Fall 2014 Blog – Post # 2

Sept 4   BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND – part two ( Selecting Players)

The timing of this week’s blog may or may not be immediately helpful. Perhaps you have already selected your team for this season – then I am hopeful that my thoughts this week will help you reflect on the process you just completed. Are you pleased with the way it went?

Perhaps you are about to make your final decisions on a roster or rosters (Varsity, JV, etc.).
How much time have you spent thinking about “notification” options? Think back to your playing days – did you ever get cut? Did you ever walk up to a notice posted in a public area hoping to see your name on that list? I did, and I know I also used that “notification” process (briefly) in the early years of my career.

My comments this week focus on a few themes:
1-    Cutting players vs. selecting players
2-    Two way selection process – connecting the player’s “acceptance”
to any potential act of quitting
3-    Naming the “end” you have in mind for each selected player

One of the most memorable athletic experiences I ever had was in high school, when a basketball coach selected our roster over the course of several days of try-outs with a unique approach. He stopped try-out sessions intermittently to award a practice jersey to a candidate on the spot in front of everyone with these words, “Congrats on making this team, please put this shirt on now”. I received shirt 11 of 12. There were no “cuts”, instead 12 jerseys were awarded. If you want a more detailed account of that process, email me and I will send it to you. Did I ever use this method? Yes, one time.

Words are powerful. After a number of seasons coaching, I adopted a selection & notification process. The phrase “cuts” was eliminated from our program culture.   The means and methods of notifying took many forms. Most often, I might give candidates options, which probably sounded like this:

“Tomorrow following practice, I will have completed my team selection process. Here are your
three options for discovering if you were selected.

1 –   I will linger after practice for 15-20 minutes, and you can come up to me one by one at a
safe distance from everyone else, and I will simply tell you if you were selected or not.
This will not be a time for discussion about it, but you are all welcome to make an
appointment if you would like to discuss my decision.

2 –  I will then be available in my office for 30-40 minutes with our assistant coach.
If that is a more comfortable way for you to be notified, just line up and I will speak
with you one at a time. Again, this is not a time for any lengthy discussions, but if you
request it, we could schedule an appointment before you leave.

3 – When I leave the office – I will post this season’s roster, and if that is how you would
like to be notified, then just come back later.



Once any coach faces even one grueling roster decision, I think it makes the “player
who wants to quit scenario” really hard to accept. I did not experience this scenario often, but after a few of those I added another piece to our try-out & selection process. Early in try-outs, I would take the time to bring all candidates together and communicate something like this:

“In a couple of days, I will be ready to make my final selections. Here are the conditions for accepting your selection: 1) You have been given written behavioral expectations. Accepting your selection communicates to me that you intend to meet those expectations. 2) Once selected, quitting before the end of this season is not an option for you. If there is any chance that you would not live up to that expectation – then please don’t return for the rest of try-outs.”

I didn’t know how to send that message more clearly. The few times a disgruntled player had turned in their jersey, my mind immediately went to a candidate I had not selected. If that decision eliminated them from our program – this was very hard for me to swallow. Did this revised “way of doing things” eliminate player’s quitting? Not completely, but it became more rare.

Our athletics program required each coach to provide candidates with written behavioral expectations.   In case you are curious, the outlined categories in my document included:

I – Academics
II – Alcohol & Other Drugs Philosophy
III- Representing Our College
IV- PRIDE: Developing Team Unity & Concern For Others


In our program, this was the message – “Get to the banquet”. Our December team banquet always highlighted and celebrated our seniors. Although undergraduates had more opportunities ahead of them in the spring, I took the position that the acceptance of being selected for the season ended with the banquet. This was now an appropriate time for a returning player to no longer be in the program. Their departure would not disrupt our season, and their attendance at the banquet showed their respect and appreciation for seniors who would have clearly impacted them. By the way, very often near the conclusion of the banquet I would remind returning players that “next season” begins tomorrow. Preview – The 15th and final week of this Fall 2014 blog will be about The Banquet.

Sharing thoughts about selecting players with you brings back a lot of memories – some are difficult. I hope this helps you either feel great about how you do things, or challenges your thinking to consider a modification.   Good luck in your opening season matches.

Next week > Video does not lie.




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