“Be who we be. If we be who we ain’t, we ain’t who we be”. I said this to my college basketball team once in a pregame speech. What I wanted them to understand was that if we expected to be successful and reach the goals we set for ourselves, we would need to consistently be at our best. We needed to do the right things to the best of our ability as often as possible.
Consistency is a common hurdle teams strive to get over as they compete at the highest level. Coaches talk about it daily at practices and games. Sometimes it sinks in and sometimes it doesn’t. The biggest challenge coaching staffs have is helping their teams understand that they have to connect the dots between what they say they want and executing to actually achieve those goals. This is especially true when you initially take over a program.
I like to compare the process of consistency to the mile run. Each of the four laps in that race is totally different. The first lap you’re off to the races. You have high expectations for your team’s performance, a lot of energy, and plenty of ideas.
The second lap is the first opportunity you have to monitor your progress. You evaluate your start and wonder if you are running at the right pace. Am I doing the right things to be successful (signing the right players for my system, gaining their trust, giving them the correct workouts so the team can get better, winning the games we should win)? If you’re behind you need to speed up. If you’re ahead you should keep a steady pace.
The third lap is the hardest because you know there is an end to the race but you hurt so much you really can’t think about it. Even if you are doing the right things you know it’s going to take time to see results. Unforeseen obstacles creep up that can distract you from your mission. Sometimes the obstacle can be the progress you make. How does your team handle success? How do you as their coach handle it?
I read a USA Today article that discussed a press conference Nick Saban had after Alabama’s first football game this season. A reporter asked him how much time he expected to give his second-string quarterback against their next opponent. To put it mildly, Saban had some harsh words for the media. He didn’t want them printing anything that would make his players overconfident. Saban spoke about what he called the “success flu”. After Alabama won the national championship in 2009 his players became complacent and there was a leadership void on and off the field. Everyone relaxed and didn’t do the work that was required, the work that helped them win that championship. Saban is determined to not let that happen this season. In their third lap, Alabama’s coach has proven he can turn his team around to handle success and keep his student-athletes’ minds on the current season.
On the final lap you can see the finish line and there are tangible results for your efforts. You win more games than you lose, and recruits start contacting you first. People compliment you on your team’s performance and don’t second-guess you as much. There’s still much work to be done, but at least you can see success on the horizon. It’s a good feeling.
Consistency can be the most difficult concept for teams to embrace. Every program at every level struggles with it. When you feel yourself getting frustrated understand that success is a process. I know that can be hard in this age of instant gratification. But Rome wasn’t built in a day and it takes time to sustain the habits of champions. Remember also that every once in a while your players do hear, they do perform and are successful. And that is what keeps us coaching.
Photo credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
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