Building winning programs 01 Nov 12

Building Programs

As we head through another playoff season I get the question or comment something to the effect of…”(insert team or school name here) is always winning in the playoffs, boy they have a good program”. Now whatever person said that comment is usually right. Take a look at the football teams playing for Section Championships in the area – Hutchinson, Glencoe Silver Lake, Sibley East, BOLD, ACGC, Annandale and Mayer Lutheran. All of those schools have had winning records these past years, and with the exception of Sibley East…all have been to the state tournament in the past 5-10 years. Even going over to Volleyball – Hutchinson, Waconia, Mayer Lutheran, and BOLD have all been considered great programs and all have been to the state tournament recently. How did these teams get to be consistent winners? Let’s examine…

First let’s examine this question…Is it Luck? Yeah probably a little bit. There is luck involved in every sport. Can you stay injury free? Does the ball bounce your way? Do all the intangible things seem to go for you? Yes, there is luck involved but not a lot. I’m of the belief that teams make their own luck too. They are knowledgeable enough to force situations and then capitalize on them. But inevitably, every team has luck.

That leads me into the main reason…These schools have developed a nice program from youth all the way up to high school. Oh sure, sometimes a particular class or grade in school develops good players in a particular sport but to me those are the anomalies. If you have a solid program and foundation to work off of you don’t need to rely on that “good class of kids”.

A solid foundation includes a quality youth sports program. Get kids involved and let them have fun. Develop a love of the game, not a love of the win. This is probably the hardest part of the formula. Parents, god love you all, but sometimes you want to see Little Johnny or Suzie win as many games as possible when they are 10 years old. It’s not about that. At a young age it’s about getting every kid playing time, getting everyone on the field or court, and getting everyone to stick it out to next year. Keep improving, keep getting better.

The single most asked sports question I’ve heard over the years is, “How does Hutch keep winning in varsity football? I mean we killed them in 9th grade.” Yes you probably did, but the Hutch program is one that every kid plays and it’s about developing talent. Yes they want to win the game just like anyone, but they are not going to sacrifice the development of the player to get there. In the grand scheme who cares if you got 8-0 in 8th or 9th grade. It’s a great accomplishment, but I’d rather be 9-0 in varsity and playing for a section or state title.

To me Parents are the most important person in a childs development in athletics and more importantly in life. But a parent needs to walk that fine line and not get too involved. I do not know what sports or activities my children will do when they are older, but I can guarantee you this. I will NOT ever coach them. A parents job is not to be the coach, but to be the kids #1 cheerleader. Help them along the path. The more and different coaches a person has in his/her lifetime exposes them to new ways of thinking and doing things. It gives them life lessons on how to deal with issues not on the field of play.

Now I’ve said this next line a few times in my columns but I’ll say it again. Losing is the greatest gift you can give an athlete. Losing teaches a kid to not be satisfied….Losing teaches a kid to brush themselves off, get up, and go try it again…Losing teaches a kid the effort that it’s going to take to win the game…And Losing gives kids mental toughness, and comraderie among the players, the your all in this together mindset. All of those things I previously mentioned are required traits if your going to win a state championship when your older. If a kid wins all the time it doesn’t teach them how to go through adversity, how to work harder when playing a more talented team, and doesn’t give them mental toughness. Besides, once you’ve tasted defeat…the Winning seems so much sweeter.

Now it takes a little while for these programs to be built. You take a look at coaches trying to turn programs around…my mind goes to Sibley East football or Waconia Volleyball. These were programs that before their current coaches got here were kind of middle of the road programs. The coach changed the culture and got the youth programs going. Sure they still had to go through a year or two more of middle of the road play but now those two programs are built for the long haul.

There is no perfect way to build a program, everyone has their own system, their own limiations. These are just my views on what I think makes up quality teams. But however your favorite schools winning teams do it, you can bet you’ll find a pretty darn good program behind it all.