Robert Saleh’s “10 Lessons of Coaching”

With everything that is going on in the world at the moment, a lot of us are deprived of the stories great coaching that come along with our professional and collegiate sports. However, just this past week as I was scrolling through my Instagram feed I saw this picture below! This is from the Defensive Coordinator of the San Francisco 49er’s, Robert Saleh.

https://www.49ers.com/news/robert-saleh-lessons-of-coaching-49ers-defense-quarterback-summit

How cool is this! There are not even team sports really going on right now in the US and we get this awesome piece put online by one of the best current Defensive Coordinators in the game today! How has this not been talked about more?! Well this is exactly why I started a coaching blog in the first place! To share things like this with the coaching world that will otherwise go unnoticed!

Feel free to click the link under the picture above to see Coach Saleh’s take on his lessons, while below I am going to give my take on each of his lessons.

1. IGNORE THE NOISE, TRUST YOUR PROCESS.

What a great lesson to get us started! As coaches it is very easy to succumb to the outside noise in our sport. Whether its a rankings poll, a forum post, or an article that is written about you or your team we must ignore this noise. The only people that truly know the work that you and your team are putting in is exactly that, YOU AND YOUR TEAM! No reporter, spectator or opposing team knows the work that you guys are putting in, they only see you under the lights. While majority of the world will only see the results during a game or match, you and your team understand the process you are going through so you can only be the judge of your teams success’ and failures.

I really like the 2nd part of this lesson, trust YOUR process. This is something that I have never really thought of. I am sure many of you can relate that at one time or another we have all said “Trust THE Process” to our players, but never “Trust YOUR Process”. The process that you are on with your team is unique, it will never be duplicated, you need to put the emphasis on this to allow your players to realize that what they are doing is special! YOUR PROCESS is all that matters in your journey! You need to trust it!

2. DO WHAT YOU LOVE AND LOVE WHAT YOU DO WITH ENTHUSIASM AND PASSION.

Wow! Does this one really hit home at a time like this! Before my sport was shut down I think that there were plenty of days that I took what I did for granted! Now with being away from the team, coaches, players and facilities do I really appreciate what I got to do every day! I truly LOVE being a coach!

I think that this one is best summed up by a quote that I saw this past week, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”. Appreciate what you are doing, whether it is your full time job or just a side thing to stay involved with your sport! Never let that enthusiasm and passion fade away! Continue to inspire others and enjoy it for your self along the way!

3. THIS PROFESSION (COACHING) IS HARD! DOMINATE THE THINGS YOU HAVE CONTROL OVER.

Coaching is definitely not made for everyone! This is why when you come across a great coach he or she should never go unnoticed!

With this lesson, I think it can be very beneficial to the young coaches getting their careers going! Another quote that I heard while listening to a podcast from my former high school coach was something like “Find out what your coaching weaknesses are, then hire others who are good at those weaknesses!” Does that relate to this lesson or what?! Every coach has their strengths. It is the ones who hire assistants and other coaches to help them with the areas that they struggle in that succeed and have a well rounded team! Keep this in mind when ever you get the opportunity to form a coaching staff, it will only help you out!

4. READY VS. PREPARED, THERE IS A DIFFERENCE. PREPARE FOR EVERYTHING.

This lesson definitely made me stop and think about what preparation actually means to me. When reading it quickly I struggle to gain anything from it, but after thinking about it more it could not make more sense! As a team you can get READY for any match, you can lace up the shoes, go through your warm up, and begin to play. But are you actually prepared? Are you PREPARED to make the necessary adjustments needed to give your team an advantage? Are the players that are on the bench PREPARED to step into the role that is needed? Is the team PREPARED for the overtime, extra inning, or deuce set match that may be in front of them? You will never know until that time comes, but when it does would you rather be ready for it or learn from it the hard way? The choice is yours as a coach, you are the one that can PREPARE you team for EVERYTHING!

5. THE THREE MOST DANGEROUS WORDS: “I GOT IT.” YOU MUST APPROACH EACH DAY WITH HUMILITY TO GET BETTER.

This lesson is usually approached by coaches as “let us get 1% better each day”. Another cliche quote I am sure for a lot of you reading but it is something that is extremely true when you think about it. What is your purpose each day? Do you just want to go through the motions or are you looking to get better?

Something that I learned from working in the Women’s National Team Gym was that at the beginning of each week there was a spot on the white board for everyone to write down their weekly focus! Not just the players, but everyone! Even me a volunteer who was mainly there to just shag the volleyballs! How was I going to get better? Well I would write my focus for that week and the others would hold me accountable! It allowed me to also see what the other players and coaches were focusing on that week and I can hold them accountable as well! It is something small but can give you that boost each day to stay focused and approach that day with Humility.

6. THE NFL IS A PRECISION LEAGUE. EVERY DETAIL MATTERS.

Yes, I know that we are not coaching in the NFL but I can argue that the details matter in every sport or league. I will take volleyball as my example since that is what I associate with the best!

With volleyball you need to handle the little things, take care of the easy plays before you move on to the faster, harder things in the sport! Even at the collegiate and professional levels players and coaches are constantly fine tuning those simple skills and plays every day in the practice gym. The difference between the average player or team and the elite ones is who is best at those little details!

I can even take it in a different direction. With volleyball you score a point now every single serve (sorry to the old school readers out there!) This is why I preach that “every point has value” or even “every contact has value”. There is no time to waste a point or contact during the match, it could be 0-0 or match point they should mean exactly the same to you and your players! If you instill this mindset into your team then the details will matter to them and the precision of your team will be great!

7. STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF, BE AUTHENTIC.

Let’s back up to the 1st lesson. YOU ARE UNIQUE! It is easy for us, as coaches, to try and be like others. However, it is really about adding your own “flavor” to what you do! Sure, you can use a drill that you learned from someone, or mimic what your favorite coach did during their career, but you need to remember that YOU are the one standing in front of your team. YOU are the one going to every practice and planning for every game. You need to trust what you know! Trust your experience and knowledge! Stay true to yourself!

8. RELATIONSHIPS MATTER, SEEK ACCOUNTABILITY.

This lesson can be interpreted a couple of ways. I am going to take it in a direction of forming a good circle of coaches around you. Create those relationships with coaches that you can learn from, the ones that will hold you accountable! They can be directly on your staff, in your club/organization, or even not associated with you at all!

For me I look to the coaches on my staff. I am constantly asking them how I am sounding, how the practice is flowing, what changes they think that I should be making. The reason being is I trust their opinions! I have built a relationship with them where they can tell me exactly how it is and it holds me accountable during practice, the games, and throughout the seasons!

These relationships can be something that you fall back on when there is a set back. They are the ones that will lift you up if you ever fall down. USE them to your advantage!

9. PUT TOGETHER THE RIGHT TEAM, CREATE AN IDENTITY.

This is a lesson that can be tough for coaches that do not have a choice in the individuals that they have on their team so I will address it in a couple of ways.

First off, if you have the luxury of determining who is going to be on your team you need to take everything into account, not just a players talent. The best example of this is through the movie “Miracle”. If you put a bunch of all-stars together on a team there will be a lot of selfish play. But if you assemble the right team and create a culture/chemistry/identity unique to only them it will turn into something very memorable!

If you do not have the luxury of determining who is on your team, then it is your job as a coach to develop that teams culture/chemistry/identity from scratch! Of course this is easier said than done but it CAN be done! By instilling the right principles and beliefs into your team, you can for a great team identity that will be just as good as if you hand picked each person on it!

Either way, a teams culture or identity is extremely unique. I said it earlier, no two teams will ever be the same! Embrace the team that you have and use the strengths to your advantage! Never try to be something that you are not!

10. INVEST IN YOUR TEAM, MAKE EVERYBODY AROUND YOU BETTER.

This last lesson is something that you think is done with out saying. I believe though that if you don’t say it then you probably are not doing it! A lesson that I have learned over the past few years coaching at the collegiate level is to “treat every player the same”. Yes, every player may have different skill levels, mindsets, and personalities but that should not matter how much you invest into them! They are a part of your team, you will need EVERYONE on the team to be invested in the team so you need to be invested in EVERYONE!

If you are coaching a team those players deserve your full investment. I understand that it may not be your full-time job and you will not be thinking about the specific details of tomorrows match at 2 o’clock in the morning like I do during the season. But they deserve your full effort when you are in practice or a game! Think of it this way, as a coach you are expecting 100% effort from your players so you should be expecting that from your self as well!

Wow! That was a lot of self reflection and I feel like I just learned a lot more about my coaching pursuit by going through these 10 lessons! Hopefully you can take these lessons with you as sports begin to resume and have that internal fire re-ignited, or have it burning brighter than it has ever done before!

-Coach Windy

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