As a young coach I was always told to be sure to cross the T’s and dot the I’s At first I thought they were kidding me, but the longer I coached the more I realized that was much truth attached to that time worn cliché. Here are some T’s to cross and I’s to dot that I have found to be important in my own coaching and through observation of successful coaches and athletes the past 38 years.
Talent — It all begins here: without native athletic ability and a feel for the event it is tough for an athlete to excel at the highest levels. That doesn’t mean that someone with less talent can’t succeed, but he or she will have to work much harder. The less talented individual will also have less margin for error in training. The coach’s job is to identify talent, nurture and direct the talent.
Tenacity — Mental toughness is the result of sound physical preparation. It is also the ability to focus on the task at hand and not be distracted by minor setbacks. The champion is often the one who can persevere and overcome obstacles.
Technique — Sound fundamental movement skills are a precursor to specific event technique. Both must to be developed early in an athlete’s career and refined as the athlete progresses to the elite level. The challenge is to become technically proficient without becoming mechanical.
Training – This is the process of acquiring specific fitness while balancing all training components. Obviously this is the foundation for success. No one can succeed without a good training base. Never lose sight of the fact that training is a means to an end, not an end unto itself. That end is competition. Winning is the outcome of good preparation.
Tactics – Tactics are based on knowledge of the sport and of effective competitive skills. Know the rules; study the skills involved in competing well..
Testing – The competition is the ultimate test of the total training program. It must be measured not only by wins and losses, but also by improvement and quality of effort. In order to be ready for the ultimate test, it is important to test periodically in training to assess progress toward a goal.
Inspiration – This is the spark that motivates the coach and the athlete to persevere through difficult times. It is the vision of the results of the hard work. It is the courage to do the little things that make the best better. It is willingness to do the morning run when it is snowing and it would be easier to stay in bed. It is doing the cooldown after a very hard workout when it would be easier to head for the shower. Inspiration is the guiding light toward pursuit of the goal.
Innovation – The willingness to try new things, to change even if you have been successful. Change is a constant. We must be willing to change to get better. This involves continually learning and upgrading your knowledge base. Never be satisfied with where you are now; always seek ways that will help you get better.
Intensity – This is the laser-like focus on the task at hand, the focus that is necessary to be the best you can be. It is not screaming and hollering; it is focus, concentration and inner drive. It is attention to detail.
Interest – This is the commitment to improve. Your interest must be clearly defined, whether it is to be the best coach or athlete you can be. The interest must be unwavering.
Involvement – This is necessary for success in any endeavor. You must be fully involved; it cannot be a passing fancy. Involvement is a 24 hour commitment, not two hour commitment during the workout. It is committing to a lifestyle that supports excellence. Everyone wants to be involved on meet day, but the winners are those coaches and athlete who pay the price everyday.