Best is the Standard

Clemson football coach, Dabo Swinney uses the motivational motto, "best is the standard." I believe this is a great motto because many people don't realize the importance of standards. Some athletes don't even know what the standards of excellence are. If you don't know what it takes to succeed, then you most likely won't succeed. Many athletes train how they want to train, without any awareness of how their training compares to the standards of excellence. They may deceive themselves and think their training is good enough. They may say they work hard and smart, but relative to who? If their training isn't as good as their competition's training, then they won't be as good as them. The best athletes and teams have the best training. It's about as simple as that. If you want to be above average, you have to have above average training. If you want to be a conference champion, your training has to be the best in your conference. If you want to be a national champion, then you have to have the best training in the country. This isn't always true, of course. There are others factors of success besides the quality of your training/preparation/coaching, but the point is, if you want to be the best, you have to at least try to train better than your competition.

The best athletes and coaches know the standards of excellence. They know what it takes to succeed. They know the outcome standards that they need to reach (example: an undefeated season). They also know the performance standards that they need to reach in games in order to reach their outcome standards/goals (example: points per game).  This helps them understand the training standards that they need to reach. They know how much training they need to do. They know how hard they need to train. They know how smart they need to train. They know specifically what their training needs to consist of. They also know specifically how they need to think and behave in games in order to reach their standards.

The best athletes and coaches don't just know the standards, they stick to them! They try their hardest to stay "above the line," as Urban Meyer says. They expect their players to reach these standards, and they are constantly leading them to do so. And since they always want to be among the best, they never lower their standards. They maintain the same standards each year, no matter who joins or leaves their team.

So as a coach, think about the standards that you want your team to reach. Make your standards clear so all your players understand them. Develop your leadership skills and system to provide the tools for your players to reach your standards. Then stick to your standards, and only lower them if you absolutely have to!

Lastly, make sure that your standards are realistic. A high school team doesn't need to train like a professional team. If standards are too high, players are less likely to buy into them, and they are more likely to burn out. Also, remember that being a perfectionist often causes more harm than good. Giving yourself some room for error can be very helpful.