We have said time and time again that ‘athlete buy-in’ is arguably the most important aspect of any program – if the individuals you are working with are not invested in the program, then achieving success in that program will be a difficult venture. Taking this concept one step further results in the idea that athletes should in fact take ownership of an entire program, and should believe wholeheartedly that it is not only their privilege, but also their responsibility. Athletes will not walk into year one of a college program fully bought in and ready to go, it will take some hard work from the coaches to convince them that the program is worth everyone’s while.

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One characteristic of a successful, athete driven program is that everyone, coaches and players alike, be held to the same, high sandard. One example is something we use at STT, as a way to practice controlling energy and maintaining intensity. If a player yawns during a workout or practice, everyone on the team [everyone present and participating] stops what they are doing and does a push-up. This includes parents, athletes, position coaches, head coaches, managers, and all of our STT staff and interns as well. While it may seem hyperbolic, the goal is not to denounce the act of yawning, but simpy to teach kids that 1) energy level is controlable and we want to keep the intensity level high while practicing, training, and most of all while playing; and 2) that their actions affect not only them, but everyone around them. This same rule applies if a staff member or coach yawns as well – every coach, player, parent, etc. is held to the same high standard. This keeps coaches and management honest and ensures that they are as dedicated as they are asking the athletes to be.

An excellent way to evaluate whether or not athletes are buying into a program is to observe who is holding people accountable to the standard that is set. If the coaches are constantly having to remind athletes to give energy to the group, or the coaches are always the ones to get people fired up, or if coaches find themselves constantly reminding players of all the different expectations…then it is very likely that the culture is not hooking the players’ interest. However, the sign of an effective program…or at least one that is supported by the team…is when athletes, without being prompted by a coach, are the ones who initiate pumping up their teammates, are engaged in workouts and making sure that every repetition and exercise is done well; essentially when they are the ones who are driving the team forward.

As coaches, we should strive to create programs, practices, environments, cultures, and experiences that our athletes can’t get enough of – that they want to be a part of all the time. To do that we need to set standards, and hold everyone accountable to those standards. When those standards are not met, many think that yelling at kids, making them run extra sprints, or punishment is the ainswer. However, the best way to hold players to standards is to come along side them and teach them that even if they can’t accomplish something on their own, they can with help from teammates and coaches. The other, arguably most important piece of this is to encourage players on the team to do the same thing – to take the lead and be the ones to hold their teammates accountable, in a caring, suppotive way, for the good of the unit as a whole. When a team of young athletes has a standard and knows that standard, and holds each other accountable to that standard, those athletes have ownership of that program, and a coach can confidently say that they have had a positive impact on that group of individuals.

Mason Baggett, the Performance Director for Football at the University of Maryland, share his insights on this video below.

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