What Competition SHOULD Mean for Coaches

What Competition SHOULD Mean for Coaches

As coaches we have all seen opposing coaches take things too far. Whether it be running up the score, failure to adhere to recruiting guidelines, or over utilizing off-season workout times, we have unfortunately seen these unethical behaviors in our sport. All of these types of dishonorable actions are inconsistent with the idea of interscholastic athletics.


Why must coaches break (or even bend) the rules in order to “get ahead”? – This is easy. I can answer it one word: “INSECURITY.” For many, it may be job insecurity. There is no doubt that too many school boards and administrators make decisions based solely on win-loss records. Schools need to factor in how coaches are educating their athletes in all aspects of their life and the factors involved in their coaching environment. Also, improvement in their teams and individual athletes should be a measuring stick. Personal insecurity is the other issue. We need coaches with emotional intelligence. Coaches need to be confident enough in their own abilities to coach under the rules and guidelines provided. To read more about emotional intelligence for coaches check out these recent blog posts:
https://coachxcellence.com/2013/07/15/emotional-intelligence-for-coaches-blog-1-of-2/ (Emotional Intelligence for Coaches – Part 1);
https://coachxcellence.com/2013/07/18/emotional-intelligence-for-coaches-blog-2-of-2/ (Emotional Intelligence for Coaches – Part 2)

What message are we sending when we break the rules? – I have said it before: Coaches must model the behaviors we want our athletes to ultimately act upon. When coaches break rules and their athletes are aware of them, we are letting them know it is alright to occasionally break rules in life. Aren’t we the same coaches who demand that our athletes “do things the right way” or tell them that “playing for me is going to make you a better person”? Coaches, we have to be consistent in our actions and our words.

So what, everyone else is doing it? – No, not everyone else is doing it. And your unethical behavior is disrespectful to the coach who is doing things the right way, providing a standard of leadership to his athletes. Also, it is disrespectful to your sport. Rules and regulations are established for reasons. When those rules are broken, you compromise the integrity of your sport. Ask Major League Baseball administrators about its integrity and how it relates to performance-enhancing drugs.

What SHOULD competition mean? – Competition should mean that coaches are teaching athletes how to play as hard as they can within the rules of their sport. Demonstrating respect for their opponents should be imminent. Teaching kids how to compete should be part of an athletic program’s co-curricular message, and not an extra-curricular activity that stands by with its own set of rules.

A Story about True Competition – My coaching mentor, the late Bill Brewer, provided a great example of what competition looks like when I was his assistant at Roger Bacon High School. “Brew” was very close with another high school coach in the Cincinnati area, Fred Hesse. Fred is a former head coach at Badin High School and a current assistant at Moeller High School. Those guys loved competing against each other and coached against each other many times with league championships and trips to the state tournament on the line. Nonetheless, there was a tremendous amount of respect in their competition. There was so much respect that Fred would go out to dinner with us sometimes after we played Badin. I’ll never forget what Fred told me at Brew’s funeral visitation. He said, “We made each other better coaches.” Now isn’t that what true competition should be?

Question: What does competition among coaches mean to you?



I took a “sabbatical” from coaching three years ago so I could spend more time with my young family. While nothing is as valuable as the actual experience of coaching, that extra time has freed me to study the coaching field more in-depth and learn how I – and others – could become a better coach.

Dean Smith

The opportunity to watch more basketball at various levels and my work as a broadcaster for Xavier University Women’s Basketball has allowed me to gain some observations about the game. Most of these observations can be applied to other sports, as well.

1. Motivating your athletes is the most important task for a coach. – As a young coach I spent way more time on the X’s & O’s, scouting, etc., and not as much on figuring out what made each individual athlete tick. Spend time getting to know them and, in turn, challenge them based on what you know about them. Reflection is key when determining how to motivate.

2. Today’s athletes thrive on positive motivation. – I was a little on the crazy side as a young coach. I took myself too seriously. I’ve observed that today’s kids don’t always translate a crazy coach into productive performance. Demand, but don’t demean.

3. Statistics tell lots of stories. – The evolution of Moneyball, Michael Lewis’s 2003 book about how the Oakland Athletics have used stats to develop their organization’s philosophy, enhanced the importance of numbers in sports. More college athletic programs are hiring statistical analysts as part of their support staffs. When possible have as many people document statistics for your team. They really do help you learn more about your team.

4. Be flexible. – Flexibility means occasionally changing things that are comfortable for you. It involves “thinking outside the box,” whether it’s X’s & O’s, lineups, practice structure, or something else. It’s important to have your system philosophies but the best coaches have the ability to adjust. Be flexible especially if you have the team with the most talent. The more ways you can be prepared to defeat your opponent the better. Dean Smith comes to mind as a coach who was successful because he was flexible.

5. The team that controls the middle of the floor tends to be the most successful. – I have noticed that basketball teams that can get the ball in the free throw lane, especially the high and low post areas, usually control the outcome of the game. Their offensive options increase when the ball reaches those areas. This could be said for many team sports, such as linemen in football.

6. Find your players’ “sweet spots.” – Know where each of your players does his best work, especially where your shooters prefer shooting the ball. Then design your offense so those players get scoring opportunities in those areas.

7. Confidence, not arrogance, wins championships. – How many times have we seen the most talented teams not win a championship? A team must first have a collective confidence if they want to achieve their goals. However, telling everyone that you are the best doesn’t win games. More than anything, it becomes a distraction from winning.

Resources Mentioned in This Blog
Book: Moneyball http://www.amazon.com/Moneyball-The-Winning-Unfair-Game/dp/0393057658

Question: What important lessons have you learned about coaching by studying your game?



I received one of those phone calls the other day. You know, it was one of those calls where someone was asking for money. We all get them. This one was from my undergraduate alma mater, Indiana University. On the other end was your typical work-study student trying to earn some money to pay for his business school education. I tried to hear him out but I was a little put off because I had just made a financial contribution in the spring. However, I did perk up when the senior-to-be asked me for advice on how he could be successful in his upcoming career.


I gave the B-School (that’s what we call it at IU) student some of my thoughts and when we finished the conversation I realized that the four pieces of advice I gave him are transferrable to the coaching profession, as well. Here are my four pieces of advice for young, or any, coaches:

1. Get started early. – If you already know what career path you want to take when you are in college (or high school, for that matter), take advantage of it. Be proactice about finding experiences to enhance your career resume and volunteer as much as you can in your field. I realized the summer after my freshman year at IU that I wanted to coach basketball. I thought it would be a good idea to apply to be a basketball manager under Bob Knight and his staff. The competition for those managerial positions were so fierce that I would have better served to have applied entering my freshman year as I did not earn a position.

2. Read! No, read a lot! – Learning about successful people, whether they be in coaching or other walks of life, and from other leadership experts are so important to your own personal development. Finding out about the characteristics that make people successful and transferring those qualities to mesh with your own values can also formalize your development. I try to read a book every two weeks. If I didn’t have two small children, it would probably be one book every week. Your career is a life-long learning process.

3. Find a Mentor. – You need at least one person in your professional life that can show you the ropes. It would be ideal if you worked under him or her and was able to be with that person on a daily basis where you could learn a great deal of technical knowledge. I was fortunate to have found one. My first year coaching boys’ high school basketball at Roger Bacon High School in Cincinnati, I coached under the late Bill Brewer. I learned more in that year of coaching about basketball under “Brew” than I have in all the other years I have coached combined. His systematic principles matched mine well and I was able to take those experiences and parlay them into my own philosophies as a head coach. It’s also good to have personal mentors, such as someone to guide you with professional, personal, and spiritual goals.

4. Be available. – When you are young and just starting your career, take advantage of the time you have to gain experiences and learn as much as you can in your chosen field. Use that time to also develop relationships. Learn from other professionals and take advantage of educational opportunities. If and when you have a family you will have to learn to balance your time between your career and your family. Do as much as you can in the time that you have. Before I was married at the age of 28, I had completed nearly two master’s degrees. While I still take advantage of many learning opportunities, I am sure glad I got most of that coursework out of the way before I had a family.

Question: What other pieces of advice would you give young coaches?



In my last blog I introduced you to the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) and how it is important for coaches to understand it and how they can achieve it. Recall that Daniel Goleman defined EI as “a set of skills, including control of one’s impulses, self-motivation, empathy and social competence in interpersonal relationships.”


In the first of this two-blog series I took a look at John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey’s five main domains of emotional intelligence and broke them into two communication systems, with domains 1-3 being intrapersonal in nature, and domains 4-5 as interpersonal.

The first blog provided six ways that coaches can be emotionally intelligent through intrapersonal communication. In this second blog I emphasize the interpersonal skills, recognizing emotions in others and handling relationships, which coaches need in order to become an effective coach. Here are six ways that coaches can become emotionally intelligent through the interpersonal domains:

1. Allow your players to know you believe in them. – Not allowing our players know we think highly of them in fear that we will let our guard down and they will become complacent is a thing of the past. Tell your players you believe in their abilities as players and, especially, as people.

2. Praise them. – This may be difficult at times but research shows that people are more successful when they receive more praise than criticism. Positive leadership expert Jon Gordon suggests leaders deliver three positive affirmations to every negative criticism.

3. Reveal that sports build character while revealing it and displaying it. – We have all heard the first part of that statement but in order for coaches to see character development in their athletes they must model it and talk about what it looks like. We can’t expect them to have it if we don’t have it ourselves and we must assume they don’t know what it is.

4. Determine what is important in coaching your sport and emphasize it. – The developmental stages and competitive levels of the athletes, as well as the quantity and quality of time you have with them, are factors that need to be considered when defining priorities for your coaching. Your league, sport, and you as the coach need to establish what you want your athletes to gain from their athletic experience.

5. Understand the world of your athlete. – In order to be able to communicate effectively with them, we have to know what is going on in their lives. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their family, their academics, and their “significant others.” Also, provide empathy every opportunity you have. Walk alongside them.

6. Communicate! – The root of all social intelligence is the ability to communicate. You have many important people with whom you need to communicate – athletes, staff, administrators, and parents, to name a few. Communicate with people and not at people.

Resources Mentioned in This Blog
Article: Emotional Intelligence http://www.unh.edu/emotional_intelligence/EIAssets/EmotionalIntelligenceProper/EI1990%20Emotional%20Intelligence.pdf

Book: Emotional Intelligence http://www.amazon.com/Emotional-Intelligence-Matter-More-Than/dp/055338371X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373885556&sr=1-1&keywords=Emotional+Intelligence

Question: What experiences have you had as a coach where you have been successful recognizing emotions in others and/or handling relationships?



Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a concept originally developed by John Mayer and Peter Salovey in 1990. They defined it as “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” With the platform that coaches have and the all-too-common irrational behaviors seen throughout the profession, coaches would be wise to understand their emotional intelligence.

Mayer and Salovey established five main domains of emotional intelligence:
1. Knowing one’s emotions
2. Managing emotions
3. Motivating oneself
4. Recognizing emotions in others
5. Handling relationships

Daniel Goleman expanded on their research in his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ and defined EI as “a set of skills, including control of one’s impulses, self-motivation, empathy and social competence in interpersonal relationships.” The EI concept has spread and the idea that EI is a more popular judge of success that IQ is becoming more widely-known.

Emotional Intelligence Image

The field of education is one that has benefitted significantly from the EI research. Tens of thousands of schools have developed programs to enhance the EI of its students. In addition, the research has aided business professions, particularly in the growth of leadership and employee development.

When studying Mayer and Salovey’s five domains, one can establish that domains 1-3 are intrapersonal in nature, and domains 4-5 are interpersonal. I will break these up into two separate blogs and suggest ways that coaches can analyze and develop their emotional intelligence. In this blog I provide six ways that coaches can be emotionally intelligent through intrapersonal communication:

1. Belief in yourself – In order to be successful in any endeavor, one must know that they are capable of performing.
2. Understand why you coach – Hopefully the answer to this question has something to do with helping people. It is alright to have your own personal goals but helping people, especially young people, should be at the core of why you coach.
3. Reflect on your own experiences – We must be able to understand the events that have occurred in our lives and how they shape the way we coach and how we lead, both positively and negatively. Understanding our “story” and coming to grips with the wounds that have shaped us is important. Being able to articulate this “story” for the betterment of our athletes is vital.
4. Understand what your values are – What is important to you in your life, both personally and professionally? Those values that are important to you will be on display for your athletes, for better or worse.
5. Realization that true competition lies within ourselves – Sometimes wins and losses are not in our control. We will inevitably be beaten by someone who is better. To become excellent in any walk of life one must become the best “me” that they can.
6. Seeks models inside and outside of coaching – Whether these are people we know, such as personal mentors, or successful people that we read about through history, business, and coaching, it is imperative that we have others who guide us, just as it is important we guide our athletes.

As Socrates, one of the great coaches ever, once said one must first “know thyself.” This holds true in order to be an emotionally intelligent coach. The second blog in this two-part series will be posted on Thursday this week.

Resources Mentioned in This Blog
Article: “Emotional Intelligence” http://www.unh.edu/emotional_intelligence/EIAssets/EmotionalIntelligenceProper/EI1990%20Emotional%20Intelligence.pdf

Book: Emotional Intelligence http://www.amazon.com/Emotional-Intelligence-Matter-More-Than/dp/055338371X

Question: What personal experiences have you had that need your reflection to better understand why you coach the way you do?


You may wonder why I left the “e” off of my blog title. Quite simply, the domain names “Coaching Excellence” and “Coach Excellence” were not available. Besides, “Coaching Xcellence” seems a little catchier, right? So what is a “coach of excellence”?

Coach K

First, I found it necessary to define the qualities that make up an excellent coach. I compiled a list of 47 skills and characteristics of excellent coaches. I grouped those characteristics into eight overriding qualities. These are must-have qualities to be a “Coach of Xcellence.”

1) The “Coach of Xcellence” is, first, a teacher.
He uses his sport to teach “real-life” issues. He devises strategies suited to his personnel while understanding and teaching fundamental skills. The excellent coach teaches his athletes that true competition lies within ourselves and finds adverse situations some of the best opportunities to teach.

2) The “Coach of Xcellence” is emotionally intelligent.
He understands himself so he can share his “story” with athletes. He is respectful of and has positive relationships with those around him (administration, staff, athletes, opponents, media).

3) The “Coach of Xcellence” cares about and mentors his athletes.
If you took a poll of the most important trait that athletes looked for in a coach I would guess that most athletes would say they want a coach who cares. In order to mentor your athletes you have to care about them. The excellent coach shows concern and asks each individual questions about their life outside of their sport. He is intentional about serving others first and sacrificing for his athletes. Joe Ehrmann’s work is focused on transforming, not transacting, your athletes through your coaching. This is care and mentorship.

4) The “Coach of Xcellence” models.
All leaders need to model positive traits for those they lead. An excellent coach has extremely high character and is a person of integrity. He displays balance in his life (faith, family, relationships, and work). He is self-disciplined and does not require being micromanaged.

5) The “Coach of Xcellence” is an effective communicator.
He is able to effectively communicate with a diverse group of people. He establishes expectations with his team early and often. He is able to teach in a motivational way. He understands that it is important to communicate with parents and others who are important in their athletes’ lives.

6) The “Coach of Xcellence” is an effective motivator.
He understands that motivation is one of the most important traits that his athletes need. He demands but does not demean. He is constantly challenging his athletes while providing positive reinforcement.

7) The “Coach of Xcellence” is reflective.
The excellent coach is attentive to all of the details of his job. He takes time to think about how he will go about planning and communicating these details. The excellent coach frequently takes the pulse of his team and his individual athletes.

8) The “Coach of Xcellence” continually works to develop himself.
He understands that he always has room for improvement. He takes time to read about his craft and how to be an excellent coach. He uses his own network of people in his profession and in other leadership positions to learn from in order to become better at what he does. He recognizes both his strengths and weaknesses and takes time daily to improve these.

Do you know any coaches that have each, or most, of these eight qualities? Feel free to comment or leave me a tweet @CoachHoyt.


Welcome to my new blog. “Coaching Xcellence” is a modified version of my old blog. More than anything, it is a chance for me to interact with you about some topics that I love. The overriding theme of the blog will be, you guessed it, coaching! But if you are a coach, you already know that leadership, motivation, and the continual development of your program are necessary for success.

I also love to learn from other coaches and leaders and will frequently post some of their work. I feel incomplete if I don’t read or learn something new every day. So the main objective of the blog is to invoke thinking from both you, the readers, and me. In the process, maybe we can both learn some things about the greatest profession of all –  COACHING!

With that being said, 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?=