Before all of our team practices, we’ll spend 10-15 minutes in a classroom setting where we will share life lessons and sport specific information of interest. Kids are instructed to take notes and jot down things that they find valuable. Below are some of the lessons we’ve shared in the past few weeks that you can take home and share with your teams.
Clemson Football - We Play the Toughest Schedule in America
Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney shared a really powerful quote the other day that I thought was a great message for any team and player. Facing criticism for Clemson’s strength of schedule, Swinney fired back saying, “We play the toughest schedule in America. Every week, we have to play against the standard of Clemson football.” Every time Clemson laces up their cleats, they are competing against the toughest opponent they’ll ever face: The standard for Clemson football. They just don’t do this against Alabama or Ohio State - this is the expectation for every single game and practice.
Their opponent does not determine the effort, intensity, or attitude they bring to the field. Everyone in that locker room knows what is expected of them to play to the standard of Clemson football. Wins and losses don’t determine whether they were able to do this or not. Rather, the scoreboard is a byproduct of a relentless effort to play to the standard they have created.
As a player or a coach, there are a few huge takeaways from this message. For one, you need to create a standard of excellence to hold yourself accountable to. Your standard should drive how you attack your training and how you compete in games. If you don’t have a standard to measure yourself again, your success will lie in the hands of the scoreboard. Wins can very easily stagnate progress by blinding you from unnoticed errors and losses can make you feel as if actual progress isn’t being made.
As a coach, this standard must be how you measure your team. There’s a reason why John Wooden didn’t think too much of scouting reports. He knew that if they played to the standard of UCLA basketball, they would be in good shape regardless of the opponent. Internal scouting is much more important than external scouting. Competing in games should be a great source of feedback for your teams, but preparing for a specific opponent should not consume your time. Create the standard, compete against the standard, and hold everyone accountable to the standard. As Bill Walsh says, “The scoreboard will take care of itself.”
Joe Burrow - The Universal Language
ESPN Reporter Marty Smith sat down with LSU Quarterback Joe Burrow prior to the team’s matchup with Alabama. In the interview, Marty asked about how Joe was able to transition from growing up in Athens, OH, spending 3 years at Ohio State, to ultimately transferring to LSU where he had to compete for the starting QB job. Joe responded by saying he believes the universal language is toughness and hard work. “If you’re a hard worker, people are going to respect you and that’s all I try to bring to the table,” said Burrow.
As a coach or player, you’re going to experience different environments where you have to learn how to manage the unfamiliar. If you work hard at what you do and show resilience when faced with adversity, people are going to notice. You are always making an impression and people are always evaluating you. If people see you as someone who’s willing to give it your all and get back up if it doesn’t work, you’re going to fit right in wherever you go. However, you can’t fake hard work or toughness. If you talk the talk but can’t walk the walk, people are going to see right through you.
Work your ass off and show resilience when faced with adversity. It will take you far.
Kobe Bryant - Curiosity
Kobe Bryant recently did a podcast with Alex Rodriguez and Dan Katz on The Corp. In the podcast, Alex asked what characteristics Kobe looks for (3:15) when bringing people in to his investment team. Kobe responded, “The most important thing is curiosity first. I want curious people that ask questions, figure things out, and want to figure out new ways to do things.”
One of the most valuable qualities you can build into young athletes is curiosity that has no bounds. Having an inquisitive drive to figure things out and ask the right questions - just like Kobe said - is an invaluable asset in your development. As a player, you are ultimately trying to become your own best coach. Nobody can see the things you see or feel the things you feel. At the end of the day, you are going to have to figure out what makes the most sense for you. The best coaches are the ones who guide you towards this.
However, curiosity is not peppering people with vague questions that could have been answered using google.com. Curiosity is investigating a problem, researching it from several different angles, and using your research to come up with specific questions. Curiosity is finding the best in the world at the topic you seek and offering compensation to help you answer your questions. Curiosity is collaborating with others who share the same problems, learning from their mistakes, and asking for their advice. Curiosity is not demanding answers to vague questions that could have been answered using a 10 second google search. There is such a thing as a stupid question if you don’t do your homework.
Encourage your kids to become resourceful problem solvers. Commend them for asking great questions and give them as much information as you can - but don’t solve their problems for them. Foster curiosity by modeling it yourself. The best way to stop learning is to think you already know it.
The answers you seek are the right questions away. Curiosity will help you find those questions.