Dealing with Poor Results

Thursday, May 15, 2014

By Steve Symonds
Glenelg FC “Centre of Excellence” Head Coach

An old saying often heard is “you haven’t coached unless you’ve experience losing”.

In our game of AFL Football, each week there will be a winner and loser. Each year whilst there is a premier, there will be a team at the bottom of the ladder.

As coaches we are driven individuals with mostly positive mindsets and the thought of coaching and not being successful doesn’t enter our thoughts. The thought of failing is “Taboo” in our minds. As coaches we often talk about our positive experiences as a coach but steer well clear of talk of any poor result experiences.

The facts are, the longer you are involved with coaching the more likely you will experience a period where your team results don’t meet your expectations. How do you deal with this period?

Whilst there is no magic wand or special formula that fixes poor results immediately, I have put forward 10 focus areas that may assist you when dealing with that period in your coaching life when the results aren’t going the way you want them to.

Managing Your Expectations: What are your expectations of your team? Fully understanding your own expectations of your team is a key to determining whether the team’s performance is poor. In some situations a good performance from your team may not produce a win. Are your expectations realistic.

Controlling what you can control:
Everyone in life has an opinion. When your team is having poor results everyone’s opinion seems magnified. media, sponsors, supporters, players, other coaches etc. will all have a say. Remember you can only control what you can control. Ensure your energy is directed towards the task at hand of turning your team's performances around and not wasted on outside influences.

Knowing your team:
Take the time to know the personalities and the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals within your team. Knowing what makes your team tick is extremely important in determining your expectations. Do the individuals and team have the capabilities to execute your game plan? Do the individuals clearly understand their roles? How does an individual act under pressure? Which individuals respond to being challenged?

Controlling Emotions:
As a coach how are you going to deal with firstly your own emotions and secondly the emotions of your players and staff? Irreparable damage can be caused by an emotional outburst by the coach or a player. When results aren’t going well players and coaches will feel a wide range of emotions ranging from anger, uncertainty, despair, frustration etc. As coach the players will be looking to you to provide answers and guidance. It is important that you remain composed and controlled.

Taking Responsibility:
It is very important in a team environment that all members of the team take responsibility for the results and performances. Yes that also includes the coach. Shifting blame onto others doesn’t achieve anything but is usually our first reaction. To rectify the current performance problem all team members must remain united and be committed to looking within themselves. As coach you take the lead with this by reviewing your own performance and practices.  Are you providing the right information? Are you communicating well with your players? Are your training sessions allowing opportunities for improvement? Is your body language and tone of voice positive?

Reviewing Performances:
Turning a blind eye to the results and hoping things will just change is often why poor results continue. A thorough review should be carried out on all facets of your team’s performances to highlight areas of improvement. Using the Why, What, How method is a great starting point in assisting you to find answers.

  • What – What areas of your team’s game are causing the poor results
  • Why  – Why are these areas not being executed correctly?
  • How – How are you going to fix these problem areas? What can you do or put in place to assist that area to be executed correctly.

Gathering Information: Ensuring you are gathering the correct information to improve your team’s performance is vital. Using Video analysis and statistical data are great ways to provide substance to your findings. One of the greatest assets you have as a coach is the players themselves. Discussing with players and seeking their thoughts on game situations, set ups, capabilities etc. will go a long way towards finding the answers you require.

Seek Outside Help: Don’t be stubborn and too proud to acknowledge that at times you need assistance. We all have certain strengths and weaknesses. At times it is invaluable to have a person or persons whom you can contact to freely discuss problem areas. A good sounding board (mentor) is great for your own emotional wellbeing and may provide some valuable advice towards solving your problems. It is sometimes very helpful to have a person from outside the football group to cast their eye over your training sessions and matches to provide you with an independent view.

Be Consistent: It is easy to panic under the pressure of poor results and be willing to try anything to snap the poor performances (Nothing to lose mindset). Whilst this may provide a temporary response, it will not give you the foundation blocks towards building a successful team. It is important after identifying the major focus areas of improvement that you make only small tweaks to your game plan and programme and not massive changes. You may find that no changes are required but more education might be needed. When implementing any changes allow time and repeated practice to enable the changes to be learnt and executed to a level of satisfaction. Repeatably chopping and changing your thought pattern, your message, your standards and the way you interact with individuals will only add greater confusion and uncertainty within the group.

Build Confidence: Condifence is usually the number 1 issue with poor results. We all develop doubts, even the coach. For individuals and teams to perform at their best they must feel supported and valued. As a coach by offering composure, guidance and support to the team and individuals, it will go a long way towards them gaining confidence back. With this approach you will likely find that the group will reciprocate with their support ensuring your own confidence as a coach remains strong and positive.

It is important to remember that in the time of need the players need you! 

This article was written as part of the assessment requirements for AFL High Performance Coaching Accreditation.

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