Why Do Winning Programs Hide Their Legacy?

The great Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” One issue with this is that winning is never guaranteed. That’s why we play the game. It turns out that celebrating and showcasing your team’s past accomplishments could be detrimental to this season’s efforts.

Humility, Character, Trust the Process, Winning Isn’t Everything, Trophies, Living in the Past, Entitlement, Thoughts Drive Performance, Sport Psychology, Coaching, Coach Education, Coach Development, Mental Toughness, Resilience, Team Culture, Culture Development, Team Cohesion, Motivation, Personal Development, Mental Conditioning, Cognitive Performance, Mental Training, Mental Game, Mindset

A Lion’s Share You’ll Never See

Russ Rose has led the Penn State women’s volleyball program to 7 national championships. But you wouldn’t know it by sitting in his office. It doesn’t contain a single championship trophy.

Similarly, he doesn’t wear of any of his six championship rings. He only has 6 left after trading one ring to one of his children for a marble. Rose said, “I never wear a ring from a previous championship because once the banquet is over, I begin focusing on the next season.”

3 Reasons to Leave the Past Behind You

It may seem counter intuitive, but showcasing your team’s championship banners and trophies may have a negative impact on your athletes.

If your athletes are entitled, overly focused on accolades, or hoping to ride the coattails of team legacy, you may want to set a different tone. It may be best to leave the past behind, year-after-year to help your team reach their potential.

1. Teams Start Over Every Season

Every season, your teams starts fresh. You have a clean win/loss record. You have new players. You can build on lessons learned, experience, and past success but everyone knows it doesn’t determine this year’s results.

In fact, John Wooden famously started every season with the same speech and exercise of teaching his players how to properly put on their socks. He sent a message to his players that we are starting over, details matter, and everyone is accountable to do their job to the best of their ability.

2. Humility Tops Entitlement

Regardless of last season’s record or program legacy, your athletes are entitled to nothing.

When athletes feel they are entitled to accolades or results, it undercuts their work ethic. A healthy humility keeps your athletes hungry and focused on working hard to get better every day.

3. Process Over Outcome

Focus on the process” is a difficult message in today’s culture, but it is essential to cultivating a growth mindset and mental toughness.

By shielding your team from past accomplishments (but not dismissing them), you send the message to your team that the journey matters more than the destination. Winning is just the reward.

Trophies, banners, and rings are great rewards but life isn’t about finish lines.

Display Your Successes Judiciously 

Admittedly, this approach may not make sense for every team. For example, professional teams don’t have the four year turnover that college coaches face. For more stable team environments, history and legacy can be a crucial feature of maintaining a team’s culture over time.

With that said, plastering ribbons, banners, and trophies everywhere could be fostering the wrong mentality in your locker room. If you want hungry, humble, and hard working athletes who trust the process, then maybe a few less trophy cases would help.

Question: What is your take on this? To display or not to display your program’s legacy?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

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