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Chipping Away at the Marble – 8 Strategies for a Successful New Year

coaching chipping away marble 8 strategies successful new year

What will allow some of you to become champions while others wait for next year?

Does it come down to better players, or is there something YOU can do to help keep everyone on track?

Michelangelo once claimed that he didn’t really create the figures he carved in marble. They were already in the stone; he simply chipped away the excess so that they could be seen. That’s what the start of every softball season is like, isn’t it? We’re staring at our chunk of marble and trying to envision what’s really in there.

Some of us get tripped up because we start carving that marble based on what we “want” to be in there, say a League Champion or a National Champion, when in fact, the rock might simply hold within it a talented group of young players ready to experience the season. Who’s to say that both things won’t end up looking the same (League or even National Champion), but the difference is in how you approach things. The piece of marble that Michelangelo used to carve his now world-famous sculpture of David was so flawed that other artists had given up using it. Fortunately for all of us, Michelangelo saw something within that slab that no one else did!

If you start attacking your marble thinking you’re carving a National Champion, at the first sign of things going wrong you’re likely to get frustrated and possibly crack the whole thing. But, if you go into that marble and let it show you what’s inside and simply make it the very best you can, then your entire approach and focus and patience level will be completely different. And so too, the outcome.

With some help from Jon Gordon (author of the Energy Bus), here are my 8 Tips for a Successful New Year. Things that will help you keep chipping away at the marble to discover exactly what’s inside this year’s statue. Good luck everyone – here we go!

  1. Stay Positive – You can be the always-negative Eeyore with your team, and their play will match your attitude. Or, you can realize that nobody gets up in the morning trying to be awful, so energize everyone with your positive-energy jolts! Challenge your players in small doses to out-do your expectations, and challenge yourself to support them in their efforts. Energy is extremely powerful, but it comes in two flavors – positive and negative – make yours constantly positive and you’ll be amazed at how things change!
  2. Stay the Course – In a book called “Great by Choice” by Jim Collins, he talks about 2 explorers in 1911, both setting out to discover the South Pole; Roald Amundsen, the winner, and Robert Falcon Scott, the loser. Both explorers were virtually the same age, had the same distance to cover, took basically the same route, faced the same weather and terrain, with roughly similar teams. So what allowed Amundsen to achieve tremendous success and Scott’s entire team to die in their failed attempt? Collins refers to it as something he calls the 20 Mile March. Amundsen forced his team to make consistent progress every day, no matter how calm and clear the weather was, or how miserable and cold. He didn’t allow them to march too far on the great days or stay in bed on the bad ones. Amundsen realized that steady progress would be required in order to chip away at the eventual outcome. On the other hand, Scott’s team marched long and hard on the good days, and stayed in bed complaining about the weather on the bad ones. This may not sound like much it ends up being HUGE to success in any endeavor! Stay the course in your quest. Don’t go too far or too crazy on good days and don’t do nothing or get too low on your bad ones. It’s the constant progress that will keep you moving toward your goal and not allow unpredictable turbulence to deter you. And you WILL face turbulent times – everyone does, just stay the course when you do! The great coaches, teams and leaders aren’t great because they were lucky and never faced what you’re going through. They simply made better progress on those bad days since anybody can make progress on good days.
  3. Stay Focused – Figure out the 3 most important things you need to do each day (at work, and then at practice) and don’t allow anything to distract you from accomplishing them. Tune out distractions like emails that aren’t critical, Twitter or Facebook postings until you’ve accomplished your mission of 3. Some people call it Zoom Focus or Eye of the Tiger, but you instantly recognize the people that have it by the things they accomplish. Their overall skills aren’t better than ours, it’s just their ability to focus on their essential must-do’s is. By the way, game things fall into this category as well. Don’t let an umpire’s call, an early inning error, or a poor pitch distract you from your mission for the game. Distractions are just that – they distract us from our goals…but only if we let them!
  4. Stay Golden – “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. Start a No Complaining Rule on your team since complaining is a lot like vomiting – it makes you feel better but afterwards everyone around you feels sick. Gossip also falls into this category since it’s usually bad stuff we’re gossiping about. Lead by example, and tell your players to act and talk as if their entire softball season was a reality show – and everyone was able to watch and hear everything they did and said.
  5. Stay “Get to” – Help every member of your team remember they “get to” play softball, and that playing softball is a gift and not an obligation. They’re not in softball prison, so nobody should feel like it, or act like it. Instead, help yourself and those around you enjoy the entire experience! You “get to” play softball – there’s nothing “have to” about it!
  6. Stay Fueled – We could all get more sleep, more exercise and eat better. Chipping away at these three things will help you feel better as the coach, think clearer and have more energy to keep up with the rigors of the season. They’ll also greatly improve how well your team plays. No doubt that most of your players are in school having to concentrate for up to 8 hours a day, then practice, and then go home and study or work part of the night. Eating right and getting proper sleep will make a huge difference in all of your energy levels and lives.
  7. Stay Now – It’s easy to chip away at last year’s slab of marble. Maybe that one won a championship, or ended up looking like David before he took down the mighty Goliath and became a worldwide star 🙂 so why wouldn’t you want every slab to end up like that? But each year presents a brand new slab, and it’s THAT team that you must coach. Too many coaches make the mistake of using the same exact approach every year. I think former Michigan Football Head Coach Brady Hoke said it best when he told his players they were the 132nd Michigan football team. Meaning, there have been others before you, there will be others after you, and more importantly this year’s team is a brand new and completely unique team! I think that’s a great perspective for everyone. PS – that year’s Michigan team finished 11-2 after going 7-6 the prior year. Don’t forget to work with this year’s slab of marble!
  8. Stay Young – Getting older tends to stink, so grab the energy that surrounds you with your team. You’re coaching kids – whether they’re 8 or 23, they’re filled with enthusiasm, energy and an amazing future – so feed off that! Learn one of their songs every week while teaching them one of yours. Don’t be afraid to try one of their dances. Stretch yourself and reach out to them. Work to be a part of their energy and youth while sharing your adult experience. Share your wisdom with them, and let them share their energy with you! It’s a trade that will make everyone better!

To help you stay fueled and focused and on track, check out the following:

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