Imagine this. You are a high school or college coach and have just walked out of a 3-hour Strive Workshop. The good news is that your Athletic Director provided lunch and it is only 2pm! You have one hour before practice starts and decide to implement a few things you learned from Strive. “Where shall I start?” you ask to yourself. “How about that great opening exercise?” You reflect.
Initially, I was hesitant because I generally loathe icebreakers and team building types of exercises. But that one I liked – a lot. The exercise itself was pretty fun, and more importantly, something I can use with my team. There were two circles, one facing in and one facing out. The facilitator gave us a prompt and told us we had 45 seconds to speak about it. The coach facing me from the opposite circle was told just to listen, not respond. We took turns doing so and the prompts changed from light and silly, to prompts that aligned with the work of the day. For example, one prompt was, “My fellow coaches would describe me as … ” and another was “My greatest leadership strength would be … ” I learned about myself and the coach I was partnered with, but there was more to the exercise.
The takeaways for this exercise included: how well we listen, the value of listening, listening as a tank filler, and demonstrating respect. We even broke down what our body language reflects. I didn’t quite realize the value of listening, but more importantly, I wasn’t even aware of the variables that make it difficult for me to do so. My own agenda, the time I have, whose opinion it is – they’re all variables. I think the facilitator mentioned, “with awareness comes choice.” I am now really aware that by the end of my work day I am so tired of listening to people; I find it hard to listen to my players or assistant coaches. What I really want is for them just to listen! But, given that the facilitator also mentioned that if we want our players to have a growth mindset, we should as well, I am recognizing the benefit of listening and the exercise and will start my practice off with it. My prompts for today will be:: “what makes it hard for you to listen to feedback from a teammate or coach?” and “Why do you think practice has been flat this week?” I think the information that comes out of this will be fantastic and the energy created from the activity might be just what we need today. I also think this might be a good way for them to feel as if they really have a voice on this team. All of them.
You snap out of your daydream and realize you have 15 minutes left before practice starts. You decide that you should just write down a few notes from your time with Strive and revisit them later so that “a good idea” doesn’t just stay “a good idea” but something you will put into practice.
You quickly jot down a few notes. Your day looked like this:
* The day started with a written exercise answering this prompt: “Why we do what we do and how we define success. What matters to you most as a coach?”
* You worked in small groups to share this information and the goal was to see if you could come up with three core values for your athletic department. It felt great to share and hear why other coaches are in the profession and what really matters to them. It at once validated your thinking and asked you to go deeper. The final part of the activity asked you to explore your top three core values and determine “what does it look like?” You would think that everyone knows what you mean by integrity or hard work, but that made it very clear that they don’t.
* The next 20 minutes you were presented with current research and case studies of creating an effective culture. The examples included businesses such as Southwest and Google and sports teams – professional, collegiate, and high school – that have aligned their core values with traditions, rituals, systems, and practices to establish a successful culture.
* There were about 45 minutes left and you could feel the group getting a bit tired, despite the exciting work. As if the facilitator could read minds (or could just sense the energy) they had you stand and do a four minute activity. They called it the eye game, perfect to use with your team (and maybe with family at Thanksgiving). It was great. It was fun, competitive, and most importantly, it gave you the energy to do the last piece of work.
* Final exercise: Consider your core values in relation to every aspect of our team. What do your core values look like in practice, games, bus rides, weight room, meals, etc? How will someone know if they are exemplifying what matters? This was a harder exercise than anticipated and probably one of the most rewarding. What does it look like? That’s the key question.
As I head off to practice, I think about how Strive models the principles/research they deliver. I was engaged. I learned. I shared. I challenged myself. It was a collaborative process that took the material seriously but didn’t take the approach too seriously. I liked it a great deal. I look forward to the next one.
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Curriculum and Programming, Pam Herath, and learn more about bringing a workshop to your organization: