How do great sports team succeed? How do they succeed again and again? How do they become serial champions? Do sports teams just have great players? What impact do coaches make on the teams they coach?
What do coaches do?
Coaches instruct and work with clients or students to prepare them for peak performance in professional or recreational sports OR work with clients to help them achieve life, career or business goals.
When we think of great coaches in NBA’s history, we think of Phil Jackson and Pat Riley who coached the great basketball teams of Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. While the great players like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant won championships, it was the coaches who brought out the best of teams by making the teams work in harmony. Coaches understood players on a personal level using people management skills to build rapport.
Successful coaches create a vision for the team’s success and inspired basketball players to excel beyond belief. Great coaches guide their players to move in a spirited way towards their goals NOT unlike the business leaders guiding their team members towards business goals.
Great coaches know how to identify with their players and their core values in their pursuit of their team’s goals and help players visualize what does it mean to become champions.
Great coaches who are larger than life can work with many different teams in their coaching career. They build and re-build teams over and over again with different players and different resources available at the time.
Many soccer fans recognize him as one of the greatest coach in soccer (or English football) history. He is Sir Alex Ferguson who was the manager of Manchester United Football Club for 26 years and the club is arguably, one of the greatest and widely-supported football club in the world. From November 1986 to the time he retired in May 2013, the club won 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups and 2 UEFA Champions League titles.
Beyond a great coach that he was, Ferguson managed the United organization and the entire club, from the first team to modernizing United’s Youth Program. He was credited with managing and coaching 5 different and distinct great Manchester United teams during his 26 years’ tenure. That fact more than consolidated his greatness.
I’m going to tell you the story about the geese which fly 5,000 miles from Canada to France. They fly in V-formation but the second ones don’t fly. They’re the subs for the first ones. And then the second ones take over – so it’s teamwork.
Ferguson had a vision for the Manchester United team not unlike how a Coach would lead a Coachee to uncover his/her vision and life’s purpose. Ferguson approached his task systematically and did not just build a football team. He built a football club.
As I am a lifelong supporter since 1983, I was fortunate enough to follow Ferguson’s managerial career at Manchester United and learnt a lot about his managerial style over the years and on hindsight after his well-earned retirement. It has been many years since he retired and succeeding managers have not yet managed to replicate his successes as a manager.
Dare To Win and Believe
Ferguson created the “winning belief” in the Manchester United teams he built and could build and rebuild teams as older players slowed down and as younger players emerged. With the “winning belief”, he created the fear factor in opposing teams when they played against Manchester United. It was said that many opposing teams were so in awe of the Manchester United team that they were in a defeatist mood before the football game started against Ferguson’s team.
The very best coaches get their athletes or sportsmen/sportswomen to believe in themselves and visualize moments of success and how it feels like to win.
Inspiration to Greater Heights
Great sports coaches inspire athletes to do better and challenge them to push their limits. Great coaches are great communicators not unlike coaches who motivate coachees for peak performance. Good coaches turn uninspired performances and failures into valuable learning opportunities.
A great coach creates an Outcome Frame for Goal Setting for the coachee to take action on the necessary steps to reach the goal. When the coach inspires to coachee with open-ended questions, the outcome is more likely to happen.