According to New York Times bestselling author, Jon Gordon, “Optimism is a competitive advantage.” I couldn’t agree more. When I talk to coaches about the mental makeup of champions, optimism is a cornerstone. Inevitably they ask, “How can I help my athletes become more optimistic?” Let’s dive in.
Everyone is looking for an edge in sports. Coaches seek out any possible advantage that could boost their team’s performance. Athletes will go to great lengths to test to limits of their potential. The qualities that were once lumped together as intangibles are becoming tangible. Quickly emerging as the latest trend in sports science, sport psychology is bridging the gap in evaluating and developing athlete’s “no longer tangibles.” Optimism is one such edge.
If you want to build a high-performing team you must first build a championship culture. In Above the Line, Urban Meyer tells coaches that “Leaders create culture. Culture drives behavior. Behavior produces results.” Winning begins with culture.
Pat Summit wrote, “You won’t win consistently without good team leadership…You’ve got to have players who are willing to buy into your system, demand the best from themselves and their teammates, and hold their teammates accountable.” Great teams have leaders in the locker room, setting the tone and leading by example. Does your program need to invest in a leadership council?
The New England Patriots are the sports dynasty of our era. The Patriots are the first franchise in NFL history to reach nine Super Bowls. The combination of Bill Belichik and Tom Brady has led the team to seven of those in the last 16 years. Dominate. One phrase has marked the Patriots organization during that time – “Do Your Job.” Clear and simple, yet powerful. The impact of everyone on the team owning their role is evident in the Patriot’s results. Legendary.
Dabo Swinney is an unlikely character to lead an unlikely team to the top of a dog-eat-dog sport. On January 12, 2017 he led the Clemson Tigers to their second Football School (FBS) National Championship game in as many years. This time Clemson came away the victor in a rematch for the ages against the powerhouse Alabama Crimson Tide. Underneath the underdog story and never say die attitude there is much we can learn from Tiger’s head coach Dabo Swinney.
Vince Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” It seems perfection is a double edge sword. It can inspire and paralyze. The pursuit of it can raise the level of an athlete’s performance. Or it can cripple her with fear and anxiety. With such risks and rewards, should coaches stop demanding perfection from their players altogether?