As a coach, you’re constantly trying to lead your team as far as you can each season. This is true regardless of your resources or talent.
However, some coaches are blessed to be a part of programs that have high-performing individuals. High performing teams usually have individuals that are more talented than most, but as coach, your role is to get the most out of them.
In high-performing programs, coaches get the most out of their athletes by…
- Encouraging ownership
- Staying alert and aware
- Pursuing a standard of excellence
- Creating a competitive atmosphere
- Respecting the past
- Establishing a legacy
Coaching is about taking an athlete from where they are, to where they need to be. Coaching is about maximizing strengths, minimizing weaknesses, and inspiring people to be the best they’re capable of becoming. None of these change based upon the ability level of your team.
However, there are a few things that should be prioritized when you coach a high-performing team.
The more you tell your athletes what to do or how to do it, the more likely they are to either tune you out or become unmotivated. This doesn’t mean you let them do whatever they want — there are times that guidance is needed.
You shouldn’t just want your athletes to buy-in. You should strive to have them invested in the process. You want them to have ownership in what’s going on. Remember, you’re not dealing with mediocre athletes or individuals lacking motivation. Your athletes don’t need as much poking, prodding, or baby-sitting, so to speak.
You want to avoid dominating the program. Your athletes shouldn’t constantly think in terms of “coach’s program”, “coach’s plays”, “coach’s workout”, “coach’s decision”, etc.
The more they have a say in what goes on in the program, the more likely they are to do what’s right on a daily basis and stay motivated because it’s their program – not just coach’s.
STAYING ALERT AND AWARE
As the coach of a high-performing team, don’t assume. Even though you’re dealing with athletes who might be more self-motivated or talented than others, this doesn’t mean they’ll always do what needs to be done. They’re human.
Coaches of high-performing teams don’t need to micromanage, but should stay alert and aware. You must fight daily for the culture that’s been built. You don’t need to constantly have a hands-on approach, but you do need to have your finger on the pulse of your program’s environment. It’s a fine line.
Pay attention to what’s going on. Don’t just assume that since they’ve done things in the past, they’ll continue to do those same things.
PURSUING A STANDARD OF EXCELLENCE
Perfection is not attainable, but excellence is. Achieving superior results is usually a by-product of accumulating regular small wins. The way your team does anything is the way they do everything. The daily habits they have will lead to the desired outcomes.
Because they’re talented, self-motivated, and surrounded by like-minded teammates, they can achieve great things on a daily basis. A rising tide lifts all ships. Remind them daily that they are special and that special people can do special things. If you wanna substitute the word ‘elite’, go ahead.
CREATING A COMPETITIVE ATMOSPHERE
At times though, your high performers will need a little extra motivation. As you increase internal competition on a daily basis, they’ll strengthen the habits that give them an advantage in the arena.
One of the biggest problems with talented individuals is they have a tendency to become “light-switch” athletes. They feel they can turn it on and off. They become “popcorn” athletes. When the popcorn is popping at the concession stand, they will be ready to go. But more times than not, athletes will not perform to the level of their habits, not the situation.
You should look to put a competitive spin on as much as possible. Who arrives earliest to training sessions? Who beat the coach on the elliptical machine? Who improved the most in a certain area? Who scored the most points in a certain drill? The more you can make little things competitive, the more your athletes will develop habits that reinforce their high performing capabilities..
RESPECT THE PAST
Your program has a tradition of success. You’ve accomplished great things. Don’t ignore the past. Respect, celebrate, honor, and use the past.
Past successes don’t necessarily guarantee future results, but you can remind your current athletes what it took to create the successes they see today.
You can show them the blueprint and provide them the road map for how to experience similar outcomes. You could even bring in former athletes to speak with your team, set up individual meetings with alums, or develop a mentoring program if the culture is ready for that.
ESTABLISHING A LEGACY
It’s not just enough for your athletes to be more talented than someone else. You can help them understand they can be part of something bigger than themselves. They can be more than just talented individuals. They can be significant. They can have a lasting legacy.
There are plenty of teams that have talented individuals that underachieve year after year. Those team members normally make it about themselves. However, great teams have great teammates. Talented individuals who are also great teammates make for legendary teams. High performing teams go to another level when they understand it is more about the “we” than it is the “me”. They become unstoppable because each individual is willing to do what is best for the group.
This is a goal for all teams and all coaches, but some teams aren’t good enough and don’t have enough team members able to step up when needed. When you have a bunch of talented individuals that trusts each other and realizes they can do more together than they can alone, that is when you establish a legendary team.
YOU’RE A FORCE MULTIPLIER
Coaching a team with a great deal of talent and being part of a high performing program is different from coaching a team with mediocre talent or being in a rebuilding situation. However, great talent doesn’t automatically lead to a great team.
As the coach, it’s your responsibility to bring your team members together and maximize the potential of the team. You’re the force multiplier. You take the individual talents and bring them together into one powerful unit. You take a force and make it an even stronger force.
You’re the one that will put a plan in place. This doesn’t mean you’ll get the credit or praise, but it does mean that you’ll do what great leaders do — maximize their potential.
Jamy Bechler is the author of four books including The Captain and The Bus Trip. He is also the host of the Success is a Choice Podcast, a professional speaker, and trains organizations on creating championship cultures. Bechler spent 20 years as a college basketball coach and administrator and now works with high-level businesses and teams, including the NBA. He started TheLeadershipPlaybook.com membership community and resource center to help athletes become better teammates and more positive leaders while strengthening the culture of teams and athletic departments. Follow him on twitter at @CoachBechler or contact him at speaking@CoachBechler.com.