There is a saying in coaching, "it isn't about the X's and O's, it's about the Jimmy's and the Joe's." There is a lot of truth to this. Nearly everyone agrees that if you have better athletes you will win more games. Most coaches agree that if you don't have as good of athletes, you won't have as good of a chance of winning. They attribute winning to simply be a byproduct of the level of talent in their program.
I am going to give you a different twist on this. I will preface what I am going to say by stating up front that having great athletes helps you win more games.... But having great athletes does not guarantee winning...
As coaches, our job is to develop our athletes to be the best they can be mentally and physically. We are not simply at the mercy of genetics. How many of you have seen a team that had great genetics but couldn't win? Why? Because genetics is only one part of the puzzle.
So what are the other parts of the puzzle? First, is you have got to develop mental toughness. What is mental toughness? Mental Toughness is the ability to face adversity, failure, and negative events without a loss of effort, attitude, and enthusiasm. It is about getting your players (and coaches) to face adversity without a loss of enthusiasm.
How do you build mental toughness? You put your players in stressful situations. You put them in situations where they will get knocked down several times. You put them in situations where they will have to make a choice at some point. That choice will be whether to keep going, or whether to give up. Of course, as a coach you don't allow them to give up. You provide support and give them opportunities to push through.
"Mental Toughness is the ability to face adversity, failure, and negative events,
without a loss of effort, attitude, and enthusiasm."
Great teams are mentally tough. They are able to overcome adversity. You can't overcome adversity if you give up. You also can't magically become mentally tough. Mental toughness can and must be taught with intent. It takes time and will not happen overnight. Often you won't see the progress for a long period of time. Here is the kicker: If you aren't teaching and developing mental toughness you are teaching the opposite. You don't want the opposite.
The second key is attention to detail. It amazes me how many coaches don't coach the details. At the same time, very few of them have consistent success. If you want your player to take a six-inch zone step, and you are not coaching the details, you are not going to get a consistent, six-inch step. You are going to get a four inch step, or an eight inch step. If you are coaching your guys to do something a certain way, it is because it is the best way. Details separate good teams from great teams. You have to coach them with intent.
The third piece of the puzzle is understanding that words matter. What you say and how you say it have a tremendous impact on the work ethic and attitude of your players. What you say and do will have a huge impact on the confidence your players develop. Too often, coaches get caught up seeing their players as inferior. We are too small. We don't have athleticism. We are very young. How you see your players is how you will coach them. If you see your player as too small and too slow, you will coach him that way.
Our job is to build our players up to do things they don't think are possible. We have to be able to look into the future. We have to coach our player to be the very best he can be. To do this we have to dig for the gold that exists inside of them. We have to build them up in the off-season, creating a confidence in them. When they make a mistake, correct it. When they give poor effort, coach them. When they face a challenge, tell them we believe in them. Most importantly, you have to care about them. You have to care about your player regardless of circumstance.
The mental aspect is probably the most important aspect of winning and it is the most undercoached. If your players don't believe they can do something, it is nearly impossible to do it. The first part of winning is believing you can. This is not something you are born with. This is something that can and should be taught and reinforced. Confidence and mental toughness go hand in hand.
Finally, it is vital you don't concern yourself with the external which you have no control over. You can control you. You can control your effort and attitude. You can control your enthusiasm. As a coach, you set the tone. If you are not enthusiastic, how can you expect your players to be enthusiastic. You control you. We can't control our opponents. We can't control what they have or what we might not have. What we can control is what we do right now. We can control if we are being our very best.
We have a lot more control over the Jimmy's and Joe's than we might think. We can't control their genetics, but we can control what we do to develop them to be the best they can be. We control our workouts, and our level of expectations. We control whether we set standards and hold our kids accountable. We control whether we develop mental toughness. We control the level to which we teach leadership and character.
This all really comes down to culture. If you want to have consistent, sustained success, you need to have a strong culture that permeates these factors. You build your culture. You control your culture. No one else controls your culture. Only you....
If we focus on being the best "we" that we can be, we will be successful. In a nutshell, we must do everything we can do to develop our jimmy's and joe's to be the best they can be. We need to coach them to outwork, and ultimately, out-perform their ability.