Teaching and Developing Your Athletes

These notes on Bill Walsh’s Philosophy are from Bob Starkey’s Coaching Blog, hoopthoughts.blogspot.com.

Coach Starkey said, “The following comes from one of the absolute best coaching books I’ve every read, Finding the Winning Edge by Bill Walsh. I agree that it is one of the best coaching books I have read as well regardless of your sport.

Drive the players to concentrate. Be assertive in your insistence that they focus on the task at hand.

Individualize your teaching approach to fit certain individuals, when necessary. Give extra time to those players who need it.

Be as precise as possible when teaching. Always use the system’s terminology as a common language.

Be patient, but demanding. Require your players to adhere to proper techniques at all times.

Teach the skills progressively. Adhere to a systematic methodology of teaching that allows the players to improve and enhances their level of confidence in your competence and professionalism.

Keep your finger on the pulse of the situation. Be alert to the intensity level of the players. Be sensitive to signs of those factors which can affect the learning curve. Never overlook the fundamental reality of the teaching axiom, “quality repetitions are the mother of all learning.”

Keep the meetings quality, not quantity, oriented. Use a variety of learning tools to enhance the learning environment and to help stimulate the players’ level of concentration and focus.

Demonstrate the highest level of knowledge about the subject matter being taught.

Teach the players in a professional manner. Unless you’re trying to elicit a specific emotional response from your players, refrain from screaming and demonstrative behavior. Keep in mind that such behavior seldom, if ever, enhances the learning curve particularly if the subject matter involves technical information.

Evaluate the players’ performance on a daily basis to ensure that they are progressively mastering the techniques required to perform the tasks they are assigned in an effective and efficient manner.

Rapidity is the essence of war; take advantage of the enemy’s unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attach unguarded spots.

Another teaching technique that has proven to be very effective is to have players emulate the techniques and actions of other athletes. For example, if players watch videos showing Jerry Rice run a particular pattern in a certain way, you (as the head coach) can single out and stress particular coaching points, by using Rice as the case in point.

All factors considered, players tend to respond more favorably to an actual visual representation of a particular teaching point than to tan abstract illustration of that point drawn up on a chalkboard or written up in a playbook. This learning technique is typically referred to as “modeling.”

“Win the war, then win the fight.”

And, a few more notes from Bill Walsh on Decision Making

A big part of coaching is the ability to make decisions.  When you think about it, coaches have numerous decisions that they must make on a daily basis.  All are relevant to our programs though certainly some are more important than others.  Here is a great list of thoughts in regard to decision making from Bill Walsh from his book “Finding The Winning Edge.”

-One of the main attributes a leader must have is the ability to discriminate from what is often contradictory information. In this matter, it takes a thorough understanding of the situation and of the sources of information to act effectively.

-Decision making involves more risk and responsibility than any other managerial activity. The work of problem analysis and evaluation can be delegated to others in the organization, but the responsibility for decision making is ultimately assigned to one individual. Choosing among various alternatives often demands courage and moral judgment, as well as intelligence.

-Effective decision making is vital to the growth of any organization.

-Toward that end, there is a series of questions that you should address when making a decision, including:

  • What difference does it make what course of action you decide to adopt?
  • Do you have sufficient information to fully analyze the issue/matter under consideration?
  • If you are lacking essential information, do you know how to get it?
  • How critic al to implementing your decision is its acceptance by those who will be affected by it?
  • To what degree does the commitment of others to your decision depend on their active participation in the decision-making process?
  • Is everyone affected by your decision in general agreement with its basic objectives?
  • To what degree will those who will be affected by your decision disagree over possible alternative solutions?
  • Do the individuals involved in your decision have the capability to implement the decision as planned?

– An educated guess is just as accurate and far faster than compiled errors. – George Patton

You can click the link below to find out more about the book:

Bill Walsh: Finding the Winning Edge

And, a few more notes from another of Coach Walsh’s Books,

    “The Score Takes Care of Itself”

Process vs Result

  1. Aim for a Standard of Performance (which is absolute) vs winning (which is relative to others).
  2. “Process” of improvement leads to “result” of victory and not vice-versa.
  3. Focus on process which produces results and not on results.
  4. Promotions/wins/sales quotas are results, they do not provide information about performance. And its important to dig into performance to find truth hidden behind these results.

On organization culture

  1. Know it all bull headed people are dangerous.
  2. In an organization, its not just important for individuals to know their own role but they should be aware of roles of other people as well.
  3. Success belongs to everyone and so as the failure.
  4. Never let your colleagues down, you win with them, you lose with them. Therefore, defend them.
  5. Winners act like winners before they are.
  6. Hostile relations are toxic – one enemy does more damage than good of 100 friends. Enemies consume time, energy and attention – all limited resources.
  7. An organization emulates leader’s work ethics.
  8. A little humor is important to keep a check on stress and anxiety.

On leadership

  1. Give credit where its due, fewer things offer greater return on investment than praise.
  2. Be prepared – visualize future, think about all possible situations, prepare your responses for them in advance.
  3. Responses are temporary – Make moves to counter competitor but remember that competitor is going to come back with counter move soon, so, be prepared for that.
  4. A leader cannot be casual in any area of life, all his moves must be well thought of with great attention to details.
  5. A leader must have strength of will to carry out his decisions and to be able to stick with them in adverse situations.
  6. Focus on important problems for the organization rather than peripheral stuff (stuff which does not add to bottom line should not get too much attention).
  7. A good leader produces self-sustaining organization which functions well even in his absence.
  8. People are motivated only by their inner voice, teach a new inner voice to followers which will motivate them.
  9. The focus should be on motivating people to do “their best” rather than “crush the opponent” – though occasionally “crush the opponent” works too.
  10. Be wary of titles (“genius” in case of Bill Walsh), they haunt you later when performance goes down.
  11. Criticize people for “current” mistakes (and not the ones committed earlier). Also, give some positive feedback afterwards.
  12. When describing expectations from employees, don’t be subtle, be explicit and set the record straight.
  13. Big ears (better listener) are better than big egos – Listen, Learn, Lead.
  14. Be the leader – without the formal title (titles produces hierarchy and reduce communication)
  15. Be unpredictable – People become comfortable with predictable leaders, unpredictability/uncertainty allows a leader to prevent people from settling in comfort zone.
  16. A leader treats his people like his family members – money alone cannot motivate people for long.
  17. Teaching is important part of a leader’s life – Having a passion for teaching, expertise in the subject, being able to communicate clearly his ideas and have persistence to teach are important.
  18. The bottom 20% can determine the outcome – Ensure that they are motivated.
  19. Avoid dance of death – If the failure is imminent, don’t give in, keep fighting, lose with dignity.
  20. Tell people – “I believe in you”
  21. Don’t push people to their limits all the time, try to maintain a sustainable level of performance and keep the reserves ready for emergency.
  22. Keep superiors informed of your activities – Err on the side of over communication.
  23. Make your mentors and learn from them – A good leader is always learning.
  24. A leader aims for perfection, he does not settle for 99%.
  25. A leader focuses on performance rather than getting distracted by rumors and gossips.
  26. A leader ensures that his followers can advance their career, he does not backstab them for his personal or organizational gains.
  27. A leader succeeds by meticulous planning and not by hoping for a surprise (though the execution appears as a surprise to outside observers).
  28. When a leader makes a mistakes, he admits it and moves on.
  29. While judging a person, do not ignore the context.
  30. A pretty package cannot sell a poor product.
  31. A leader is discreet about whom he confides his secrets in, crying on wrong shoulder will have negative repercussions.
You can read through a part of the book by clicking on the link below and then on the “Click to Look Inside” page you land on at amazon.com


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