When I was a young NCAA Division I head coach, I thought I knew how build a successful program and successful athletes. I worked hard, built bridges, burned others and generally moved forward with the vigor that we all do with youth. (“Youth is wasted on the young,” they say.) Unfortunately, much of what I was doing was not founded upon a solid why- why I was doing what I was doing. Luckily I had good mentors who knew why and guided my how. Still, I worked more inefficently and ineffectively than I would have if I were coaching full-time today, now that I have a more solid foundation of why that comes with experience and perspective.
When you know how to do something, you can move from point A to point B to point C until a task is complete. The problem is, most of the time you cannot move from A to B to C because of a myriad of issues that can derail a task. Sometimes a major derailment can cause you to ask deep and profound questions of why- Why did the athlete do that? Why did more people not show up? Why am I doing this?
If you spend time both exploring your soul as well as learning about other people to understand the why, then the how becomes more clear. The how may take you more steps, it may take you a different route, and it will often lead to a different result than if it had not been based on a concrete why. For sports coaches, this could be an injury to a key athlete, a decision from an athletic administrator, or the weather.
This is why success is a challenge. Successful coaches understand why and, because of this, can figure out how, even when the how is not apparent.
When the BP oil spill disaster struck, the “why” in why the spill needed to stop was evident. The how could only be achieved if the why were understood.
When Google understood why internet search was going to be such an important part of our lives, only then could they discover how to make a business out of it.
When you know why your athletic director makes the decisions that she makes, only then an you know how to best position yourself for favorable decisions.
When J Robinson understood why getting more fans was so important to his University of Minnesota wrestling team, he easily figured out how to get them in the door (setting NCAA attendance records). This mentality also led to three NCAA Division I team titles.
How do you implement this practically in your athletic program? Search your soul for the answers to these questions:
Why do you coach? Understand this and you will better know how to be the best coach that you can be.
Why do your athletes come out for, and remain on, the team? Understand this and you will better know how to motivate them.
Why are your fans the most important asset to your team? Understand this and you will figure out how to reach them and leverage them to help you attain your goals.
Learn more about why positive coaching is good business and how you can use it to help you reach your goals . Join me, Jim Harshaw, as I talk with David Jacobson of Positive Coaching Alliance for a free webinar “Why Positive Coaching is Good Business: How to Benefit from Building a Positive Team Culture” on Wednesday, May 4th at 9 PM ET (6 PM PT). Space is limited. Register now!
*I have to credit Binghampton University volleyball coach Glenn Kiriyama for sharing this quote with a group of us recently. He credited a coaching colleague of his with sharing this bit of wisdom with him.