We often blog about what teams have to do to improve. We blog about turning a program or a player around. But there are those teams that don't need to be turned around. They have established themselves as the best among the best. Unless you have been fortunate enough to coach in those situations, you may not realize the difficulty in keeping that type of team/program focused and moving forward. There are many distractions and pitfalls for successful teams/players and you must have a philosophy and plan to keep your team growing.
This past week we had a road trip. I like to grab a book and magazine/internet articles to take with me while we travel and get some reading in. Often I will grab previous read items that I have earmarked as worthy of another read. This past trip, one such article for me was written by my friend Don Yaeger -- an article from 2008. Having been blessed with being involved with some outstanding programs, Don's article gives a lot of insight about the challenges involved with and how to continue to improve when you are at the top.
I strongly encourage everyone to click here and read the entire article -- it's a tremendous read as Don gets input from UNC's Roy Williams along with Joe Torre and Tom Coughlin. Here are some of the nuggets I pulled:
Roy Williams doesn't hesitate in saying which he prefers: "Give me great players and big goals anytime."
Roy Williams: "But I want them to have dreams, not expectations. I want them to have goals, not be concerned about what others say. I wanted them to realize from the earliest point that others who have lots to say have nothing invested. We will be successful if we make the investment and ignore the hype. If you have dreams and goals and are committed to them, are working toward them, it becomes easier to block those outside forces."
Joe Torre told Tom Coughlin: "Leading when everyone expects you to win really requires that you convince every member of your team that last year doesn't matter. And that's tough to do because all year long they're seeing the words Defending Champion placed before their names. The only thing that winning last year means is that your opponents are looking forward to playing you."
Roy Williams: "I recruit character as much as I recruit ability. And if you've built a team of character, they can handle moments that others cannot and they accept coaching on how to manage pressure."
Joe Torre: "The second you think you've arrived, someone passes you. You have to always be in pursuit."
Roy Williams: "Most elite teams have elite players. And the guy others look up to also happens to be dedicated to constant development, that's a dream situation.
Roy Williams: "...the way you deal with expectations is to focus only on today. Yes, we have a plan for the entire year, but it all begins with what we are going to do today, you're preparing yourself to be the best you can be tomorrow. It sounds simple, but it's not. If each of us works every day to be the best we can be on that day and then come back and do the same tomorrow, then we have a better chance of being our very best at year's end. Will the be enough to win a national championship? That's hard to say in college basketball today. But handling as high expectations as we are gives us our best chance for success."