The Trick to Coaching a “Good Team on Paper”
Pre-season predictions about how successful sports teams will be is no longer limited to pro and college sports, as countless bloggers and other fans regularly make predictions about interscholastic and youth sports teams. What this means is that more and more amateur coaches are facing new mental toughness pressures around living up to the “pre-season hype” that is now regularly generated about their programs, especially when their team is expected to be successful. Ironically though, playing up to expectations (even with a great team on paper) is not always that easy, and in some instances it proves to be the toughest coaching job a coach will ever face.
When coaches take a team not expected to do much and turn that team into a success, the coach is lauded with praise and admired for his or her efforts to get the most from his kids. But what about when a coach is loaded with talent yet has trouble living up to high expectations? Interestingly, this scenario happens a lot more than you might think, and it often tests a coach in ways he or she has never been tested before. Rarely does simply “filling out the lineup card” with studs lead to a winning season, as veteran coaches know that in order to get the most from a team with potential that a lot of coaching has to occur (as well as juggling egos and getting star players to buy in).
Below are a few ideas to consider the next time you coach a team that is full of talent and potential (and expectations are high):
- Never assume talent alone will win – it won’t. In fact, when other teams know you are talented there’s a good chance they are going to come even harder after you, and likely play their best game of the year against you because they are motivated for an upset.
- Similarly, your kids need to know their talent alone won’t win. Often when kids look around a locker room and see other stars, the collective effort takes a step back with the assumption that their talent will easily be enough to win. Your job as a coach is to talk about this ahead of time with your team so that they don’t overlook the importance of each game.
- Be prepared to juggle and balance egos. Ask any pro or college coach about the work involved in dealing with a bunch of star players — you might be surprised to learn how stressful this can be for a coach. It is important that you get your kids on the same page early and often and set team goals that not only assign individual roles, but also specific targets for the team to reach.
- Discuss ‘leadership’ in terms of the collective effort and what exactly that means. Kids need to know that being a follower is just as important as being a leader on a team, and that it is both roles combined that form leadership. What this means is that not every kid needs to be vocal, but they do need to know their role and embrace what is asked of them.
- Don’t believe the hype. It’s easy to spend countless hours on the internet reading about your team or how great you are as a coach, but don’t get caught up in all of that. Also, make sure you talk with your kids about the hype rather than it being the “elephant in the room” that everybody knows about but nobody wants to discuss. Instead, put it out there and remind kids that the hype doesn’t matter — it’s what you do on the field that counts.
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