“It’s a compliment to demand excellence from somebody.”
—30 Second Approach to Decision-Making
I’m sure everyone knows the Aristotle quotation, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” It’s perfect to use in the coaching profession and should be an accurate description of what our practices look like.
I would even hazard a guess that our athletes know and love this quote. But knowing it and loving it are separate issues from living in daily on our fields and courts! Truly embracing that quotation means signing up for getting their butts figuratively kicked by a coach. It means leaving their comfort zone and stretching to become the best player possible. Inevitably, there will be times when our athletes fall short. What to do then?
Demand the excellence we seek! The opening quotation is from a NY Times Magazine interview with the president of a compliance company. She (Shanti Atkins) outlined how she handles the achievement gap: the difference between where we are and where we want to be…perfect for us coaches!
Demanding excellence: The coach’s role
- Set a high standard. First off, Atkins says we’ve got to make sure that our teams see that we’ll apply the same standards to ourselves. We’ve got to demand excellence from ourselves and our staff first and foremost.
- Celebrate successes. Secondly, we’ve got to brag on ourselves. Whether it’s a great recruit or designing a great practice, we’ve got to make sure we keep our teams included.
- Acknowledge where you fell short. Finally, we have to make sure we keep it real with our players. If we don’t make the mark, there’s nothing wrong with telling them…there’s actually a lot right with it!
Demanding excellence: The player’s role
- Praise effort/skill. “Look, I think you’re a good player.”
- Express your belief in their potential. “When I first saw you, I knew you’d be a great player and you haven’t disappointed. You’re not where you want to be yet, but by the end of your senior year, you’re going to be a rock star!”
- Refocus their individual goals. “You’ve got to do these things (come in for extra practice, watch more film, get stronger in the weight room, etc.) to have your fairy tale ending. I think you can work harder than you have been, so let’s come up with a plan to get you where you want to be.”
I would assume this is just the beginning of the “demanding excellence” idea. If all we do is chat, but never put it into action in the gym, we won’t get the results we’re looking for.
Demanding excellence is a compliment, let’s not forget to do it with our teams.