"The New Coach" - Defining Success (3 of 5) / by James Leath

Success is piece of mind, which is a direct result of the self-satisfaction of knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming. - John Wooden A few weeks ago I was invited to co-teach an all-day leadership workshop in Arizona based on the Success Pyramid, created by John Wooden. His definition of success is the best I have ever head because it puts the responsibility of judging success on the person instead of the opinion of others.

This is part three of a five part series based on some things I believe will help a new youth coach find success. This week, I discuss defining success.

Part 3: Define Success. 

Establishing what you consider success is personal to you and your circumstance. Regardless of the level of competition, winning is always preferred. I always want to win. However, victory is an outcome determined by many factors, most of them out of yours and your athlete’s control. For example, last year (2015), Eli Manning threw 6 touchdowns against the New Orleans Saints defense, making it the best game of his NFL career. However, Drew Brees threw 7 touchdowns that night, joining only 8 other quarterbacks in the history of the NFL to throw that many touchdowns in one game. The Giants lost 52-49. Only those who deliberately hate on Manning will refuse to see how successful he was that game, despite his team losing.

Your definition of success depends on a few variables. First and foremost, what is the point of the league or club? If you are coaching recreation through a place like the YMCA, the pressure to win is not as intense as, say, a club team that parents are paying a few thousand dollars a year to be a part of. Second, how good is your team currently, and how (realistically) much can they improve in the next few months? If your team is in a tough league and has not done well in the recent past, be mindful to set goals that are actually attainable. I am all for setting goals just out of reach to give my team something to shoot for, but as the coach you need to be cautious not to have a list of goals that go untouched all year long.

I once coached a youth football team that was put in a league with teams larger in size, roster, and experience. We went defeated. Midway through the season I emailed the parents to remind them that despite losing every game by 20 points or more, the players were improving every week. Lucky for me, the parents saw how outmatched we were, so I was given a bit of slack. At the end of the season banquet, having gone 0-10, the players were asked to stand up if they were going to play again the following year. Every player stood up. (I may or may not have teared up at that moment.) The following year, they won every game, including the championship. Overcoming adversity makes for a focused and determined child.

Success should not be confined to the scoreboard and win/loss column. Team goals, position goals, and individual goals give players something to shoot for when a win is out of their control. “”Do your job” is the mantra I preach at practice. If everyone does their job, then our chances of winning increase. In the end, we can only control so much —so what we can control, let’s focus on that.