Friday, April 24, 2015

Coaching Realism

We have a new coach on campus at SMU and he is a winner.  His name is Chad Morris and he took over the football program in 2015.  I like his style!

Coach Chad Morris

One of the things he told his team and continues to tell them is, "I'm in the truth business."  How right he is, but how unique for kids these days.  If his players have a growth mindset, they will flourish.  If his players are soft or believe their talent will carry them, they will fail.  Failure within his system will only mean immediate failure for guys who don't work or who can't take criticism, but Coach Morris is teaching long-term success and not only for football, but for life.

All of us in coaching strive to lead.  We work to model good behavior, strong character and growth mindsets.  In turn, we demand it from our players.  That is the foundation of any good coach and team.  From that base, we build our programs through teaching skills, strategy and competitiveness.  We top off our program with the same things that form the foundation, good behavior, gratitude, kindness, communication and work ethic.  The coach is the architect of the building, but he or she needs a lot of help.  Other coaches and captains are the contractors.  They make sure that each day, progress is made and that the progress fits the plan of the program.

Where do you come in as a player?  You have to see yourself as an active participant who has the same goals and vision as the coach.  You have to make sure that your actions and attitude reflect your character.  You have to have a growth mindset that allows you to accept criticism and work to better yourself.  You have to build on your skills, strategies and challenge your competitiveness daily.  You have to remember that your actions need to reflect your foundation and show gratitude, kindness and an open mind as you approach each day and each person you come across.  You need to have a strong work ethic and communicate your desires, problems and joys with your coaches and teammates.  If you take this active role in the building of your program, you are actively participating in the legacy of it and will leave it better than you found it.  The best feeling in the world is to be a part of something bigger and better than you can be individually and embrace those who stand beside you.

All of this sounds very logical when you read it, but it is rare to find all of these qualities among any team.  What is more typical?  A coach like Chad Morris tells you the truth.  Let's say he tells you that you aren't working hard enough to be a great lineman or that your footwork is poor and will keep you out of the starting position that you held last year.  His communication to you is a gift.  He is actively telling you exactly what you need to change, adjust and grow to be better.  Yet, in today's world of handing all a trophy and smiling at effort for effort's sake, you might not understand his gift.  Instead, you might think he is "on you all the time" or "negative" or "doesn't appreciate you" or "is calling you out" or "is mean" or "that's his opinion".  In other words, instead of listening and considering the message as a gift, you simply feel wounded by it and use an excuse to dismiss it.

Other common problems are players who don't communicate or communicate in negative ways, such as complaining, giving excuses, talking back, talking behind people's back, publicly dismissing the coach's words, or seeing the negative in any and all situations.  The simple act of complaining by one person on a team can take the team's focus away from their gratitude and their goals.  If anyone lacks the qualities that top a program off, such as open mindedness or kindness, the program itself also lacks these, because these are the face of the program.  If you are a member of a team, you are also individually responsible for the building of your team's character, skill set and attitude, just as each worker on a building site is responsible for the strength, safety and appearance of what they are building.

Now that we know each and every person on the team has equal importance, let's go back and think of Coach Morris' statement of being in the business of truth telling.  Good coaching is truth telling.   Imagine the two paths you can take when given the gift of coaching and criticism.  Perhaps your golf coach tells you that your short game needs work.  You can react by being defensive and pointing out the great up and down you had the day before or you can ask if your coach will meet you 30 minutes before practice tomorrow to get started on improving it.  If you choose the first path, how many more times will your coach bother to tell you the truth?  As an athlete, you will have choices such as these constantly and how you choose will define you.  You can take criticism as an opportunity for growth or use it to further limit yourself.  Every All American I've coached searched for the truth, asked for more help and outworked everyone around them.  Great players are sponges for the truth and often have to limit themselves to hearing it from only a chosen few.  To mature as a person and an athlete, you need to consider what you are told, weigh it against what you believe and work to become better.  It is a constant cycle that never ends if you want to continue to grow and improve.

There is always someone who wants to hear the truth, understand it, work on it, master it and then find a new truth.  If it isn't you, it will soon be another athlete.  Truly competitive athletes who strive to be great know that the real truth comes in wins and losses, low scores and daily steps toward improvement.  Learning to hear the truth and take it to heart is a step in maturing.  Maturity means a lot of things.  It means that your destiny is no longer your parent's responsibility.  It means that you will get what you give and learning to give more than you thought you could might be the new standard.  It means you wake up and understand that your talent is only a small part of the equation and not the most important part.  Maturity has little to do with age, but success has a lot to do with maturity.  To become a program builder, you will need to make mature decisions.

The finishing touches of the program your coach visualizes will be shown through your gratitude, your ability to communicate, your daily work ethic and your openness to your teammates and coaches needs and wants.  I'm not sure how long it will take before our football program wins more games than it loses, but I do know that our new architect, Coach Morris, sees the future and has the contractors in place.  Now he needs the builders, the craftsmen, the day laborers, the finishers and the clean up crew to come in and get the work done.  Everyone has a role in building a program.  Everyone needs to hear the truth and know what it will take to get the job done. Are you up to the task of building greatness and leaving behind a legacy?  Are you willing to embrace your needs and work to be the best you can be?  Those are the questions you need to ask yourself if you want to be a great football player, golfer, rower or any athlete who joins a team.

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