Friday, June 27, 2008

Two coaches who understand (and accept) their roles

Couple of terrific articles on coaches recently, including another one on former SMU soccer coach Schellas Hyndman, who took over as head coach of Dallas' pro team a week or two ago.

[I had a previous post on Hyndman here.]

I love how this coach interacts with his players. By asking them what "cooperation" means to them is a great way to get them thinking about the team and buying into the system.

He knows that he's making players uncomfortable by pushing them to play up to their potential and he knows he'll eventually need players who are best-suited to play his style.

Look at what his captain had to say in the article:

"Every coach has his own style and thinking. Here the coach thinks we should play that way because of the players he's got. We have to convince ourselves of that and try to make the best we can."

Known for his intensity, Hyndman is quoted in the article as saying:

"As I feel more comfortable, my intensity is going to come out, my demands are going to come out. But there comes a point in time when you tell somebody something three times and the friendliness has to go away. "

There was also a good column in the Orlando paper about U of Florida football coach Urban Meyer. It's a good example of how a coach creates an identity for his team and the importance of recruiting at college level.

A psychology major, Coach Meyer also works hard to find ways to connect with his players. In the words of ESPN's Chris Fowler, who is quoted in the article: "Urban is as dialed in to what makes young people tick as anybody I've ever seen."

The columnist also quotes a motivational author who describes Meyer this way:

"Even though he might have come from a more conservative, homogenized background, he has been able to bridge the gap and speak the language that kids understand. He has connected with them and got people from diverse backgrounds to buy in. Doesn't matter what business you're in, if you want to be a leader and influence the marketplace, you have to get people to believe in you."

Meyer also understands how to generate excitement and energy around his program. It's a reflection of his program's culture:

When the Gators open their new $30 million football offices later this summer, the entrance will be filled with huge high-def TVs running endless video loops of Florida's national championships and Southeastern Conference titles. When a recruit walks into his office, all he sees is video and photographs of green grass, full stadiums and pretty girls.

"That's what's appealing to young people," Meyer says. "We spend an inordinate amount of time on presentation. Video is the No. 1 way to do that because that's what recruits respond to. Nowadays it's all about music and video."

Everything he does is geared toward driving UF's recruiting machine, from ESPN's broadcast of the Gators' spring game to Meyers' appearance at the ESPYs.

It reminds me a lot of the pre-game routine my Dad orchestrated when he was at the University of Minnesota back in the early 1970s. (He actually created the routine at Ashland a few years earlier.)

When the Gophers would come out, the lights would go down, music would start, and the team would go through an intricate warm-up routine that really got the crowd excited, which gave the Gophers a true home-court advantage. Of course, every team does that today, but at that time it was pretty innovative stuff.

The point is, it's important for coaches to help market the team, keeping in mind the various audiences their teams appeal to, whether fans, boosters, recruits, students, the community, or sponsors. Find ways to give your team/program an advantage.

Today, a coach's job doesn't begin and end with a whistle and an understanding of the X's and O's. There are plenty of coaches out there -- at every level -- who know the game. The key point of difference lies in things like communication, motivation, relating to people, innovation, creativity, willingness to test and try new things, an interest in trends and what's happening in the lives of your players, etc.