Coach Matt

Creating the Playoff Experience: Part II – Awareness

“Develop the passion so that we can develop the player.”   – Paul S. A. Mairs & Richard E. Shaw from the book Coaching Outside the Box

Picture: Matt Nein with former intern Tim Morrill who has a tremendous passion for strength and conditioning.

Check him out at Morrill Performance at

In my previous post we looked at the role experiences have within our youth sports system and how these experiences help develop passion. Over the next three posts, including this post, we will discuss the 3 steps that can help improve the quality of the experiences we as coaches deliver to our youth participants. The 3 steps are Awareness, Strategy, Action:


The first step to create better experiences revolves around awareness. Awareness of who we are as coaches and how we impact and make a difference in the lives of the athletes we coach. Awareness that if I fail to continue to grow as a coach, my coaching will not create the experiences that develop passion. A passage from the book Lessons of the Legends by John McCarthy describes how Coach Joe Ehrmann ( uses these questions below to grasp his influence on people. Here are the questions to ask yourself as well as a brief description of some ideal responses we should see that will help forge your path and continue your growth to deliver quality experience while developing passion.

  1. Why do I coach?
  2. What is my coaching style?
  3. Why do I coach the way I do?
  4. What does it feel like to be coached by me?

Why do I Coach?

Please take a look at this previous blog post and formulate your own list of reasons as to why you coach.

  1. I Coach:

What Is My Coaching/Leadership Style?

Are you an authoritative win at all cost coach? Do you even know your coaching/leadership style? If we do not know, what governs the experiences? Here are a few blog post on Servant Leadership that can help define your style.

  1. Servant Leadership – Inspire Your Followers:
  2. 10 Characteristics of A Servant Leader:
  3. Servant Leadership Examples:

Why Do I Coach the Way I Do?

“If we keep asking why all the way to the beginning of the thread, we might come to understand how it is that this is the way we do things around here. And then realize that we might come out ahead if we care enough to change it.” – Seth Godin

Most coaches often coach the way that they were coached during their playing years. This is a critical piece in your development in that their way may not have been the most optimal way to develop athletes. So what happens then is referred to as The Cycle. In the cycle, coaches continue to teach the methods that were passed to them from their coaches which were most likely passed to them from their coaches. What will end up happening is that the kids we are coaching today will teach these same methods to their kids and teams. The cycle never stops.

Look at baseball as your example to the cycle. The game has never evolved because influential organizations and coaches keep doing what has always been done with regards to training and game play across all levels (minus the addition of a tee for the young kids). The problem with this mentality is people never really know why they are doing what they are doing because it’s just the ways it’s always been done. If you doubt me, just ask your baseball organization why they play 10 on 10 in T-Ball. If you have kids standing in lines during practice sessions or spend large amounts of time talking, ask yourself how can I better design a practice plan to reduce this down time. An even better idea would be to break out the stop watch and have someone time the down time. You will be amazed at what you might find. Numbers never lie.

I have done this with both youth soccer and baseball in which my daughter participates in and have found that activity time (ball in play) over 30 minutes of soccer play averaged about 5 minutes (4 on 4 but with 8 per team meant 15 minutes were lost sitting out) while baseball averaged about 10 seconds per inning while in the field. Not sure how this helps our youth players become passionate about sport or fitness but the league says that’s the way it’s always been done.

Recognize the cycle exists in your coaching and break the cycle. Ask why

What Does It Feel Like to be Coached by Me?

How does it feel? I wonder how the kids feel at the end of the day? Did I leave them more passionate about the game then when they arrived today? Video can be an amazing tool to help analyze your coaching during your training session. You will be able to see directly how you influence your athletes through their body actions as well as their willingness to try new things while playing. Throughout the training session and especially after the session is over the smile on their face, because they just experienced something amazing, will be a great indicator to you as to what it feels like to be coached by you.

How Do I Define & Measure Success?

Defining and measuring success in Wins and Losses is wrong. According to John McCarthy, Lessons of Legends author who analyzed some of the greatest coaches in history of sport, none of the great coaches he analyzed ever focused on winning. What they did focus on was the process and becoming the best they could become day in and day out. Take a look at these blog posts on defining and measuring success and what you can do to formulate your definition and measurement tools.

  1. Success Defined:
  2. Measuring Success in Athletics:

Your answers to these five questions will ultimately become the backbone to your coaching and coaching philosophy. If you are finding that your response to the questions relate very well to the examples then continue to grow and find even better ways to influence your athletes and create a deeper level of passion. If you cannot answer these questions or find yourself nowhere near the example responses, then make it a point to change. Our youth sports depend on your leadership now or the cycle will never break.

Keep Creating Great Experiences

Coach Matt

2 thoughts on “Creating the Playoff Experience: Part II – Awareness

  1. Yet another great post. When I read this one, and all the previous posts, I like to add the word “parent”, and/or “parenting” every time I see the words “coach” and “coaching”. Amazing the crossover! Hopefully all your athletes’ parents are reading these posts…


    1. Madeline, Thanks for reading our blog and the great comment. You are 100% right on with the crossover. What we talk about with coaching relates directly to parenting as well as teaching. Hope to hear from you again.

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