It comes naturally for coaches to think strategically about a specific game and how we can get the matchups we need in order to be successful. But what about thinking strategically about our programs? Where are we behind the times in terms of equipment, transportation, budgets? What type of recruits do we need to bring in to take our team a little higher during the next season? Where are we, as the coach, lacking the information/knowledge/skill to be at our best and how can we acquire it?
These questions and more should be part of every coach’s life at some point during the year.
5 ways to think strategically
Anticipate. For those of us who are nerdy about our profession, this is an easy one for us. Whether it’s chatting with coaching friends who can help us figure out what the next new thing in training will be or figuring out how to mask your team’s weaknesses with innovative techniques…anticipation is huge.
Think critically. To me, this means assessing your program. At the end of the season, we’ve got to question everything: our training, our recruiting strategy, our scheduling, our leadership. Then we’ve got to give ourselves an honest grade and decide whether things need to change or go in a different direction.
Decide. Perfection can never be the goal. If we refuse to make decisions until we’re one hundred percent sure and have heard from absolutely everyone involved, then we may never solve our team’s problem. Eventually we have to feel good enough about the information we have to step out and actually make a decision.
Align. I’m sure that most of us would say that our teams are not democracies, where everyone gets a say in how the program functions. I’m also sure that most of us understand that we still have to get our athlete’s and assistant coach’s input on certain issues. We’ve got to make sure we’ve created an atmosphere where we can approach our players and get an honest answer from them and where our assistants feel free to disagree with us.
Learn. I’ve talked before about personality assessments and how important they are when managing people. I think it’s essential to learn our player’s (as well as our own) personality types so that we know how to approach them for feedback. They are the folks who know what’s really going on behind the scenes, so we need their honest input as we’re putting together our list of things we need to put on the “strategic thinking” list.
How can we create space so that we have time to think strategically?
You may be thinking that this all sounds great, but who’s got time for all of this? I’d say that we all do, but we’ve got to be organized before we can step back and get strategic. Here are three things you’ll need:
A clear coaching philosophy. Strategic thinking can happen at any time during the season, but most likely it’ll be in the off-season. Knowing what we value as a coach (our coaching philosophies) will help guide us as we bat around difficult issues in our heads.
Strong leadership. Perhaps we’ve got great captains or involved assistant coaches, whichever it is, they’ll be crucial as we step into the bat cave for a bit to figure out what the next steps our programs take should be.
A connected coaching staff. For those of you blessed with full-time assistants…I’m jealous! My assistant coach is also a professor on campus. While he has another role, he is very connected with our players and often gets to see them in a light that I don’t. Beyond that, the players know that he genuinely cares about them and their welfare. Because of that, the burden of always being the person the players come to is lifted off of my shoulders…and I get to be strategic!
If we don’t take time to plan for the direction of our teams, I’m afraid we’ll be disappointed by where they end up.