Monday, June 23, 2008

The four stages of a new coach's transition

My sister went to college at SMU in Dallas, so I try to keep an eye out for news related to the school.

The other day, SMU's head soccer coach Schellas Hyndman was lured away from the school where he'd been incredibly successful for more than two decades, his teams challenging for a national championship almost every year.

He accepted the job as the head coach of FC Dallas of Major League Soccer (MLS), a team owned by Lamar Hunt, whose son played for Hyndman at SMU.

It's this article that shows why this guy has been so successful for so long. I love his concept of four stages -- Formation, Storming, Norming, and Performance.

This demonstrates that he has a philosophy and plan. Based on his experience, he's planned out what will happen.

The Formation stage: Players and coaches are typically comfortable in this stage, though it only lasts for a practice or two. Most of the new NBA coaches who were hired over the last month or so are in this stage.

The Storming stage: Every coach goes through this. It's when players start to question the new coach's strategy. You'll hear questions like "Why is he not playing me? Why has he changed the offense?" There are rumblings as the new coach puts his plan into place. The key is how quickly he can effectively move through this phase.

The Norming stage: This is the most difficult stage as players start to see where they fit in the new system. Their roles become clear. It's the hardest stage because veteran players might not accept their role. It's critical to work with your team's leaders, securing their buy-in so that the team can move forward to the next (and final) stage.

The Performing stage: This is what every coach strives for. It's "when the team is playing at 85 percent or higher to their ability." As Hyndman points out, some teams never get there. In fact, many don't make it out of the "Storming" phase.

It will be interesting to watch teams with new coaches move through these stages in the upcoming NBA season. Those coaches who can reach the final stage will be considerably more successful than those who get stuck in the first or second stages.