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


Perspective, It Can Change Everything

Everyone goes through life looking at things in their own way. This is what we call perspective. A person may look at a situation and see it as an opportunity while another person looks at that same exact situation as a burden or obstacle.

Let's Talk About Your Perspective - Tyler Kleeberger - Medium

“When you focus on the things you need . . . you’ll find those needs increasing. If you concentrate your thoughts on what you don’t have, you will soon be concentrating on other things that you had forgotten you don’t have – and feel worse! If you set your mind on loss, you are more likely to lose… But a grateful perspective brings happiness and abundance into a person’s life”

This is a passage from a book that I have recently read, “The Noticer- Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective”. While the book is a great story and easy read I found myself taking a deeper look into how I do things as a coach. We, as coaches, have a completely different perspective on the game than our players, and most of the time our other coaches. So how can we take the time to use this to our advantage? How can more than one perspective on something benefit an individual or even an entire team? Today, I would like to go over the idea of perspective in a way you may have not used before!

FEEDBACK

The biggest thing that comes to mind when thinking about perspective in any gym that I coach in is feedback! Feedback is something that became very present in my playing career during college and is something that is stressed very highly with any team that I am a part of. There are a few types of feedback in sports, coach to player, player to player, coach to coach, and the one that I would like to dive into a little deeper player to coach.

Player to coach feedback, for the most part, is only present when a coach has a strong relationship with that player. This player may be around the program for a number of years and they are likely to be a captain. This relationship is great however a lot of the time the player and coach have similar perspectives on things. This makes the feedback to the coach something they usually see them self, so it acts more as a reassurance rather than a new outlook on things. I would challenge you the next time you are with your team to try and get some feedback from some players you do not have a strong relationship with. Here is what I mean…

As a coach I do a lot of private lesson work, or small group work when I am with my team. During the drill we will usually be working on a specific skill and I will be giving the most common feedback, coach to player. That is my job right? I could sit there and say what I see and correct or compliment that player for as long as time permits. But that is not good enough to me, I want to know their perspective on things to not only help them but to help ME! I ask them questions like- What do you feel? What are you thinking about? What are you seeing?

Many players at the start do not know what to say, but as I encourage the player to coach feedback more and more they begin to get comfortable. I begin to look at what that player is doing in their own perspective, as well as mine. This new comfort eventually carries over into competition. The trust and respect that I have as a coach towards my players allows me to ask what they see (most coaches know things look a lot different from the sidelines). We again take that multiple perspective outlook on things and use it to our advantage.

Of course getting to the point where you can use your players perspective in competition takes a lot of time, work, and trust. So, stick with the small things. During training or practice, ask them what they are feeling. After a mistake, ask what they saw or what they think they should have done. After a great play, ask them what felt good! Then take it a step further, ask your team what they liked about a drill, what they disliked? It may be tough to hear some criticism from your players but if you are truly invested in your team you will encourage their feedback!

Everyone has a different perspective on things, we are all unique in our own way! It is my firm belief that there is never a wrong perspective in the world, the only thing that can be wrong is denial that there is other perspectives out there! Embrace your players perspective, seek other coaches perspective, and continue to evolve YOUR PERSPECTIVE!

-Coach Windy


Book Spotlight: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Today, I will be sharing some thoughts on the book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. I have been spending some time thinking about how to review or write about the books that have helped me and I believe by just giving a brief background on the information followed by some real life context is best! Kind of how I wrote about the 10/80/10 Principle about a week ago!

The first time that I was introduced to this book was during my first year at Long Beach State. I went through it with the mindset of a player at the time and it allowed me and my teammates to begin to create a culture that eventually transformed into back to back National Championships 6 years later! Well, that is how I like to look at things!

Since beginning my coaching career at the collegiate level, I have found this book to be very useful in my team and player management! By identifying the different dysfunctions in the team I am able to adjust accordingly to prevent them from effecting us in a negative manner. With that being said lets look into the book a little more.

“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” is a fable of a technology company who is struggling to grow as a team. Their CEO recognizes that her team has great potential, but since they are not working together they are not making a lot of progress. Throughout the book you are introduced to the different Dysfunctions of the team.

Lencioni's 5 Dysfunctions of a Team - Taskworld Blog - Medium

Above you can see the 5 different dysfunctions that are covered in the book. Each one leading into the other eventually resulting in a negative team morale.

  1. Absence of Trust- When players are unable to show their vulnerability to their teammates. These players tend to be the ones who rarely admit to doing wrong or admit fault. They may be reluctant to ask the coach or teammates for help and ultimately see it as themselves versus the world.
  2. Fear of Conflict– When the players lack the trust to communicate among each other or even with the coach this dysfunction shows up. Since their is no trust present the team is reluctant to have conversation about a problems or disagreements. The players never voice their opinion on a situation and an uneasy tension develops that the team avoids.
  3. Lack of Commitment– When a player feels on their own it is tough to commit to team and process. Since the players do not feel safe in their team or have not been able to discuss things that they do not understand they naturally lose their sense of commitment.
  4. Avoidance of Accountability– Once a player has lost their sense of commitment they then find ways to avoid accountability. The excuses begin to fly, they definitely do not hold anyone else accountable on their team, and they continue down the path of being alone among others.
  5. Inattention to Results– Finally we reach the top of the pyramid where single members only care about themselves. Even though they are a part of a team or team sport the most important thing to them is how they perform. They put their own accomplishments ahead of the team. Eventually bringing the rest of the team down with them in their own problems.

What Can You Do?

As a coach the first thing that we can do is acknowledge that these dysfunctions are present in our teams. It is very easy for us to think that we do not have any problems but in reality there is always something that can be addressed. Next, is you be the example! Whether you know it or not your players are looking up to you as more than the guy/girl who blows the whistle, writes the lineup, or makes them run lines. Most of the time we are teaching them so much more than how to play a sport. For myself, there have been two things that work the best for me to acknowledge and manage these five elements of dysfunction.

The first thing that I have find to be effective is something that I picked up from my coach in college. This is an “open door” policy. Every year for the past three seasons I have told my college players that everything I teach or say can be talked about. If they do not understand the “why” in something we are doing I encourage them to engage in conversation with me or the other coaches. I have even encountered times where a player has challenged what I a saying and we eventually come to agreement on something new and it not only benefits the team but me as a coach moving forward. The ”open door” policy goes further than on the court things. I encourage my players to communicate with me about anything. There have been plenty of instances where my players just need someone to talk to (not about sports) and I let them know that if this is ever the case for them then I will be there for them. The trust we build becomes unbreakable eventually leading to success in the other areas that need to be addressed!

The other example of something that I do as a coach is establish roles for each player. It is very easy for a player to not see themselves as a part of the team, or not know what their role is. Some times players fall into roles on their own and do not need to be told what their role is, but often there is someone who needs guidance. I am always clear to the entire team that everyone has a role that is important to the teams success, however sometimes the role they have may not be what they want. This is where you as a coach come in. Explaining to them that their role may not be what they want but that it is needed for the team. Also, that their role can change at any moment and they cannot be complacent with what their role is! The conversation may not be the easiest but by continuing to instill that sense of accountability, drive and commitment will only help the individual and the team as a whole!

Both of these examples above work their way from the bottom of the pyramid to the top. The “open door” policy addresses the trust and conflict factors, while the “establishing roles” example empowers the commitment and accountability factors. Once those four dysfunctions are under control the attention to the teams results only becomes natural!

Sure, this is all easier said than done! Any coach knows that their teams problems cannot be fixed with a “how to” article out of some book or some blog! But what we can all get is some guidance. Some guidance that will allow us to look at the team as a whole and see the problems that need to be addressed. The Five Dysfunctions that may be standing in the way of your team achieving their full POTENTIAL!

-Coach Windy