Well rounded student athletes are set up for success in life.

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     Zig Ziglar might be the most well known motivator and success coach of all time.  Much of his coaching revolves around goal setting , and he suggests that we set goals in many different areas of our lives.  Not just a single facet of our existence.  Ziglar refers to this as the Wheel of Life.  The wheel consists of seven spokes, each of which must receive some of our attention if we are to be well-rounded.  These areas of focus are our personal goals, physical goals, family goals, mental goals, financial goals, spiritual goals, and career goals.  If we neglect any of these areas of our lives, we end up with what Ziglar calls a flat tire.  You might be thinking that that is all well and good for adults, but kids don’t have to worry about all of those things.  While that assessment may be somewhat true – kids don’t have a career for example, I contend that young athletes definitely have many areas of their lives that need attention, and they need to commit a certain level of effort to goal setting in all of those areas in order to mature into well-rounded adults.  Some areas of their lives are already fairly strong, and will not require as much effort, but young people should still have goals for improvement in those areas.  The areas that young people, and especially those busy student-athletes should be setting goals in and focusing their effort in are  listed in more detail below.
  • Personal – What do you want other people to say about you when you’re not around?
    • This defines your character.  Will your classmates and teammates recognize your hard work and your willingness to put the success of the group ahead of your personal glory?  Do you treat others fairly?  Are you a good friend?  What steps can you take to improve in these areas?
  • Physical/Sports – Are you putting forth as much effort as you can?
    • It’s okay if others are faster, stronger, or more talented than you, but don’t ever let them out-hustle you.  You may never be the fastest kid on the team, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work on getting faster than you are now. Other kids may have better ball control than you, but use that as motivation to practice and not as a limit to what you are capable of.  Activity makes up so much ground in a contest that it will almost always win out over raw talent or innate ability.  As long as you are putting forth effort to improve, the increased activity will eventually translate into success.
  • Family – Do you treat your family members with respect?
    • Take an extra minute each morning to tell your parents about your day.  Let them know you appreciate the daily things they do for you.  Help them set the table for dinner or clean up after the meal.  Do whatever is necessary to avoid fighting with your siblings.  This will improve your relationship with them as well as taking some stress off your parents’ shoulders.  Something as simple as saying please and thank you can greatly improve your day.  When we express gratitude for the good things in our lives, more good things will come our way.
  • Mental – Is your mind right?
    • The things we think about the most tend to manifest themselves in our lives. If you constantly think about your potential and what it will take to reach it, your mind will start to take the steps to make your potential into your reality. On the other hand, if you constantly tell yourself that you’re not good enough or that you don’t have what it takes to succeed, very soon you will stop trying to achieve greatness and you will settle for average. Don’t settle for average.
  • Financial – Money comes from work.
    • This is a good lesson in finances, but also a great metaphor for life.  Good results follow hard work.  Things will not be handed to you, and not everyone gets a trophy.  Those who put forth the effort and delay personal gratification will eventually find prosperity and  success in many areas of their lives. Certainly, pre-teens don’t have many financial concerns, but they can definitely do some chores around the house to earn a little pocket money for things like bubble gum and baseball cards.  Older students will eventually want to have a car or to buy more expensive things.  They also will have more opportunities to spend money, and if we don’t teach them how to earn, we will be doing them a major disservice before we turn them loose on the world after they complete their education.
  • Spiritual – We live in a universe that works most efficiently when we understand our inter-connectivity.
    • The most important aspect of this area of our lives is to realize that we are not on an island.  We are part of a much larger puzzle.  How we act, how we talk, how we think, and how we present ourselves may seem like small insignificant things, but each of those activities has impacts on those around us and the world we live in.  It is vital that we disconnect ourselves from the physical world periodically in order that we can reconnect with the spiritual world.  Many people do this through their religion, but for those who do not practice a particular religion, simple meditation can be a great way to reset our spirit.  This practice can also have major impacts on the rest of our lives because it gives us the time and space to reflect on ways to improve the other areas of focus.
  • School – For student athletes, going to school IS THEIR JOB
    • Studying and making good grades is the students equivalent of going to work everyday.  The hours are similar to what their parents are doing each day.  Frequently it is not their favorite activity.  They wish they could get out and start doing the things they WANT to do instead of what they HAVE to do, just like most adults feel regarding their job.  At the same time, it is the foundation that makes so many other things in life possible.  Most young athletes start playing sports with other students from their school.  This allows them to learn about teamwork while working with familiar faces.  Want to play high school soccer?  You have to go to high school, and you have to maintain good grades to remain on the team.  Interested in playing college basketball?  The study habits you develop early in life will enable you to first get to the college of your choice, then provide you the time management skills necessary to achieve your dreams.
     Take a little time today to think about each of these areas of your life.  In what areas are you currently strong?  Where could you put forth a little more effort?  What will it take for you to be the best person you can be?  Set some goals and get to work becoming the person we all know you can be.
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No Excuses, No Regrets

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     No Excuses, No Regrets.  These two statements were originally intended to be a mission/vision for the upcoming season of one of the soccer teams I coach.  However, the more I thought about what it meant and how we would talk about and implement the philosophy, it became clear to me that it should be a way of life both on and off the field.  It should apply to everyone, not just athletes. And if I wanted my team to embrace it, I needed to do a better job of living it myself.
     Life is about moving forward.  We hear a lot about intentional living, personal accountability, setting ambitious goals, and making decisions that help us progress toward those goals.  That sounds easy, but there are so many emotions that get in our way simply because we are human.  Everyone deals with them, and some are easier to work through than others.  Two of the most damaging emotions we experience are fear and regret. When we are afraid of something, human nature causes us to come up with reasons we shouldn’t do the things we fear.  We start to make excuses.  While fear is a very real feeling, it is frequently based on something that is so unlikely as to be nearly impossible. Statistics tell us that over 60% of the things people fear never actually happen. Fear of the dark, for example, is a very real fear that over 10% of the US population experiences. Really, this is a fear of the unknown, and when we don’t know what lies ahead, our imaginations start to populate that unknown territory with worst-case scenarios and imaginary monsters.
     Regret is almost like the opposite of fear.  Fear occurs BEFORE something happens and is based on potential negative outcomes resulting from participating in the thing we were afraid of.  Regret on the other hand is experienced AFTER an event has occurred and is often based on the realization that our fear was unfounded.  Those monsters in the dark, we know weren’t real, and there was no reason for us to have feared them, and perhaps we should have taken that next step we were so afraid of.
     Both excuses and regret have impacts on our future, and that might be the most important thing to remember.  Every time we make an excuse for not achieving the result we hoped for, it becomes easier to give up on future endeavors because we can always place the blame outside ourselves.  If we take personal accountability for our actions, and more importantly our results, we strengthen our resolve for the next opportunity that presents itself.  When we experience regret, it can be very demotivating as well.  It can lead to feelings of failure which can make us less willing to attempt things down the road.  We have to be diligent in keeping excuses and regret out of our minds.  We must take accountability for our actions and the results of those actions.  We must give everything we do 100 percent of our effort and “leave it all on the field” so that we don’t came away with that sinking feeling that we should have done more or tried something different.  When we give 100 percent effort to life and own the results, we are truly moving forward, and that momentum will take us to great places.
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Coach Wooden’s 10 Team Tips

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Coach John Wooden , who cemented his legacy on the sidelines of the UCLA Men’s Basketball program, is widely recognized as one of the greatest coaches of all time.  I am currently rereading his book The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership, and came across this list of tips that he reinforced with his staff and his players.  These tips have bearing to everyone who competes at any level, as well as for us in our daily lives as players, coaches, and parents.

  1. Be thinking at all times
  2. If you do your best, never lose your temper, and never be out-fought or out hustled, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
  3. Without faith and courage, you are lost.
  4. Have respect for, without fear of, every opponent, and confidence without cockiness in regard to yourself.
  5. Never be a spectator. Be in the fight at all times.
  6. Unselfish team play and team spirit are two of the foremost essentials for our success.
  7. We have tough battles ahead. Enjoy the thrill of being in a hard fight.
  8. Never stoop to playing dirty – Play hard and don’t complain.
  9. Be sure you acknowledge and give credit to a teammate who hits you with a scoring pass or for any fine play he may make.
  10. Be a competitor. When the going gets tough, really get going.

Coach Wooden provides a lot more detail on each of these and expands them into his Success Pyramid that he developed and taught, primarily through example, to his players throughout his career. I will spend more time on each of these points in future posts, but hopefully this introduction gives you a good overview of what I believe to be possibly the finest coaching philosophy ever documented.  If you work to implement these ten tips into your practices, games, and lives you will be well on your way to success.

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No two players are the same

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Years ago I was listening to an interview with legendary football coach Tony Dungy on the topic of leadership.  Something he said in that conversation really stuck with me.  He shared with listeners a little nugget of wisdom that had been shared with him when he was a young coach.  He said a coach’s only job is to help his players play better.  His role did not require him to show how great he was by having the fanciest playbook.  It didn’t mean he had to display wild swings of emotion on the sidelines during games.  Certainly it didn’t mean he had to treat all of his players the same.  In fact, quite the opposite was true.  In order to help each player be the best they could be, it is the coach’s responsibility to know enough about and care enough about each player on the team and have the ability to adapt their coaching style to the needs of the players in any situation to motivate those players toward the shared goals of the team.

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Getting Started

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The smile on this kid’s face says it all.  Sports should be fun.  Most of the time it starts out that way, but all too often it becomes one more thing on a seemingly endless list of things they HAVE to do.  I think we can bring back the fun and teach our kids some valuable lessons at the same time. Things like integrity, commitment, teamwork, trust, focus, determination, daring, sportsmanship, and humility will serve young athletes well both on the field and off.  My goal with this blog is to share my thoughts with the world and help our children have fun while developing the skills that will help them thrive as players and in life.  Thanks for joining me.

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