What is the one true measure of success? There are many responses that would no doubt fit the question, but there is perhaps only one perfect answer: longevity. In the coaching world, many would say longevity is the true measure of success. This is not longevity involving someone just holding a position and going through the motions for years. Rather, this is about a coach with sustained excellence. Following are five keys to obtaining real longevity in your job.
The first key to acquiring longevity is to avoid burnout. In order to do this, coaches must change with the times. They can’t fight the battle of holding on to the same methods used when they were young. Times change and coaches must, too, in order to reach their audience. Coaches can still hold true to their core values and doing so will help avoid burnout.
One key to avoiding burnout is to simply have fun and enjoy the game with your athletes. By simply taking the time to have fun and not stress over win-loss records, we instantly feel energized. Most people get involved in coaching because they love the game and enjoy being around young people, and it’s something they should never forget.
Another great way to avoid burnout is to attend coaching clinics. Attending clinics will help coaches to feel energized, motivated and ready to go. Coaches must also make the effort to really connect with their players. The focus should be on building great people and relationships, which will help avoid burnout and the wins will take care of themselves. Every year, coaches should take time off to refresh and recharge, time to “stop and smell the roses.”
The second key for longevity is having balance. Coaches must find a way to balance families, careers, leisure time and coaching responsibilities. This can be a very difficult task, and many coaches have stopped coaching in order to spend more time with their families. The key here is to keep things in perspective. Sports should never be more important than family. Coaches must hold on to the reasons why they got into coaching in the first place, and not let their sport consume them every day.
A key to accomplishing this is to have 10-15 minutes of downtime each day. Use this time to sit, relax, read and reflect in silence. This short amount of time helps to clear the mind and get the focus on what’s most important.
A major part of being a coach, spouse and parent is service. While the aim is to serve other people, once in a while you have to do something for yourself. It could be just going to a movie, reading a new book, going for a walk or run or buying new shoes. Every once in a while you need to treat yourselves in order to serve others consistently.
One final key would be to prioritize your days. Rick Pitino advises to make a list of the things to do every day. At the beginning of the list, you should put the things you least look forward to doing. By doing this, you get the things you’re not excited about doing out of the way. After this the rest of the day is filled with things that you’re looking forward to rather than dreading.
Third, coaches should strive for consistency. Anyone can have a great couple of years or seasons, but can you maintain that level over time? Now, in coaching a lot depends on the talent level of the players you have, but can you successfully lead a quality program for 20 years? Can you maintain a high standard on and off the court over time? Not every coach is blessed to have extremely talented players year after year. Some of the best coaching is done on teams with mediocre talent that end their seasons right at .500 or a little above.
One key to achieving consistency is to act on the advice you give others. Coaches are constantly talking the talk. But are you walking the walk? By acting on their advice, coaches are walking the walk and achieving consistency.
Part of maintaining consistency involves remaining true to your program’s core values. Coaches can’t have something down on paper and then practice something different. It’s also a great idea to have a fellow coach as an accountability partner. Coaches hold their players accountable so they can get maximum results on a consistent basis. Coaches should have someone as a peer mentor to make sure they stay on the right track and are achieving consistency as a leader. Can the leader get the most out of those they work with over time? That is real success.
The fourth key is to have an impact. Do your players or the people who worked with you remember you? Do they stay in contact with you? Do they know you care about them and their families’ well-being?
One way to accomplish this is to hold one-on-one meetings with each player. In these meetings, sports should come last. The coach must make the effort to get to know the player away from the game and show the player that he or she is important as a person – not just an athlete.
Another idea is to write handwritten letters to your players. Everything is typed through electronic media today. By taking the time to write your players a handwritten note, you are showing them you really care about them.
To truly make an impact on your athletes, you must teach them more than the game, you must teach them about the game of life. Find ways to do this outside of practice and games. Take your team to community service events, watch and discuss film clips and, most importantly, develop and implement a character education program.
Coaches must make a sustained effort to have an impact during and after their players’ playing days. Having an impact on lives beyond the court or office is what separates one from the pack, and doing so over an extended period of time is truly what makes one great.
The fifth and final key is to create a legacy. The No. 1 goal is to create living trophies. Building players into people who are “living trophies” or RGPs, creates a lasting legacy. This is how to truly affect the world. You may not be able to make world headlines, but by one athlete or employee at a time, you can make positive impact in their lives and they can pay that forward.
In order to create a lasting legacy, coaches must be the change they want to see in the world. People remember what you do and how you make them feel. Your actions must reflect your values. To create a lasting legacy, coaches must model what they want in their program. You cannot have one set of standards and values for players, and do something completely opposite as a coach.
The most important thing coaches can do to build a legacy is to serve others. Ask your players and coaches, “What can I do to help you?” Your win-loss record or career earnings total won’t be at your funeral, but the people you’ve impacted will be there.
Too often, we define success or label successful people as those with the most wins, championships, money earned and deals closed. All of that is great, but if a person can do the five things discussed above for many years, that is the true measure of success.
Kyle Elmendorf is in his ninth year as a teacher and coach at Orchard Farm High School in St. Charles, Missouri. He is the head girls basketball coach and assistant football coach.