Sunday, November 27, 2016

Developing Culture, Character, and Leadership

Unless you won your championship, your season probably did not end the way you wanted it to. If you are like most coaches, you are trying to figure out what you can do to improve your program for the 2017 season. 


Many coaches will tell you, "we just didn't have the talent." Or, we didn't have great leadership." Or, "our kids were mentally weak." While these all may be true, they are also excuses. That is a hard fact to face. I understand there are some very difficult situations to coach in. I have coached in a few of those situations. Every mediocre coach in America will tell you how their situation is dire. 

If you focus on the negative of your situation, you will never have success. What is success? Making the most out of the situation you have, and doing everything in your power to make it better. I am a realist, and I understand that some programs are much better than others. But if you focus on why your program can't be successful, that is exactly what you will get.

Building a championship program is hard. It is a very, very difficult thing to do. That's why very few programs every reach that level. Quite honestly, most coaches are not focused on what it takes to build a championship program. They aren't willing to do the things it takes to create a culture of success. They aren't willing to coach the details each and every rep, every single day. It is hard to coach guys every single day and the details. They allow themselves to accept less than an athletes best. They then justify to themselves that it's okay to accept less than the athlete's best. He's hurt, or he's new, or we will fix it tomorrow. If that's your mentality... prepare for more of the same next year.

So what does it take? Here are five keys to building a championship program:

1. Cleary Defined Vision
2. Visible Core Values or Core Covenants
3. Defined Process In Place
4. They Coach Details
5. Clear Accountability

Last summer I picked up Urban Meyer's new book Above the Line, and it has not disappointed. He had a great quote in the prologue about leadership.
That says it all! Putting up some motivational signs is not going to develop character, leadership or mental toughness. What it will do is add noise to your field house, weight room, and locker room. I saw Tom Herman speak at a clinic last month, and he talked about how they took all their motivational signs down. He asked a player, "hey, how about that sign." The player didn't know what he was talking about. How many players have actually read the signs around your field house? And if they have read them, how many of your players live them?

If you have signs up and expect a culture to develop, you will be very disappointed. You see, culture will develop, but it won't be the culture you desire. Culture is being built each and every day in your organization, and the question is, are you developing the culture... or is the culture developing you? What are you doing to build the culture in your organization with intent? Most coaches think they are doing a lot, but in reality, they are doing very little. They are doing a lot of things, but they are doing these things without an end result in mind. When you don't have an end result and a process, how will you ever get there?

Since 2002, I have been blessed to work with schools across the country on installing the No Huddle, RPO Concepts, Pistol and Spread Concepts, the Odd Stack Defense, and Building Character, Culture, and Leadership programs. A few years ago a school brought me in to help them implement a Multiple Tempo No Huddle Offense. Most of the staff was on board, but as we began our talk I noticed a couple of coaches were very reluctant to make the change. The first question I asked was, "why do you want to go to the No Huddle?" The response floored me. The head coach said, "because our players fight in the huddle." After a brief pause I said, "if that's why you want to go to the no huddle you brought me in for the wrong talk." They didn't need a no huddle talk, they needed a talk on organization culture.

They wanted to fight the symptoms rather than the disease. They wanted to put a band-aid where a transplant is needed. When you do this, you will find yourself constantly running out of band-aids. Your coaches will be frustrated and often disengaged. Your players will be frustrated and you will find them quitting when things get a little bit difficult. Your organization will lack a unity and a trust. You will not be a cohesive unit. This team did not need a new system, gimmick, or play, they needed to change their culture. 

"Culture is the sum of the beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes of a particular organization"

Every single organization has a culture. Every team at every level has a culture. The problem is, only a select few have a defined culture that has been carefully and intently built. Most teams have a culture that has been built by chance. If the talent is good and there are some kids who have been developed as leaders, the team has a good year. If the talent is down, and/or there are very few leaders who walk through your door, the season is a disaster. If I asked you to raise your hands if this is your organization, chances are most of you would do so. Most programs fall into the category I call "Culture by Chance."

Culture by chance programs never achieve as much as they should. They never reach their full potential. They are slaves to the situation. They are slaves to the level of talent that walks through the door. Because they don't have a specific plan for culture, character, and leadership development, they get what they get. These are programs that never seem to get over the hump. And if the talent level is way down, they have a horrendous season. Culture by chance programs often have players that become discipline issues when things get difficult in practice or a game. Raise your hand if you have seen this in your program...

The second level is what I call "Talk About It." This is the group that says they talk about culture and character with their kids, but they do so without a plan. They talk about core values a few times then put them on the shelf. There is no plan, purpose or vision. When a good idea pops up they jump on it for a day or two. They have 8 different coaches going 8 different directions. If you ask the players the vision or mission for the program you will get a different answer from each player. These programs often falter under pressure and fail to win close games or big games. They are never going to beat a team more talented than they are.

The "Talk About It" teams often lose to teams with lesser talent. Programs that talk about culture, character, and leadership often will implode at inopportune times. They often have players who will coast when no one is looking. When things are going well their players work hard, but only until things start getting uncomfortable. When things get uncomfortable, they are going to cut reps and even sets. They are going to have a nagging injury and find the "loser's limp."

"Talk About It Teams" and "Culture by Chance" teams have players that look at coaching and correction with disdain. They make excuses for mistakes. They don't like to be coached. Coaches often avoid confrontation so the start to ignore mistakes .Raise your hand if you work in, or have every worked in a program that would fall into this category?

The coaches of the "Talk About It" teams and the "Culture By Chance" teams often complain their kids aren't mentally tough. They often complain about their kids being entitled. They often talk about a lack of work ethic. These are the guys that say, "we didn't have a good senior class this year." 

Here is my question: WHAT DID YOU DO TO DEVELOP THE VERY THINGS YOU COMPLAIN ABOUT? DID YOU HAVE A VISION AND A PROCESS?

"Great seasons are not built in October and November, they are built in January and February, and March, April and May. Conversely, 1-9 and 2-8 seasons are built at the same time."

This brings us to the third level. The third level is the level I call, "Live It, Breath It, Love It." These programs are the elite. They are the programs that are consistently improving regardless of their talent level. These are the programs that consistently outperform their actual talent level. These programs often compete with the elite programs every year, despite not having elite talent. 

These are the programs that excel. And they all have one thing in common. They have a vision, a goal, and a process for building culture, character, and leadership. These are programs where every single kid and coach knows the core values of the organization and what they stand for. They know the vision and everyone in the organization is focused on the mission. These are the organizations where the athletes are accountable to each other. In business, these are the companies that have high employee retention and repeat customers. These are the companies where people don't call in sick because they "want" to be at work.

The programs that Live It, Breath It, Love It have players who embrace being uncomfortable. They have team members who will not give up because they don't want to let down the man next to them. These are the teams where every practice and every workout is a joy to watch. There is purpose and passion displayed in every drill. There is coaching going on every single rep. There is a high level of accountability. If a mistake is made it is called out and corrected immediately. Coaches are coaching the details. Players are hustling. Everything is highly organized and fast paced. Players accept coaching for what it is, "a compliment to say I care enough about you to help you be your best."

Organizations that Live It, Breath It, and Love It have five things that set them apart. Those five things are:
1. Cleary Defined Vision
2. Visible Core Values
3. Defined Process In Place
4. They Coach Details
5. Clear Accountability

Clearly Defined Vision: I recently heard someone on a podcast say that a vision is simply your purpose put into words. I look at vision as a clear picture describing where you want your organization to go culturally. It doesn't have to be long or wordy. Your vision simply communicates what you stand for. Describe what it looks like. Where do we want to go? Then, reduce this to a sentence or catch phrase. 

Visible Core Values: Your core values shape your culture and lead you to the vision of your organization. What do you want to develop in your athletes? A great way to build core values is to start with your coaches. What three things mean the most to you? Then ask your players. What three things are most important to you with this program. We once asked our team, "if you could design are program from scratch, what words would come to mind? Man, that was powerful! That shaped our core values. We weren't smart enough to call them core values, at the time, but that is what they were. The kids came up with: Trust, Honesty, Work Ethic, Perseverance, Passion, and Accountable.

From there we had them describe each of them in detail. We came up with our own definition for each of those. What do they look like? All of a sudden, our kids had a vested interest in the development of the culture and direction of the program. What does Honesty look like in the weight room? In the classroom? At practice? During games? What does Passion look like? What about Accountability? What will it look like in the weight room? In the locker room? This took a couple of days. It was the best two day investment we made! We then designed signs for each core value. They weren't fancy, but they were ours. 

Bruce Brown, who leads Proactive Coaching, calls these core covenants. He does this because a covenant is much stronger than a value. A covenant is much harder to break. You have to crawl all over yourself to break a covenant.

The players live and breath the culture. They understand the purpose and vision of the organization. They live the core values of the organization. They hustle well regardless of circumstance. They accept coaching. They have been trained on how to handle adversity. 

Defined Process in Place: Having a vision and core values gives you a starting place. Now you have to build your process. Your process is the method you will use to develop your core values. You might start practice with a 5 minute exercise. You might might start practice with 3 minutes and end practice with 3 minutes. You might have 5 core values and focus on one each day. 

Your entire coaching staff must be on board and unified in the process. Every coach must be enthusiastic and passionate about the process. A great way to get buy-in from your coaches is to make them part of the process. Have each coach take turns delivering the message of the day. A great way to do this is to break your kids into small groups and give each coach a group. Rather than presenting to your whole team, meet in small groups to communicate the core value of the day. This requires having a unified coaching staff. You then can rotate your kids each day so they are with a different coach. The more coaches are involved with the process, the more buy-in they will have.

Each day you build a consistency into your routine and your kids come to look forward to this time. You control what you put into their system mentally each and every day. They get so much garbage and negative talk from social media, the TV, and their peers. For the 45 minutes or 60 minutes, or 90 minutes we get them each day we control the message. We can give them our core values each and every day before we start and when we finish. And while they are working we can reinforce the message. 

In our small groups you also need to spend time sharing and learning about each other. Building strong relationships will go a long way toward shaping your culture. It is much easier to care about someone you know than someone you don't know. You want your players to learn to unconditionally love each other, and this starts with coaches loving each other unconditionally. Meeting in small groups allows this to happen. You can build these small groups into your athletic period or practice time at any point. You can put them in the beginning, middle, end, or all three. You control time through your decisions. How will you decide to reinforce your core values? 

Coach The Details: When we set our core values we talk about standards of performance. When we set a standard we held our players accountable. This had to be more than lip service. We all, meaning everyone in our program, had to hold each other accountable to our standard. This is not easy. This requires confrontation. Confrontation doesn't have to be negative. It goes to your culture. What does your culture say about accountability? Prepare your players for how they will be confronted. Teach them an appropriate response. 

When we talk about details, we are talking about the smallest things that most people think don't matter. Remind your team you are not most people. You are special. You are elite. You have a vision. You live to certain values. When we stand at attention, we clearly define what attention is. We then coach the details. If their eyes are not straight ahead, they are coached on that. If their feet are not in the proper position, they get coached on this.

Why does this matter? First, your players will be more detail oriented in practice. If you allow deviation from details in March and April, expect deviation in September and October. You must coach the details every single minute of every day. This is the part about living it. If you have a standard that you are not going to hold your players to every day, get rid of the standard. Having a standard that is inconsistently enforced will weaken your credibility. It will confuse them, and they will begin choosing what standards matter and what standards don't. This is when many fail on developing culture and standards. They inconsistently enforce the standards. Elite programs coach the  details and the players accept the coaching. 

Clear Accountability: When you have well-defined standards of performance and you hold your players to the details, you will begin to build a tremendous culture. Accountability can be handled in many ways. The goal is for your players to meet and even exceed the standard. We must continually remind and reteach. We must make sure we give clear instructions. When they fail to meet the standard we must coach them. This requires some sort of reminder activity. What will it take to help this player meet our standard? That is the question you must ask when determining what accountability exercise that will be done. 

Here is the key: You can't do this one day and quit. Coaches often say, "doesn't this take time out of other things?" That depends how you look at it. Are you taking time from from something else, or are you investing in something vital to your program's success? We all have 168 hours in a week. What are we doing with our time to build the best product we can? I am firmly convinced that culture is the most important ingredient in building a championship program. You get to choose how you spend the time you have with your program or organization. You get to choose what you do with that time. You get to choose how much time you spend in the weight room, on the track, and on the field. 

As you read through each of these, evaluate your organization. Where are you doing well, and where might you be lacking? What is the culture of your team? How would your players define your culture?

Regardless of where you are, you must take an action step. If you don't have a vision, or core values, or a plan to teach character and leadership, the time is now. Bring your team together and talk about what you think a championship organization looks like. Build your vision and core values. Put together a plan to invest time to develop your core values.

If you don't know where to start, find someone who can help. It's okay to not know. It's not okay to not seek out how. Reach out to a coach who can help you build your culture. Reach out to people who can help.

If I can help you please let me know. I have worked with several schools over the years on areas of building culture, character, and leadership. I will be speaking at several clinics this year on Building Character and Culture with the R.E.A.L. Man Program. The R.E.A.L. Man Program is a tremendous resource for you to build character and improve your culture.

Reach me on Twitter @coachvint for more information. Or, you can shoot me an email at coachvint@gmail.com.

A great coach that could help you with building a culture is Randy Jackson at Grapevine High School in Grapevine, Texas. He is one of the best at building culture with his athletes. His teams consistently overachieve. Randy Jackson can be found on twitter @CoachJacksonTPW He wrote a great book called Culture Defeats Strategy. It can be found here: coachrandyjackson.com
Coach Jackson's book is awesome!

X's and O's, Tempo, and RPO's!

A few months back I published a couple of iBooks that can help your program with X's and O's. The first is on Installing RPO's into any offense. Here is a link to the iBooks version: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1078061959. The ibooks version includes explanations, diagrams, and video clips on multiple RPO Concepts. It will give you a simple process for implementing them into your offense.
If you don't have an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, you can order the Amazon version for the Kindle. It has everything except the embedded video. You can order it here: http://www.amazon.com/Installing-Explosive-Concepts-Into-Offense-ebook/dp/B01B12YSCG/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

I also wrote a book on Tempo. It will greatly help you build a multiple tempo system with simple communication that will allow your kids to play with confidence. It also had over an hour of video clips! You can order the ibooks version here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1075902270.


Order the Amazon Kindle version here:


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