“This is not going as planned.”
We’ve all had that moment in a season, right? I know I certainly have. Everything started with excitement and anticipation and then three games, or five games in, you find yourself on the wrong side of results.
There are a million reasons why this could be happening: injuries, a key player quits, a youthful roster, tougher than anticipated schedule, a planned hard schedule, etc.
The key when things are not going according to plan is not to get stuck in the worry or the panic or a fixed definition of your team’s potential. The important thing is to solve it.
Diagnose First, Solve Second
Always begin here. Ask yourself why things aren’t going as planned. The answer to this question dictates your response. Without asking this question all your solutions are just shots in the dark.
- You may be playing well and just need to stay the course. Don’t fall for a bias towards action.
- It may be there is one area you need to address. Address it.
- Your early schedule may simply be against difficult opponents. Frame this up for your team. It may be just what you need and end up paying off later if you manage it well now.
- You might not be as good as you had originally thought. Get better. Teach. When you pick your head up later in the season you’ll probably find you are better.
- Injuries or last minute roster changes can set you back.
- etc, etc, etc
Either way, keep perspective, it’s early yet. Don’t allow the wrong narrative, or a self-fulfilling narrative, to set in too early.
Get Perspective. Think long-term
Reassess your goals to determine if you can achieve the big ones this year, next or sometime into the future.
Your goals might be fine but your timeline wrong. Adjust accordingly.
Also, there are always alternative paths to your goals. If you lose focus this early you will miss other opportunities to gain momentum as your season progresses.
Find examples of progress to keep a team engaged when results are consistently going against them.
One way to do this is to use process goals. Use film, statistics and a marriage of the two to show ways in which your team is steadily improving. You can choose whichever metric you like, but ground the team in goals they can control.
At Headspace.com Kelton Wright makes the great point that process goals provide the how to get to the bigger goal.
When looking at a big goal, it can be overwhelming thinking “how am I going to accomplish all that?” But that’s actually the right question: how. The how is by breaking the big goal down into more easily tackled chunks, an approach often called incremental goals.”
When you or your team get overwhelmed shift your focus to your daily process. Can we work on finishing? On our Service? Does it show up in the stats. Are we getting more chances? More on frame? Does the film paint the picture?
Use these games to improve the tangible aspects of your game that will be drive results later in the season.
Or if more realistic, later in the timeline.
Stay Positive, Take Care of Your Team
Lead your team with a positive outlook. If they are struggling they don’t need you to pile on. Find the positives, frame things appropriately and stay in the every day process.
Balance the work with the fun.
At the Same Time, Maintain the Demand
Your standards will drive your team’s culture for years to come. Don’t drop them now.
Maintain the standards and the demand in training. Show your team how to stay in the process and how to trust that results will come.
Teach, Teach, Teach
Prepare them for today, tomorrow and into the future. Teach them the game. Stay in the process. Don’t worry about getting to the peak, make the day a positive productive day by teaching them and holding the standard.
Work With Individuals
Spend time with promising individuals working on their abilities and maintaining their commitment to the team and their own progress. As they improve, the team improves.
Take Care of Yourself
No season, no result, no training session is a referendum on you as a coach. We can be so hard on ourselves because we are so competitive and oriented towards results. But, being hard on yourself won’t help to keep in the process and lead your team in a positive manner.
One particularly hard season when I was starting a program I adopted a useful strategy for myself.
I gave up worry. I gave it up entirely.
I promised myself I would work my very hardest and when the day was done put down work, not indulge in any of my fears or worries, and enjoy life. I had done my best. One year. That was the time I established for my experiment. If we were no better at the end of a year I would go do something else with my time.
At the end of the year the program was much better and I was still sane.
Good luck Coach. You got this.