So, I’ve been at the helm of the Varsity Blues program at the University of Toronto for five seasons now. We’ve had some ups, and a few downs, much like any team at any age level or competition level. What I want to talk about today is building “Your Team” as a coach.
Your Team is a reflection of you as a coach, your staff, your culture. The wins and losses, those usually take care of themselves, but the culture, the vibe around your team, that’s what matters. I was sitting at a table the other day with some of “my” team (it’s certainly more their team than mine haha). I spent a lot of that night reflecting on the group we have here at Toronto, and how lucky we are as a staff to have such a wonderful group of young women on our squad. I’d be lying if I said I could take credit for the quality of person we have on our team, they were good people before we had the pleasure of working together. That all being said, how a team recruits, and presents their values contributes to the type of athletes you can attract. What I’m trying to get at is that how you go about assembling your team is at least as important as the talent level. While finding talented players is nice, finding good people is great. The part I’ve learned the most about is that good people can become better players, but it doesn’t always work the other way around.
So, my own personal vibe for those of you who don’t know me well, is pretty chill. Sure, I want to win as bad as anyone. I hate losing way more than I like winning (just watch me lose, you’ll see haha). From the very beginning I try to tell players what it’s like to play with us, and why I believe in our relaxed system. This might not be your choice in how to coach and that’s fine if it works for you, be you. I believe in a laid back, calm, free flowing kinda team. That doesn’t mean we don’t train with intensity, or we don’t work hard. We just do it in a way that feels more relaxed. I like how it feels as a player, and I want to coach the same way. I’m loose, trying to enjoy the day, it is a game right?
The big takeaway from all this is you have to be yourself. The only way I can connect with players is to be myself, chill, loose, laid back, just me. If you are intense, loud, whatever, be you. Your team though, the team that plays for you, has to buy in, and be “Your Team” or this won’t work. This all goes back to you putting it all together early, being honest, and communicating your thoughts and culture to your team.
Back to the table tonight though, as I sat and talked, I listened a lot too, I realized again how lucky I’ve been. “My Team” has been open minded, honest, and always willing to work. As a staff we’ve been lucky to see them grow into outstanding young women, and hopefully they leave us with good memories. We are truly a family, spending more time together than some families do. I want to believe it’s partly because of how we foster that atmosphere around our club. As a coach, be honest, be yourself, and give your players a chance to be themselves and grow into amazing adults.