7 Strategies to Mold Consistent Competitors

By Greg Shelley, Director of Leadership Academies at Fordham, Lafayette, and Colgate

A true competitor is fun to watch. By all measures, a competitor hates to lose, expects to win, embraces any challenge to improve, and often identifies him/herself by a win or loss. Competitors usually persist and persevere until they reach their goal. And once attained . . . they quickly set a higher standard and then demand even more from themselves and their teammates.

Competitors are also fun to coach. What would it be to have a competitive climate created by the likes of a Serena Williams, Derek Jeter, Maya Moore, LeBron James, Tim Tebow, Abby Wambach, or Roger Federer? Imagine that level of competitiveness as a part of your team climate. Not possible . . . maybe not unless you have the next Peyton Manning.

What would it take to develop stronger and more consistent competitors? What would it take to have athletes that are driven to pursue “something more”, “sold-out” to get better, and truly passionate about winning and being the best?

Obviously, not all athletes can be molded into great competitors. In fact, it is very likely that many of your athletes will never be the competitors you want them to be. In the end, your athletes have to want to compete. Still, competitiveness can be molded. For many athletes, this means creating practice environments that are more outcome (score) oriented, complete with drills that pit one athlete against another . . . with clear winners and losers. The goal is to create a habit of competitiveness that is expected and promoted every day. With competition as the goal, consider a weekly practice schedule that emphasizes individual and team challenges unique to each day of the week.

“Competition is key to developing players. The only practice environment in which you truly develop a player is a competitive arena.”
Anson Dorrance, UNC Women’s Soccer Coach, 22-time National Champions

7 Strategies to Mold Consistent Competitors

1. Mile Monday

How about starting every Monday practice with a timed “mile-run”? Then post each athlete’s time for everyone to see and compare. To foster greater competition, post times by age, class, starters and subs, or veterans and rookies (upper class and first year players). As the season progresses, highlight both individual and team improvements.

2. Take Down Tuesday

Think about every Tuesday being designated as a “challenge day”. On this day, you might end practice by matching up specific athletes for a “challenge match”, where the goal is to “take-down” and beat a teammate (1 v 1). A take-down challenge might correspond with any number of team drills, short scrimmages, or timed matches. The outcome could be based on speed, time, points scored, points allowed, or quality of play. Depending on how it is structured, the challenges could continue until everyone is “taken-down” and there is only one athlete left standing.

3. Warrior Wednesday

A mid-week practice might entail challenging your athletes to go “above and beyond” the normal weekday practice. Consider developing a weekly “warrior award” that is given to that one athlete who displays the greatest commitment by doing more than everyone else. For example, the Wednesday warrior might be the athlete who played with the most passion, had the most intensity, played the best, or did the most extra work for that day. The warrior award could also be a weekly award reserved for that athlete who has had the most consistent and intense practices over the past week. You could even create a warrior award for offense, defense, or a special team of your choice.

4. Thoroughbred Thursday

Thursday might be known as “sprint day”. Thursday could become the day where athletes are pitted against one another in speed drills and speed races. Speed challenges can take place in a pool, boat, gym, or on a court, field, or track. You can even use a treadmill, stationary bike, or stair-stepper. Be creative here. Develop several speed challenges that your athletes might enjoy. The goal is to create a habit of competitiveness that is expected and promoted every day. And make sure everyone knows the final times, rankings, and winners. . . and then post them until the following Thursday.

Our Championship Coaches Network members can read Part 2 of this article by clicking here.

Excerpted from Greg’s book, Coach Up. If you would like to purchase a copy, please contact him at gshelley@ithaca.edu or visit http://shop.riseaboveconsult.com/

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