Summer Prep for Education-Based Athletics

Okay, ADs—it’s summer. We have time to take a deep breath and start planning for the upcoming school year. Think about the equation for change—Discontent + Vision + First steps > Resistance—and begin planning your own growth as a professional and how you’ll continue making room in the win-at-all-costs sports culture for purpose based athletic programming in your community.

To be a better AD, you have to be a better you

I recently read two books that I plan to use with my coaches in the next school year. The first book I read was called Legacy, What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About The Business Of Life, by James Kerr. The book is about the New Zealand rugby team called the All Blacks. They have developed a culture based on equality and humility. They call it the “Sweep the Shed” culture. This is the kind of culture I’d like to see happen across all programs at Prior Lake High School. I’d like to see our kids be grateful for the opportunity and experience by giving back. What if we left every venue we use for practice or games in better shape than we found it? How would it feel if we left a thank you card for our opponents? What would our custodians think if they showed up to clean a spotless locker room? How would our parents feel if their son or daughter thanked them daily for their constant support? Most importantly, what if this type of culture was athlete-led as it is for the All Blacks rugby team? Good teams are led by great coaches; great teams are led by exceptional athletes.  

I also read the Joshua Medcalf book, Pound the Stone, 7 Lessons to Develop Grit on your Way to Mastery. I plan to use several lessons from the book with our athletes throughout the year, like: Turn what ifs into even ifs; never lose, win or learn; failure is an event, not an identity. But the lesson I plan to pass on to coaches is letting go of the outcome. Trust and “fall in love with the process.” I believe this is the key to avoiding coach burnout and a commitment to defining success beyond the scoreboard.   

Be the best version of yourself and then help others do the same

A new year is often accompanied by new coaches, new athletes and new parents. I encourage you to really think about how you’ll address these stakeholders. What will be your common message? How will you deliver it?

Choose a theme to help prep coaches

I’m grateful my school district honors co-curricular programming by allowing me to meet with all coaches for two hours during our back-to-school workshop week. I am strategic about the message and the common language used at this meeting; this is my chance to remind coaches of our collective why and how we are going to define success as a program. I typically take the first hour to summarize our common language: Goal vs. purpose, transactional vs. transformational, purpose-based athletics, common purpose, and the four questions from Joe’s book. Each year I also try to come with a theme that I feel will address the shortcomings from the previous year.  

In 2015-16 I focused on the psychology of the sport. By working with Dr. Cindra Kampoff, we created a common language around mistakes (learn, burn and return) replacing ANT’s (Automatic Negative Thoughts) with positive affirmations and focusing on what we can control, APE (Attitude, Preparation and Effort).

In 2016-17 I shifted my focus to coaches capturing the heart of the athletes by moving down the transformational coaching continuum. I challenged our coaches to find value in all athletes and establish meaningful, long lasting connections. We used the Top 20 strategy called Four at the Door—name to name, hand to hand, eye to eye, and heart to heart—in an effort to purposefully connect with each athlete at every practice.  

In 2017-18 my professional development for coaches focused on the equation for change and creating a common purpose. We  came up with a theme of #PLone team. We agreed to no longer operate in isolation or in competition of each others programs. We are all on the same team. We all care about the success of each others program as much as we do our own program. We will share athletes and share in each others purpose and success.

What I’m doing this year

In 2018-19, I plan to focus on a theme of leading and modeling humility, service and love. The challenge for my coaches will be creating a “Sweep the Shed” culture within their program. This theme represents collective core values of love, appreciation, kindness, empathy and respect.   In addition, I am planning to do a deep dive into the InSideOut coach/athlete character lessons. The InSideOut Initiative has created 12 weekly lessons for coaches to use during the season. Each lesson is 15 to 30 minutes and can be implemented at any time during the practice week. Topics include character, trust, purpose, empathy, integrity, respect, team without walls, three realities of great team and doing the right thing. I believe if we can fall in love with the process; model humility, service and love; and be purposeful about using our platform for teaching life lessons—our coaches will have an amazing year with our athletes. This message will again be shared with each head coach just prior to the start of their season. At this meeting, I check in with the coach on their individual Transformational Purpose Statement and hear from them how they plan to ensure our kids will have fun, grow in the sport and become better school citizens.  

Prepping athletes and parents

All the work we do with coaches can quickly become undone if our parents and athletes aren’t on the same page. On the first day of each season, I gather all of our parents, athletes and coaches into the gym. I start with my Transformational Purpose Statement as a leader and then share each Transformational Purpose Statement of the head coaches who’ll be working with their sons and daughters. I go over all the same common language shared with coaches and define what success looks like in our programs. I define the difference between youth and club sport and education-based athletics. I share our collective purpose and definition of success. This message continues throughout the season in one-on-one conversations with parents, via email, through social media and each time I find myself speaking in front of a group of stakeholders. I do feel like a broken record at times, but in order to make room in our sports culture, we have to be consistent and redundant with our messaging.

The InSideOut Team has created tools to help you share common language with all different types of stakeholders. I encourage you to use these tools, but also to do the inside work yourself. Invest in our own professional development and think of ways to implement what you learn into your programs. Only you can define what is broken in your current culture and only you can find the solution. The answers are all out there—good luck!