Every season is different. Even the slightest change in players, schedule, unforeseen circumstances, can shift the trajectory of a team pretty dramatically. Without preparation and shared values, this shift can be even more dramatic. As you listen to great coaches, one common theme is their ability to create core values within the program. It is their consistency instilling these values that helps them avoid the huge momentum swings that come with sports.
I’ve tried over my five years to instill similar values. I’d love to write about how solid they are, how my team knows them by heart, how we live them out every day. But it just isn’t the case, yet. Yet is the critical word here, because I do think we’ve gained some of the stability and purpose that these values bring to a program. In the spirit of reflecting on our season, I’ll take each of our core values and evaluate whether we’ve met the standards. Of course, I’ll also be evaluating myself and how I can get better, because I know there is a lot of room for improvement here
Honestly, I used the Point Guard College’s acronym SCHAPES as a starting point. I made a few adjustments to fit our team and our program, and it mirrors an acronym we use at our school for our school’s core values. Plus I like the idea of space. In my opinion, great teams use space effectively. Offensively, we move to and attack open spaces. Defensively, we want to limit the space that is available to our opponent. Our acronym stands for:
Spirit – We expect our players to bring energy and positivity to everything they do. Great teams play with great energy, and know how to provide a boost to their teammates when things get tough. While we had our ups and downs this season, it felt like every time we were on the verge of losing our energy, we found a way to build each other up again. I would love to say we were always positive, but knowing high schoolers, it isn’t going to be the case. Except for one game, I felt like our energy levels were always there. Practice could have been much more consistent, and our players recognized this in our final meeting. Did we improve in this area? Over the season, yes, but we still need a big jump next year.
Precision – If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. We try to break things down into small parts and help our players do each element of the game well. Early in the season, we stick with precision, but somewhere around the middle we let it slip. As the season felt like it was getting away from us, we used the mantra, “Do less and obsess” to refocus our energy and get better, particularly on the defensive end. It paid off with big improvements. Next season, I’ve got to find a way to help us be more precise offensively and to keep it up throughout the season.
Approach – This is about responding in the face of adversity. Do we stay positive? Do we stay focused? Do we stop making excuses? This, like many things this season, was inconsistent. I was proud of our efforts on this front at times, and at others, we let adversity get the best of us. Yes, I should expect that coaching high school, but I also don’t want to accept it. Did we get better? Not sure. I think we learned what we need to do in the future, but until we apply it, I can’t say it was a big improvement.
Communication – I want our team to communicate ‘Early and Often.’ Whether it’s letting us know that they can’t get a ride to practice or calling out a screen, it should happen early and often. We have a number of players, most even, that do really well with this. Like most things, communication is contagious, which means it can swing quickly in the good or bad direction. Did we improve? Yes with defensive communication, not really with offensive, and definitely not with vocal leadership.
Enhance – Can you make the experience of your teammates better? This is really for our older players, but can be small things like a high five or handing someone a water bottle. It is the one that I’ve struggled with most and honestly might come off the list next season. (It starts with a vowel, however, which makes it important.) We just didn’t get there this season.
Stewardship – “Sweep the sheds.” My favorite quote from the book Legacy, about the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. Please read this if your a coach. It has lots of great mantras. We are stewards for each other and our school everywhere we go. I wish we cleaned up better after ourselves and I wish we took care of each other more consistently. Another one I’m having a hard time judging in terms of success or improvement.
At the end of this list, it would be almost impossible to argue that we succeeded by any of these standards. That, however, falls on me. Early in the season, I use these consistently, but I lose track of them amidst game plans and skill work. If these are really the core of our team, they have to remain that way all season, all year long. While it’s frustrating to note, it gives me motivation and inspiration for next year. I need to take a long hard look at these using the “Do less, then obsess” ideal. Do we need all 6? How can I simplify this so that I can hold myself accountable first? How can I simplify so that my players can keep them in their sites all season and they can hold each other accountable to these standards? Looking good, spelling a great word, sounding good are all useless if the values get lost along the way. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but that’s basically how I feel about our core values this season.
Measuring Coaching Success (Part 5): Team Goals [Coming Soon]