Most businesses have a mission statement. Good mission statements are clear, concise sets of words (usually one sentence, maximum of two) that help focus and direct a company’s actions- what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. Coaches, leaders, and individual people can create their own mission statements to help guide who they want to become. I was challenged by an article I read online by Nick Sciria to reconnect with my mission and have decided to share it here. The question to answer is: What is your mission and what are the coinciding principles that you live by to help bring words on paper to life? I’m going to write primarily from a coach’s perspective, but the mission I subscribe to and its principles go hand in hand with my personal life as well. My mission as a coach is to:
Leave people and places better than I found them.
This is a mission that I look at from a micro perspective in individual moments as well as a macro perspective over the course of a season, career, or lifetime. It encompasses the physical, mental, and emotional aspects we can influence in our players. A question that I use frequently in reflection is, “Am I coach who elevates those around me? Does my presence have a positive or negative effect on the environment?” Nobody wants to bring people down or negatively impact their environment, but only through intentional action and self-awareness do we allow ourselves to truly bring out the best in the people and places we interact with. Here are a few principles that are paramount in my mission as a coach:
Modeling: What am I modeling to my players? I am a firm believer that players aren’t always hearing what we have to say, but they’re always watching what we’re doing. How do I treat officials? How do I handle a tough loss? Am I prepared for each practice? If I don’t model the behaviors that I expect in my players, the words I speak fall on deaf ears, and the trust that is crucial to connecting with a player and a team is immediately broken. Outside of that, as cliche as it is, our actions will always speak louder than our words.
Connection: Even in large groups, I try to have one personal interaction every day with every player. During a season, I schedule face to face individual meetings, have team discussions about topics other than basketball, and in and out of season, text players individually on how things are going both on and off the court. There is nothing more powerful that a coach can develop with a player than genuine connection. It is the baseline to creating a relationship that fosters mutual respect. When we know our players and know who they are- we have the ability to reach them on a higher level, which ultimately allows us to have a more profound, positive influence in their lives.
Empowerment: I want players to feel a strong sense of responsibility in everything we do- we want them to have ownership. Giving responsibility to the players is not a sign of weakness as some may perceive it to be. When we empower players, they unlock leadership capabilities and gain individual confidence. I will frequently ask players their opinions, have them run a segment of practice (or an entire practice), and almost always use a questioning approach while giving feedback to allow them to come to their own conclusions & solutions.
Process-Oriented: We create standards as a team that focus our attention on our actions and habits. Those standards are clearly articulated and defined. For example, one of our standards is that when a teammate hits the floor, four players sprint over to pick him/her up. As a coach, I want players to understand what they do and who they are each day are more important than any result. My hope is that they understand that failures aren’t permanent and when used correctly, are opportunities for growth. I was outcome-obsessed as a player (W-L, individual/team accolades) and while outcomes are important, it’s our standards & daily actions that I’ve become obsessed with as a coach.
Joy: I borrowed this pillar from the Golden State Warriors. As a coach, I think promoting joy and a love for sport is an integral part of our responsibility. In relation to my mission as a coach, I believe the more a player enjoys playing, the more they will improve as a player and the more they will learn about themselves as an individual. I am not insinuating that coaches have players play H-O-R-S-E or lightning every practice, I do believe, however, that if players generally dread coming to practice it says a lot more about us as coaches than it does about them as players. We try to keep practices short (nothing over two hours), fresh (content variation/ order variation), competitive, and avoid long-winded speeches. On top of that, we allow room for laughs, jokes, and try not to take ourselves too seriously. There is a fine-line here, but I certainly believe that often we tend to fall on the wrong side of this line (me included).
This list could go on for pages and pages, but the five principles I listed are some things I’ve found important in regards to bringing my mission to life. I would challenge each of you, just as I was, to create or revisit your own mission and the coinciding principles/actions. Write them down, review them often, and commit to being the best version of yourself, which will in turn help you bring out the best in those around you!