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Ever wish you knew then what you know now? Perhaps experience is the best teacher after all. This article is specifically designed for High School Coaches with an opportunity for a second season playoff en route to a Championship. All of us establish goals each season. Some come from our players, some we share, some we do not share, and they usually come in some type of sequential priority don’t they? Win against our archrival, win our Area or Division, go to the Playoffs, and Win the State… Some might even include improving at each practice or playing at a higher level in each game. Have I been in your locker room?

But in real life Coaches rarely see such a linear pattern to meeting and exceeding their goals.

[private]In real life, the lines are always going up and down, and occasionally more up than down, and occasionally more down than up. So what does all this have to do with Coaching a High School Team and understanding the season?

Experience teaches patience that is true, but experience also teaches us how to prepare for the dogleg curves on our path to exceeding our goals. Some Coaches like to schedule at least nine or ten easy forecasted wins, and only play a few really tough opponents. To these, watching laxpower every morning the daily rankings are critical to their self-esteem. I think they are weenies (‘weenies’ is an old Indian Lacrosse Phrase, loosely translated it means ‘weenies’,) but who am I to question their judgment, after all I got fired.

And then some will schedule brutally tough schedules in an attempt to a) prepare their teams for tough postseason competition, or b) your program has been so successful over the years it is simply expected that you take on all comers. For these Coaches, understanding and managing the season is critical, and I suspect that if you did not understand this fact you might not be as respected as you are today.

Understanding the season necessitates you do not allow victories or losses to key opponents to greatly effect your demeanor nor your preparation. Understanding the season means that you understand that what happens in the first month of the season is not nearly as critical as what happens in the last two or three weeks of a season. There is no team on earth in any sport, professional or amateur that can maintain a sky-high emotional state of preparedness for two and a half months. As a kid growing up in Pittsburgh, (see where the attitude comes from) Steeler Coach Chuck Noll always surprised and impressed me, same with Cowboy Coach Landry. They were never animated on the sideline or a press conference. Actually Noll used to preach to his team about an even state of business-like preparedness. And he was coaching the Steel Curtain, what a bunch of nuts those guys were.

As an example, I have always greatly discouraged allowing my team to celebrate after huge upset victories early in the year, much to the chagrin of some of my Assistant Coaches. Celebrating is defined by throwing gloves in the air and screaming like they never won a game before. Why? Because we still have two months or so to go. And by the same token, (also much to the chagrin of my Assistant Coaches) I would not allow myself to be negative or overly emotional following a huge loss to a ranked team even at Home early in the season. Why? We still have two months to go.

It is a really tough pill to swallow especially for younger Coaches. Winning and losing is important, but learning to not repeat a game mistake in judgment, and improving are far bigger achievements in preparing to go to a State Tournament. This is a monumental challenge for successful programs with high expectations from parents and local media. But if you can stand the storm, coaching to peak at the appropriate time is invaluable.

You can set the table as well as establish yourself as an expert leader by having this frank conversation with your team early and often in the season. Undefeated teams are once-in-a-lifetime memories. Look at laxpower and see the numerous State Champions that have three to five losses…but I bet they came early. If you have this dialog early in the season it becomes easier to coach it up as the season progresses. “Now we begin to sharpen focus so that we are at our best when the second season hits.” And in the playoffs, “The tough losses, the dealing with adversity, meeting difficult challenges, have all contributed to our success now…” It takes real inner strength for a Coach to practice this philosophy. It takes strength to weather the storm of parents and resist the temptations of laxpower.com disease. Understand the season, manage the season and finish like a Champion.
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