I recently began my fall meetings with a college soccer team. Prior to the first session with the team, I met with the head coach and assistant coach to discuss our game plan for the fall season. As always, we discussed our philosophy and the direction we want to go with the team, as it will be a combination of upper and lower classmen. I usually like to begin our first session with a discussion of the team’s goals, strengths, weaknesses, fears and distractions. In this discussion, we go around the locker room and the players express what they think should go into each list. We then compile them and give them to all of the team members. In my meeting with the coaches, both of whom I have known for years, the assistant coach brought up an interesting point. He said that he wanted me to make sure we focused a lot of our discussion on the goals, on the non-materialistic goals.
He stated that he has found these to be the most beneficial and perhaps also the most important. Both the head coach and I agreed.
Over the years, I have had the privilege to have worked with teams at all levels of competition, from youth sports to the Olympic and professional level. One of my favorite team sessions has always been the one where the athletes compile these lists. It is always fascinating to listen to what they share and why they have come up with their responses. One of the first times I did this was with a professional soccer team. When they listed their goals, the first goal that was mentioned was to go “undefeated”. Ironically, this seems to be the first goal I hear every time I do this exercise with a team. Usually, after this, are statements like win a championship, win the conference, have a winning record at home, stay injury free, have a higher percentage of success (whether that be goals scored, points scored, batting average, etc) than the opponents. It usually takes some prodding on my part before they start to mention things like have a positive attitude, stay confident, trust each other and have fun.
These lists have almost always come in this order, no matter what level of competition, or whether it is a team of males or females. The first things listed are always the materialistic goals, things that we can measure. Either you accomplish them or you don’t based on results. Sports is so much about results that I believe we often miss the boat about how to get there. I have mentioned numerous times in these newsletters about the importance of “the process” to get the results. For 27 years, I worked with the Kansas City Blazer club swim team under the direction of head coach Pete Malone. He always emphasized the importance of “the process”. Pete coached numerous Olympic gold medalists and hundreds of swimmers who went on to swim in college, including my youngest son. His philosophy was to commit to excellence, with a focus on self-improvement. All of his swimmers wanted to swim specific times and beat certain competitors, but the focus was on “the how” not on the results. The successes he had over the years validated this to me as well as the hundreds of swimmers he coached.
As you begin your fall season of sports, no matter what level, think about your goals and make a list of them. In this list, ask yourself which goals are materialistic and which are non-materialistic. I like to emphasize that the materialistic goals are results, but the non-materialistic goals are the backbones to get these results. You can’t measure non-materialistic goals. Being a better communicator, staying more focused, being totally committed are things we can’t quantify, but if we do them, we give ourselves a much greater chance to win that championship or have a winning record. As a coach, ask your athletes to make these lists and discuss why and how the non-materialistic goals in the end, will be the foundation that can lead to the materialistic goals being accomplished.