By Dan Freigang, Sport Psychologist with the U.S. National Team
Mike Shanahan of the Denver Broncos and US soccer’s Tim Shultz have a lot in common. Shanahans organizational skills are a key to the Broncos success. Indeed, the Denver Bronco’s coach makes himself look psychic with his management of the team. Shanahan’s has won two superbowls and is considered to be one of the best minds in football. Shanahan often watches 70 game films every week to prepare for an opponent. That’s a lot of film but the theme of successful preparation emerges often when evaluating Shanahan philosophy.
Tim Shultz the mercurial coach of the Colorado Rush and Region 4 head coach is as passionate and powerful as coaches come. When you watch Tim coach you recognize his professional experience and energy transmitted to players immediately. Tim has been extremely successful and when you are around him you can feel and understand his commitment to the game. Players know intuitively that Tim walks the walk. Both Mike and Tim are similar in that players believe in them and buy into their approach to competitive excellence. How do you get players to believe in you as a coach and push their limits? The answer is; “You have to sell your mission”.
A great deal of motivation comes internally from players but a good portion is set up by the team climate of the coach. The coach has a organization style and team management style that is evident in every season and impacts upon every training session. Our daily coaching should dovetail into a larger motivational plan for the season. That’s a fun part of coaching. Coaches are responsible for setting the environment for players to learn, develop and experience success. When we look deeper at Shanahans success we see high expectations and daily attention to detail. For coaches we can learn an important lesson. Get organized and communicate . Answer these questions. What is my strength as a coach? , What does the team need? What is the motivational team climate? Great coaches know that players bring a joy and internal motivation to the game.
The Motivational Climate
As coaches we are responsible for cultivating the motivational climate for players to thrive. The motivational climate is set by the team, with individual goals, shared expectations, commitment to practice, and belief in the theme for the season. The motivational climate is where players live daily. If they understand and buy into the theme of the team then motivation and commitment is high. This is the double win. Players bring internal motivation and coaches utilize this internal motivation with clear team climate. Be careful in this situation because the reverse can also happen easily. Without a team commitment to a common goal, players will break away and express themselves in a destructive fashion. If there is not daily focus from individual players the team goal is merely an empty word and coach spends most of their time solving petty disputes and personal problems. Everyone loses here. Perhaps the first goal of the organized coach is defining a training philosophy. The philosophy we hear most often is a focus on winning a championship. This is not desirable in many teams.
You may be coaching six year olds who need fun, laughter and enjoyment of the soccer experience. The philosophy should reflect participation, movement and joy. A team of thirteen year olds should reflect skill development and self-esteem as goals. A national team usually reflects the highest standard of training and performance and in this instance winning is often the priority. As the coach you must define your own philosophy with the input of the team. No two teams are alike and a veteran coach will keep a open line of communication to create and refine the team climate. Parents can contribute in a healthy fashion if encouraged properly. Players as well should provide information on the team’s philosophy and direction.
What’s in a Name?
A built-in philosophy for the coach is the team name. If you are the Colorado Rush, you can build upon the Rush name with the characteristics for team philosophy. For example “The Rush Way” is the team goal to “outwork” opponents. Team motto’s can be the single mission that the coaches, players and parents can rally around. The “Rush Way” could reflect the themes of effort in every situation. The rituals of warm up and team cheer, posters in the locker rom, team talks, individual goal setting, t-shirts can reflect what ever your team believes in. This is how you build consistency in team climate and benefit from a superior motivational environment. You have seen this motivational climate created in the Ford Motor company “Job quality is Number 1” , and General Electric “We bring good things to life’ and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, can you name their philosophy…………………..? What about the U.S. Marines philosophy?
What is your organizational theme for the team? The US women’s national team uses the theme of “Number 1 every time” reflecting their desire to be the best in the world. You can use almost any theme which the team wants too achieve. Here are some other themes from various teams, “Top of the Mountain”, “Tougher and Stronger” “Anyone, Anyplace, Any time”, “Year of Living Red”, “The return to Rein” “Year of the Bear” “Stay Tight for Ourselves” “Test the Limits” “Together” “Stand As One”.
All of these themes contain volumes of expectations for the players on these teams. When players understand the team expectations your coaching skill begins to shine. You have experienced that incredible coaching moment when a player makes a breakthrough and they experience the joy of the beautiful game. Their eyes light up and a little bit of Eddie Pope and Mia Hamm begins to shine through. These progressions aren’t really haphazard, they are planned by the organized coach. Planning takes effort and is the difference between yelling in frustration, and experiencing the coachable moment. In quiet moments of truth we all know we have coached from the seat of our pants and coached poorly. Lets try to set the standard higher. Great coaching occurs when a player with desire is met with skillful coaching in an environment which allow both to grow. It’s the double win