remind yourself and your team through your actions that little things make a big time difference in a successful program.
Step 2: Continue to Develop Your Skills
Many people get into coaching because they enjoy the technical aspects of the game. They embrace the X's and O's and being the person players look to at practice, games and in crunch time. Continue to develop your own game, just as you ask your athletes. Read books, watch practice film and games of other programs, take constant notes, and expand your network to enhance your contacts and resources. Develop relationships with each player on your team, your staff, the families of everyone in your program, and especially the significant people in your own life outside the team.
Step 3: Manage Your Team
We can talk about appreciating the process, having a plan and holding people accountable, but if you want to lead a championship team, you must develop relationships. Structure times in each practice to build trust, encourage communication and establish a system that emphasizes "we are greater than me."
There are always a few players with whom you spend the majority of time, for whatever reason. Make time in your daily schedule to connect with the other members of your team. Meet with one or two before practice. A high-five can go a long way. Ask questions about their day. You will always find what you are looking for. Be sure to look for the good things that your players and staff are doing. Acknowledge what you want from your team in public and discuss what you would like to see in private.
Step 4: Have a Business Mindset
Getting the community involved in your program helps with ticket sales. Saying the right things to boosters helps with the donations that keep many teams afloat. But the often-overlooked aspect is making sure your practice is worth the price of admission. Yes, practice! If your practices are not worth the price of admission, why would gameday be worth anything more? Develop an atmosphere of fun, competition, development and appreciation for respecting the process and chasing excellence (not perfection). Upgrade your practice environment by adding music, having someone take pictures and getting video (not practice film) showing players having fun and enjoying becoming a team. The game plan will take care of itself if your players know they—not winning—are the priority.
Step 5: Learn Something New Every Day
Coaches think they are doing as much as they can for their team. But few tap into the vast resources surrounding them, understand more about their players and staff on the last day of the season than on day one, or set the tone for developing themselves. They become critical of others and point fingers, or they have film sessions that indicate that the team just "doesn't get it."
Great coaches realize it starts with them. What are you sharing with your team on a regular, if not daily, basis to create a supportive, learning environment? Are your players scared to fail, or are they willing to try something new to get better, realizing that the process will be rough in the beginning and easier as they practice more? Greatness isn't what you become; it's what you overcome.
Always expect more of yourself. Can you listen to coaching podcasts when in your car? Can you read and share a daily article to encourage a conversation that shapes the positive thoughts of your team and staff? Can you create more ways for your team to become brilliant at the basics? Encourage excellence in everyone in your program. Remind them there are not winners and losers; there are only winners and learners. There are no problems, only solutions we haven't identified yet. Be patient, supportive, caring, authentic and appreciative of the effort that everyone puts into helping your players become a team.
Learning doesn't stop, and neither will your players when they believe that you care about them more than winning.
RELATED: How to Become a Strength Coach
Editor's Note: Check out Coach Taylor's SMARTER Team Training Audio Interview Series here.