Legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in college basketball history, announced her retirement recently and it was a sad time for all of us who have been coaching for any length of time. Coach Summitt has been coaching at Tennessee for the past 38 years and has recorded 1098 wins and has won 8 NCAA Championships.
Several years ago she wrote a book called “Reach for the Summitt” which I bought in hopes of learning some of her secrets to success. Following are the notes that I took years ago (and still review regularly) and they apply to every coach of every sport at every level.
You have a choice. You can settle for mediocrity, never venturing forth much effort or feeling very much. Or you can commit. If you commit I guarantee you that for every pain you will experience an equal or surpassing pleasure.
A lot of people can win once. They get lucky, or follow their intuition, or strike on a good short term formula. But very few people know how to repeat success on a consistent basis. They lose sight of their priorities, grow content, and abandon their principles.
“Believe me you’ll work. No one’s ever died from it. I don’t remember anyone passing out either. – Although some came close!”
If you don’t want responsibility, don’t sit in the big chair.
When you sit in the big chair you must make tough, unpopular decisions because you are responsible for the group and the greater good.
You can’t pick and choose the days that you feel like being responsible.
Rule: Everybody on our team is responsible for a loose ball
Why do something just because everybody else does it? We don’t want players who follow. We want leaders.
The single most common reason organizations self destruct is disloyalty, especially when they are made up of young people who have a tendency to talk behind each other’s backs.
If you are both strong and selective, if you seek out quality people and convince them to be loyal to your organization, then you will succeed and you will eliminate a lot of trouble, mistakes, and wasted energy along the way.
Complimentary chemistry. When I’m forceful, they’re compassionate. When I’m punishing, they’re soothing. They have patience when I’m out of it, humor when I need it, and good judgment when I lack it.
You don’t compliment people for driving the speed limit or stopping at a stop sign. I’m not going to rah-rah every time you sprint down the floor, because you’re supposed to sprint. If you make six passes, set four screens, and make five cuts, I can’t possibly compliment you for doing all those things.
I practice preemptive discipline – when the mere thought of the consequences is enough to prevent a problem from occurring in the first place. Players have to think that just about anything is better than facing me.
Each year we have had at least one discipline problem. Why don’t you be the first (Umpqua) team to go through an entire season without one?
Our program is not boot camp. It is demanding but not impossible. If you keep yourself fit, behave responsibly, and maintain your grades, you won’t have a problem with me. But if you don’t do those things then you and I are going to tangle. And I’m going to win. It’s just that simple.
Find out what’s important to people. Once you know what they care about then you know what to take away or what to use as a reward
The fewer rules you have, the fewer rules will be broken.
Here’s how I’m going to beat you – I’m going to outwork you!!
I could throw open the door of our locker room and show you all the inner workings of our program, and you still wouldn’t beat us, if you weren’t willing to outwork us.
There is a direct correlation between our record and our work ethic
We don’t have lazy people in our organization. They either leave or I run them off. If you are selfish or lazy you won’t make it with me.
Only you know and I know how hard we are willing to work for each other.
Think big and focus small. Attention to everyday, ordinary detail is what will separate you from everyone else.
We expect to win because we practice it.
Focus on completing each play. You have forty minutes to win, but you have to do it one possession at a time.
I love my job more than anybody I know and I still don’t like it about a third of the time.
You forget about the long practices when you see the championship
One asst. watches the offense and subs the perimeter players. Two asst. watches the defense and subs the post players. HC takes input, makes executive decisions, pulls the trigger, and is responsible for the consequences.
You can’t always be the strongest or most talented person in the room, but you can be the most competitive. You can put forth so much effort that you cut your opponent down to size and force him to play below his own abilities.
When two teams are evenly matched, the hustle plays can win it. The defense, the rebounds, and the loose balls can decide the outcome. The team that makes the first effort and the extra effort will win.
Reach down. You can get more. Don’t tell me you’ve reached down as far as you can go.
When you choose to compete, you make the conscious decision to find out what your real limits are, not just what you think they are.
Ask yourself, are you a competitor? Are you seeking weak competition or strong? Are you settling for less or reaching for more?
Never wait till next year