What is the first thing that your program needs to be successful? It is not a set of rules for your athletes to follow. It is not a system of X’s & O’s. It isn’t a summer conditioning program. While extremely important, it’s not even a great assistant coaching and support staff.
The first thing every program needs is to define who you are! As the leader of a program you must develop a system of values in which you want your program to be identified. While coaching and the education field as a whole are different than the business world there are more similarities than differences when it comes to leading them. Therefore it is necessary to establish values based on three key constituents of your program.
1) Your school or organization’s values – When developing these values it is important to know your school or university’s values. While you do not need to include all of the values that the school has identified, it may be helpful to weave one or two of the school’s values into your own program. Know your school’s mission statement, its history, and value them.
2) Your personal values – What values are important to you? Which of these values do you want your athletes to carry with them throughout their lives? I am not suggesting you turn your athletes into robots and have them act like you. They need some freedom to be themselves. Instead, I am suggesting you choose a couple key values that are non-negotiable.
3) Values that are important to your athletes – This has as much to do with your program’s culture than anything. If you have taken over a new program that has a culture of apathetic players, you would want to make “hard word” or “commitment” one of your values. It is necessary to identify where your program is when you establish your values so you know what traits you need to implement to be successful.
Once you have established the core values for your program, it is time to implement them. Here are three important strategies to implement these values.
1) Emphasize your values every day. – These values are who your program is and what they do. You must talk about these core values and motivate your athletes through these values each day you are together. Use motivational quotes. Tell stories of historical figures who have stood for one or more of your values. The best way to emphasize them is to provide examples of when your own athletes have lived out your core values.
2) Make sure your athletes are invested in the values. – Whether you are in the middle of your season or your athletes are home for the summer you want them identified as an athlete in your program. You want them to live out these values in every walk of their life. As they do, you will find greater “buy in” to your program.
3) Simple is better. – When it first occurred to me as a head coach that my program needed some core values, I quickly made a list of 16 values that were important to my school, to me, and what my players needed. I should have narrowed that list to a more manageable number. There was not enough time to integrate all of these into my program. I would suggest you identify four to six core values for your program.
I love to hear your feedback. Are there other strategies that you have implemented in developing your program’s core values? Are there other effective ways you have implemented your own core values in your program?