Is it the games? Is it the coach? Is it the referees? Is it the skill development? Is it the snacks? Is it the league standings? What is it? Or is it a combination of alot things? What makes for a great youth sport experience?
I recently had the privilege to attend the Change the Game conference at Boston University and learn from the ideas of some great providers and innovators of youth sport.
It got me thinking what defines a great youth basketball league/team/academy experience. I realize this answer is going to vary depending on the lens you are looking through. Depending on whether you are a participant, a parent, a coach, a coach of an older team hoping this league feeds players into them, or the provider of the program. Each group has a different desire, a different lens they view the program through.
Too often programs are created purely with the self-interest of one group and then other groups are convinced that this program is the most beneficial to them. This reality usually is loaded with unintended consequences for the other groups in satisfying the one primary desire of one group (ranging from frustration, slowed development, increased spending, to reduced number of participants continuing).
The answer to this question is not easy and definately doesn’t appear to be universal . However, I believe a great place to start is by looking at the situations you are directly involved and start asking questions:
- What is important to our target audience? What do they hope to get out of participating in our program?
- What is our goal as a program? Does our programs actions and structures build towards that goal, our compete with it?
- How could we ReDesign our program to better serve our participants and our mission?
I don’t have answers but I am passionate about this and would love to hear others ideas/experiences/opinions.
What if I told you eliminating negative comments between teammates during practice would help players accept their roles, reduce their jealousy of other players roles and increase pride in the team? Or if I told you getting players to stop arriving just-in-time, or late, for practice and start to follow a pre-practice routine injuries would be reduced and team focus and improvement would increase exponentially? I am not saying the above cause and effect examples are true but I do believe is there are a few key behaviors that when focused on can lead to dramatic changes on your team.
This belief is well-detailed in a book I am currently reading Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. The title caught my attention as a coach. Isn’t changing behaviors and actions what coaches try to do everyday? I have wrote a great deal and believe whole-heartedly that as coaches and leaders all we can really do is try to develop a relationship in which they give us permission to influence their actions.
I wanted to share a couple of key passages from the book:
Before you can influence change, you have to decide what you’re trying to change. Influence geniuses focus on behaviors. They’re universally firm on this point. They don’t dive into developing influence strategies until they’ve carefully identified the behaviors they want to influence. And now for the big idea: A few behaviors can drive a lot of change. The breakthrough discovery of most influence geniuses is that enormous influence comes from focusing on just a few vital behaviors. Even the most pervasive problems will often yield to changes in a handful of high-leverage behaviors. Find these, and you’ve found the beginning of influence.
Discover a few vital behaviors, change those, and problems—no matter their size—topple like a house of cards.
Influencer : The Power to Change Anything (p. 23). McGraw-Hill. Kindle Edition.
The book gives some remarkable success examples of how focusing on few vital behaviors creates tremendous change in behaviors and outcomes. Including one about a re-entry program for criminals that has honed in on two key behaviors that if changed open the floodgates to change in their lives.
A few key questions for coaches to answer:
- Coaches what are the two key vital behaviors that if changed would create the biggest impact on your team? Remember: we are looking for maximum impact so take time to identify either those items that must change before anything else can and/or those behaviors that if changed will lead to change in many more areas.
- What am I doing to isolate and focus fully on those key vital behaviors?Remember players only respond to what is emphasized and when we focus on too many behaviors we delute the emphasis and the players ability to improve in a specific area.
- What are those vital behaviors that you feel are holding your team and players back from reaching their potential?