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  16-Apr-2021      By Travis Geopfert

Lessons Taught By Successful Coaches That Create Successful Athletes.

  1. Gravitate Towards Excellence, Not Mediocrity: We all make hundreds of decisions that lead us either to excellence or mediocrity every single day. You decide to either make yourself better or you don't, there is no in between! Don't want to eat a healthy breakfast.... hello mediocrity.  Don't want to get 8-9 hours asleep...... says I want to be average.  Don't want to work hard in the classroom......screams I'm not disciplined enough to really reach my potential.  Great coaches teach that it's not about comparing yourself to others, but rather giving athletes the knowledge that it's about being the BEST possible version of themselves.  These decisions are both big and small both on and off the track/field/court/etc. There are certainly different approaches and styles, but successful coaches find a way to teach their athletes the importance of good decision making.  As an athlete, if you're lacking in one area of your life (i.e. socially, academically, etc.), then eventually it's going to pull down the athletic part of your life.  Success breeds success and every great coach knows that! 
  1. Athletes Desperately Crave Structure: Coaches should design a program where the athletes know what is expected of them because athletes want to have a plan and a leader that will help them implement that plan. It's the coaches job to "think" and it is the athletes job to "do".  Yes, good coaches will listen to their athletes and take what they are saying into consideration, but at the end of the day, it's the coaches job to decipher all the information they have and create the road map to success. Sometimes there are detours on that road, but the coach of a successful program will navigate those detours while keeping the end goal in mind.  
  1. Create a Culture of Pride in the Program: Coaches teach that being part of OUR program is something to be proud of.  Successful coaches instill school spirit and a sense ownership and pride in where you are from. Whether the athletes fully realize it or not, human nature teaches us that it's fun and fulfilling to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  Success breeds success and winning programs have a group of individuals that are proud of the jersey they have on and want to represent their TEAM well.  Even in an individual sport like track and field being part of a proud team can elevate performances across the board.  
  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes:  Just make sure they are aggressive mistakes..... Aggressive mistakes are much easier pills to swallow than being afraid to even try. Successful coaches "play to win," they don't play "not to lose". There is a distinct difference.  Successful and confident coaches will assess situations and make decisions that will give their athletes the best possible opportunity for success.  When a successful coach makes a difficult decision, they often have that thing in the back of their head that tells them "play to win."  They fully understand it's much easier to try and fail than to never try at all. 
  1. Get Your Athletes to Believe in You as a Coach and The Program: No athlete will play their heart out for a coach that they don’t respect, and do not mistake this for thinking you automatically are given respect.  Respect isn’t given, it is earned, even as a coach.  Successful coaches innately earn their athletes respect every single day.  The adage of "they don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." There are certainly different styles to this, but all athletes of successful coaches know that their coach cares about them as an individual.  This can sometimes be "tough love" and that's fine. But when athletes buy in to the coach and program great things can happen.  
  1. There are Participants and There are Competitors:  As a coach, what you are teaching your athletes to be? Create competitive practice situations that gravitate toward excellence and teach your athletes to compete.  Competitors TRY!  They don't always win, but they TRY to win. Participants are just happy to be there.  It is ok to fail, but it is not ok, not to try. When you put time and effort into something, the outcome or result needs to be important to you.  Successful coaches keep it all in perspective, and they find ways to teach that competition is healthy. 
  1. Let the Athletes Know That You Care:  Slap a high five and show your enthusiasm for their great efforts.  Take the time to give individual praise. Talk to them if they are not doing well, there is usually a reason why.  50% of coaching is scientific (knowing the X's and O's), and 50% is artistic which is where communication comes into play.  Successful coaches find a way to communicate effectively on multiple levels.  It doesn't matter how much you know as a coach unless you can successfully get your message across to the team or individuals. Successful programs often have coaches in which their best strength is their ability to communicate. 
  1. Hold Your Athletes Accountable:  When they are not getting it done in the classroom or in athletics, tell them constructively why.  Whether they know it or not, young people want to know what is expected of them.  Student-athletes don't know what they don't know!  Successful coaches communicate their knowledge and experiences to help young people learn.  Some will learn quicker than others, but successful coaches find a way to teach them or help them learn for themselves through appropriate CONSEQUENCES.  
  1. Ask Yourself, Are You Really Doing All You Can as a Coach:  What can you do better?  Is there more you can learn?  Can you communicate better? Young coaches often think they know their "stuff" extremely well.  Ask a young coach on a scale of 1-10 how much they think they know about their respective sport and "coaching".  Most young coaches will give an answer of an 8 or above.  Ask a veteran coach the same question and it's usually a 5 or below.  Successful coaches fully understand there is always more knowledge out there that can make them better.  Being a successful coach is a continual process that is never ending.  Great coaches love the journey and enjoy the ride! 
  1. Focus on the Process... Create Greatness Today:  There is no such thing as luck.  Neither great individual performances, nor team titles come from luck. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.  If you sit around and wait to get lucky, well then….. good luck.    Successful programs make it happen.  Success builds upon itself day after day, month after month, year after year by focusing on the process and preparing daily.  Sometimes things can feel overwhelming, but successful coaches focus on the process and let the results take care of themselves.  Whether you win or lose when you truly focus on the process, then and only then, have you done all you can do as a coach, as an athlete, and as a team. Learn from it and be better moving forward. Athletics is about the journey and a relentless pursuit of excellence in that journey.  Whether you win or lose, the sun will come up tomorrow.      
  1. Oh, By the Way…  Be an Over-Achiever:  Set big goals and teach everyone around you to chase them. 

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