Friday, July 9, 2010

Motivating the 21st Century Athlete- Dr. Jeff Duke

For this post, I'm going to take a break from X's and O's and blog about something much more meaningful and important; something that can take your X's and O's and turn them into touchdowns. Yesterday I got a chance to attend a workshop sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and run by Dr. Jeff Duke. Dr. Duke is a professor at the University of Central Florida in their "Coaching" department. Yes, you can get a degree in coaching at UCF. If that would've been around when I was in school, it wouldn't have taken me 2 years do decide what I wanted to study. He was an assistant coach for Coach Bowden at Florida State University from "the late 70's to the early 90's" and currently serves as the QB and WR coach at a school near Orlando. We were very limited on time, so we didn't get to go through the entire workshop. However, he we covered two topics that can help get your football players and team to a new level individually and collectively; improving motivation and cohesion. Before getting into that, I'm going to give a couple notes Dr. Duke cited (and backed by research) regarding the importance of coaches.

1) 71% of kids do not have both of their biological parents living at home. You, a coach, are the father figure of a lot of these young men.
2) A coach will impact more young people in one year than the average person will in a lifetime.

The Coach's Dimensional Pyramid
In the presentation linked below, you will see the 3D coaching pyramid. In this pyramid, you will see three levels: fundamentals, psychology, and heart.

Level One- Fundamentals- Almost every coach out there is has level one taken care of. Most all of us are students of the game and can handle the tactical part coaching. We can all teach kids how to be faster, stronger, better conditioned, quicker, and more fundamentally sound in technique. 100% of the coaches in this world would be considered at least a level one coach.

Level Two- Psychology- This level focuses on things such as motivation, confidence, intensity, focus, emotions, mental imagery, goal setting and team cohesion. Only 15% of coaches in the world are considered to have mastered both the fundamentals and pyschology of coaching and are level two coaches.

Level Three-Heart- This level deals with the soul and the spirit of the athlete. Only 5% of coaches are estimated to be level three coaches.

If you can get yourself to be a level three coach, here some advantages listed by Dr. Duke:
1) athletes will learn the skills more quickly because they are more attentive
2) athletes will work harder
3) quicker injury recovery
4) more adaptable to new conditions (playing on the road will affect them less)
5) they have freedom to be creative because they don't fear failure
6) deeper relationships between coach and player

You can view the entire presentation on the 3D coaching model here.

Motivation: "pursue and persist"

95% of coaches in America have that athlete that shows up late, or doesn't show up at all. Things like this are obviously motivation issues. Getting to know the athlete and the family of the athlete will kill almost all motivation problems, according to Dr. Duke. Go visit the living rooms of every one of your athletes. Find out where they live, who they live with, their parents names, brothers and sisters names, etc. After this, you will have their parents in your corner and provide that home piece that is missing in the motivational puzzle. Obviously, this isn't a guarantee that the athlete will become very motivated. However, showing them you care about them enough to get to know them and having their parents on the side of the coach can provide huge dividends.

Peer Modeling:
When athletes are taught by their peers, retention goes up a significant amount. A higher level of cognitive learning takes place. The peer that is teaching also takes ownership and pride in the athlete he is teaching "getting it". Whenever you can incorporate peer modeling into workouts, practices, and team meetings the more fun your kids will have and the more they will retain and improve.

Cohesion: "A dynamic process that is reflected in the tendency of a group to come together in pursuit of it's goal."

Individual Social- the quality of the individual members relationship within the team

Group Social- the general quality of the relationship in the group

Ways to improve cohesion:
1) give out helmet stickers for "relationship" accomplishments such as: helping a teammate with homework, giving a teammate a ride home from practice, etc.
2) the put-up game- randomly have a team member say something positive about another team member's character or personality (not athleticism). "Justin, say something you like about Chris." Repeat for as many kids as you have time for.
3) "spotlight"- After every practice one person comes to the front and everyone on the team has to say something uplifting about that person. Again, the focus should be on that person's character and heart, not on how well they play a sport.

In closing, the central message of the day was that in order for us to go from being good coaches to great coaches is that we must capture the athletes heart. We must develop relationships that go deeper than the game of football. Only when the hearts of these athletes are captured and those meaningful relationships are developed, can your teams reach their maximum potential.