By: Brian Maher, Vice President, Career Services
The other night our men’s basketball team defeated a strong NCAA Division III opponent on their home court that had just been built a year ago and on which they had never lost entering the game. The game decided who would be the top seed in the Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference playoffs as well as the regular season champion. Both teams were undefeated in conference play entering the game at 5-0.
The next day after the game I called our head basketball coach to congratulate him and talk about the game. We agreed that our programs had excelled far beyond even our expectations in less than seven years and the reasons for that success.
1. To Be The Best, You Must Compete Against The Best – In today’s society this is becoming less and less common because repeated failure (losses) can cost a coach and an AD their jobs. As a result, many programs are hesitant to schedule strong opponents. Problem with that is if you regularly don’t schedule stronger opponents you are less likely to improve and less likely to attract talent to your program. The same applies in the business world. If you are unwilling to go head-to-head against the best, if you are unwilling to measure yourself against the best, then you will never become the best.
2. You Must Establish High Expectations – Berkeley does not have a gym or a soccer field or any type of facility whatsoever. So what? You must still establish high expectations and standards. You can never allow members of your team to establish an excuse or a “crutch” for failure. Humans, by nature, will do so and to allow it will certainly destroy your program or business. Turn the tables by presenting the absence of a resource as a positive. “We are not encumbered with all of the problems associated with a facility. We have the opportunity to practice and play in some of the best facilities in the area by renting them. We are great “road warriors” and can win on any court or field!” Present it as a chip on their shoulder, the “us against the world” mentality. They have this or they have that, but they don’t have our work ethic, our commitment, our attitude.
3. You Must Establish Goals – While common, you must not only establish these goals, but they must become a life mantra for you and your team. Everything you do involves these goals and every member of the team is reminded of them every day during every exercise and how they relate. When I first began practicing baseball with my son he complained constantly. It was hot out and we were all alone on the fields. I stopped him and stood next to him and asked him if he knew any of the other boys on the fields. He said, “There aren’t any other boys on the field. We’re out here by ourselves. That’s my point dad.” And I replied, “That’s my point, too.” And every single time he had success in the game and his smile would light up NYC and he was excited I stopped him and asked him if any of the boys he just beat were on the field that day we worked out? He said “No dad” and smiled even brighter. The point was made and he brings it up all the time now and he’s the one demanding we go out in the snow and throw the ball. “No one else will be out in the snow dad.” He’s a two-time All-Star already and is the hardest working kid in Sussex County in my opinion. A year is a long time and it’s natural for members of a team to start to lose focus at some point as the goal seems further and further away. A good leader must remind them of the goal every day and keep them focused.
All things are possible if you are willing to do what needs to be done to be the best.