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Last January I went to a clinic in San Diego and had the chance to hear Tristan McCoy, the head football coach at Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, speak about his team's championship season. They Broncos won the school's first state championship last season. He referred to a shirt that he saw Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh wearing, and I was very intrigued by it.
On the front of the shirt were emblazoned the words "4 Fights Every Day." On the back, just four lines, with eight words. Click here to see a photo of the shirt
"Us vs. Them"
"Division From Within"
After doing some research, I found that Harbaugh wore the shirt to a press conference back in 2014. It was after a devastating 29-7 loss at home. His shirt was sending a message to his coaching staff, his players and the community in Baltimore. He was recognizing that there are issues every single team faces on a daily basis. I like that he called them "fights." These things are "fights" that we all face as coaches, and leaders."Us vs. Them"
This happens when coaches use what I call "You language." You language is when coaches, sometimes on purpose and sometimes not meaning to, pit themselves versus the players. Phrases like "You guys didn't want it." Instead of saying, "You guys didn't play well last Friday night," how about trying the phrase "We didn't play well." Teams break down very quickly when they hit the "us vs. them" mentality. Head coaches need to be very aware of the coach vs. players mentality, which is usually developed through the spoken word.
"Division From Within"
"Coach just plays favorites."
"I'm better than he is."
"I work harder than our offensive coordinator."
These are divisive statements from within that are a battle for teams. This division from within happens when players and coaches consider themselves to be better than others. It is important to note that this happens among the coaching staff and the kids. Nobody on a team is immune to this type of wrong thinking.
Teams that hit adversity will either get over it because of the strong leadership from the head coach, or they will stumble. Teams that stumble start looking around at the others in the room. Finger-pointing happens when people need someone else but themselves to blame. Division from within might be the hardest of the four fights to stop once a team goes down that road."Complacency"
"I was All-Conference last year."
"I led the team in rushing yards last week."
"We are good, we are moving the ball, we know what these guys do on defense, we're good."
All three are success killers, and coaches must fight this kind of thinking every single day. Bill Belichick is such a role model for battling complacency. The man is never satisfied, always trying to get better.
Complacency is a fight that successful teams have to fight daily. The average teams, the subpar teams, usually don't get very complacent. It is the teams that have had success. The teams that think everything is going just fine, they are the ones who get complacent. That coach who is satisfied with a 4-1 record at the bye, and feels it is OK to take some time off, instead of working harder during that week. That is the kind of complacency that coaches must battle to become great."Fatigue"
Fatigue is one of the greatest enemies of success. Both physical and mental fatigue is a fight that coaches must fight themselves first, and then help their players to battle it second. If a coach is tired mentally, he is going to have a hard time getting his team "up" for a practice or a game.
Coaches need to be aware of the physical toll their practices are taking on their players.
Fatigue is a continuous battle during the season. Veteran coaches know that battling fatigue means thinking critically about how they conduct their practices and meetings. Keeping your kids fresh is critical to long-term success during the season. Keep in mind that both mental and physical fatigue are two real battles that your kids and coaches face. What are you doing to battle fatigue?Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.