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The Fist Fight Of CoachingSunday, February 2nd, 2014

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

Saturday was damn exciting.

I stood in front of 90 coaches introducing speaker after speaker. Each speaker had a mission — to teach this roomful of super-hero, high-school coaches how to be better fighters.

Getting people to change is WHAT coaches do. But face it, most people don’t like to change. Most people are happy where they are.

But then one day a person wants to change. Maybe chasing a dream. Or a major health issue has arisen. Or a buddy dragged them to your sport’s orientation meeting. And they decide to change, but they can’t do it alone, so they need someone to help — someone like us, a coach.


Over the years, I’ve been in thousands of such fights. From big fights (“Hey coach, I want to make the Olympic team!”) to small fights (“Yo, could you help me lose a few pounds?”). There’s a knock on the door, and the person standing there says, “I’m going to a fight, and I want you to join me.”

I learned three things from being in these fights and I feel an overwhelming need to share because, Coach, whether you like it or not, you’re heading for a fight, and I want you to be ready for it.


Internally, there is a push back to making a change. Steven Pressfield, in his great book The War Of Art, calls this the Resistance. The Resistance is what causes the fights.

The bigger the change, the greater the Resistance, the tougher the fight.

For instance, Jaclyn wants to learn the basics of a sport in a two-week summer evening program. A few small schedule changes, some later-than-normal dinners, a couple of trips to your gym/boathouse/pool/facility, and a few episodes of fear of trying something new. Not a big fight, just a small tussle, with small resistance.

On the other hand, training to make the Olympic team is like a fight to the death. There are hassles that impact every single part of an athlete’s life.“Yes, I know you are only 12 years old, but I want you to leave your family in Boston, move to Arizona, and train with us for the next two years.” Now we are talking one hell-of-a fight with ENORMOUS resistance.

Sometimes the resistance can be so strong the fight can be over before the first punch is thrown.


My buddy Lee once told me, “Don’t bring a flyswatter when wrestling a gator.” His meaning? In a fight, come to win, and bring the right weapon. We, as coaches, have four main weapons in our arsenal.

  1. Vision. People fight for a vision. They overcome the Resistance when they have a vision in front of them that inspires them and provides meaning. A vision can be a powerful weapon in a fight.
  2. Coercion. “Your parents will be embarrassed if you don’t win,” is an example of coercion, and an example of a dangerous weapon, for the person using it. Coercion backfires more than it helps. In some people coercion might help overcome the Resistance but I’ve found that in only a few instances. I don’t use coercion.
  3. Fear/hate/loss. “If you don’t win, the other team will go to the championships,” is the weapon of loss. “We’ve always hated the Giants, and they hate you!”  is the hate-weapon. The fear-weapon sounds like, “If you lose, you will pay a terrible price our next practice!”These are extreme negative weapons, and if you use one of these to overcome the Resistance, to win a Fight, you stand the chance of burning bridges and leaving scars that may take a lifetime, or more, to heal.
  4. Love. This is the most powerful weapon there is to overcome the Resistance. The use of the love-weapon changes the entire perspective. When an athlete states, “I love my team/sport/competing” then the Resistance melts away, and the fight is already won.


I’ve been blindsided by the Fight while coaching. I didn’t see the Fight coming, or I thought it was over when it wasn’t, or the price of winning (or losing) the Fight was much greater than I imagined. I don’t need to put examples here, because if you coach you know what I mean. And if you are new to coaching, heads up.


Friend Sarah Trowbridge always told me she was too small, especially to make an Olympic team. Sarah proved many people wrong in 2012, when she made the grand finals in the Women’s Double, at the London Olympics. She’s an example that in a Fight size doesn’t matter nearly as much as heart, love, and a dream.


I use the metaphor of fighting lightly, but it does represent well the level of intensity that we need to have in our coaching. From verbal black eyes to the figurative punch in the gut, coaching can feel like you’ve been in a brawl. The more you are ready for your Fight, the better you will do.

 Dr. Mike Davenport is a longtime college coach and the man behind the popular website CoachingSportsToday.com.  He is a regular contributor to College Recruiting Weekly.

The Magical iPhone Sleep ButtonTuesday, January 28th, 2014

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

So for iPhone users, it turns out that there is a productivity button that comes standard with the device. Its free, it doesn’t require any downloads, it’s amazing and I found it. The way I found it came from a sleepless night where I had an early morning flight. You know those nights. You try to get to bed early but it turns out that the one night you need sleep, it just won’t happen. And of course every single time I was just about to fall asleep that night, I would get a text message or an email and my device would vibrate and I would wake up. Then of course, when it seemed that it was finally going to happen, I got a phone call from an old friend and my sleepless night ended literally with no sleep.

So what is the button and why does it matter? Well, if you put your finger at the bottom of your screen and swipe up, a sub menu appears. At the top of the menu there is an icon of a moon and it is the ‘sleep’ or ‘do not disturb’ mode. Basically any text message, email, call, etc won’t cause your device to ring or vibrate or light up or anything. It’s not that you don’t get them, they just don’t make your phone do anything until you check them.

So after I found this button, I started hitting it before bed every night and my sleepless night became just a single historical event. Then when I’d wake up, I would turn the sleep mode off and go about business as usual. But then a weird thing happened. I forgot to turn it off. I didn’t get any calls, messages, emails or anything for hours. My phone didn’t ring and even though the messages came in, I was essentially unavailable and something even weirder happened. The things I intended to get done that day, got done. The normal, continuous distraction of my iPhone was irrelevant and productivity happened at my pace. Multi-tasking is a myth and I didn’t need to do it. Instead, I was singularly focused and knocking stuff out.

Then the iteration happened. Clearly you can’t keep your phone in sleep mode at all times…that defeats the purpose. Instead, what I do is I turn it on for an hour at a time. That hour is the productive hour where no distractions (at least from my phone) can occur. At the end of the hour, if I choose, I’ll turn it off and check my messages, email, or whatever. The reality is that less and less am I choosing to turn it off. Instead I am allocating times throughout the day to check my device instead of it continuously checking me. The result has been increased productivity through better focus and less distraction

Sean Devlin is the lead technical architect of the popular contact management database, Front Rush.  Yes, they can help you produce branded, graphic-rich email templates to use with your prospects.  But that’s just the tip of the giant Front Rush iceberg!  Visit Front Rush online for a complete rundown of their awesomeness, and find out why they are the #1 choice of college coaches around the country.

Don’t Veer For DeerSunday, November 17th, 2013

by Tyler Brandt, 7secondcoach.com

What does water going around a rock, hiking around the mountain instead of over it and swerving to miss a deer all have in common?

The path of least resistance!

But that’s not all they have in common, in those situations and many like them they also have the potential to create destruction in their wake. Water will cut through anything in its path as it goes around the rock. Adding hours, potentially days to a hike can be treacherous if it is not a planned part of the trip. 258 people are dead in my state because people chose to avoid a collision with a deer (path of least resistance) instead of attacking it head on – EVEN when all of the driving rules say DON’T VEER!! To often when we are not having the success we think we should be or want to have or a challenge arises suddenly, we VEER off our planned course. It is a natural reaction to attempt to avoid an interaction with a formidable force, however, staying on course usually brings a better result no matter what lays in front of you.

Athletes experience and learn early in their careers that executing a game plan yields success at a far greater pace than winging it or making it up as you go. As coaches, we spend the majority of our careers not just developing game plans but implementing and coordinating drills that will create the flawless execution of the game plan we’ve created. Collectively, a well developed plan by the coach and exemplary executed by the athlete delivers the greatest chance for success. Conversely, even when the plan is well conceived but the athlete deviates from the path, success is rarely seen and the collision will be with failure.

When you VEER off course, even because it seems like the right thing to do, it can have a catastrophic effect in the end. I have done and seen a lot of coaches, teachers and educational leaders come across a challenge, roadblock or obstacle and make drastic changes to the course they were on to try and compensate for the issue that popped up. Although you may take on some damage by facing a challenge head-on, the damage is often superficial rather then terminal. This was evident when I was a defensive coordinator and it was my job to take away the number one offensive threat. Getting the offense out of sync and changing their game plan was crucial to the teams success. One of my offensive coordinators had a saying – R.I.T.T.S.I., which stood for Run-It-Til-They-Stop-It. When he found a hole in the defense he would continue to exploit it (stay on course) until the defense change their game plan (VEERED off course) and then he would have them right where he wanted them – grasping for control!! No matter what sport you’re playing or coaching, it is imperative to stay on course.

Do not VEER off course, believe in the path that you have developed. Accept that challenges will always arise and that at face value you can tackle them head on and you will overcome whatever you come across with less damage to your athletes and team.

Tyler Brandt is a former college wrestling coach who now travels the nation speaking on coaching, motivation and professional performance.  For more information on Coach Brandt, and how he can work with your coaching staff or your team, visit his website at www.7secondcoach.com.

What If They Don’t Run?Monday, November 4th, 2013

by Tyler Brandt, 7secondcoach.com

In a recent conversation with one of my mentee’s I was asked “how were you able to build and maintain such successful programs over the years? Whenever I am asked that question my response is always the same, “If I put them on the line to condition and blew my whistle would they run or revolt?” The next question is always some version of: “What do you mean, you’re the coach, if you’re telling them to run, don’t they have to run?” Crucially, the answer is NO!

It is true that you can hold the mentality that as the coach, manager or leader you are the one with the “power.” However, if that is your mentality, then you are already losing the game! Leading because you have the Power to do so is a very negative and detached leadership style. I associate power brokers with names like Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Castro and other dictatorial leaders. When power is asserted, fear is the response. That fear is always used to coerce and control not inspire and involve! Leaders who use Power don’t require intrinsic belief in the cause because they have no problem cutting off your hand to force you to follow their rules. This always leads to a revolution against the leader.

My guiding light was always trying to make sure that I was leading my teams and people in a way that they knew I was always doing what was in their best interest. That does not mean they always liked what I had to say or what I asked them to do, but, they knew it would help them reach their goals and dreams. If they chose the latter from the question, what would I be left with? The answer is a whistle and no one to blow it for.

As I look back on my 23 year coaching career, I realize that society, kids, parents and perspective changed, but one thing never has – The Athletes Desire to Contribute! Each athlete will contribute differently but they all want to contribute to the team so they can be part of something awesome. Some will do that by being superstars and some by keeping the team G.P.A. up. It is critical that you as the coach or leader recognize those differences and build champions out of them all in everything that is important to them.

As you look at the messaging in your annual recruiting plan, your team rules and regulations, your working philosophy document and so on, is the focus of your program adding value to everyone? Your gym is old – Awesome – what’s the positive for each student-athlete. Your budget is not very big – Awesome – how is that positive for each student-athlete. The list goes on and on, but the message stays the same, what will you deliver to the athletes on your team that is more important than buildings or bathrooms?

Connect at a level that transcends the physical appearance of your college or high school or office. Relate to your team in a way that foregoes time and becomes timeless. Be in the moment with them, stand tall in their fight, dig deep in their foxhole and it won’t matter what shape your weight room is in or how far away from home the college is or how many losses you’ve had in the past. You will build a collective team committed fighters that will not stop until the goal has been reached!!

If you would like to learn how to do that in your program, please contact coach Brandt at tyler@7secondcoach.com or 480-388-6984.

“Travel Hacks” That Can Make Your Recruiting Trips EasierMonday, October 21st, 2013

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

There is this idea of ‘hacking’ in the computer world. No, not gaining access to networks and other people’s computers like you see in the movies.  More like using little known secrets to improve your situation (think MacGyver). In this article, we are going to discuss some travel hacks that we have learned over time that can help you on your next recruiting journey.

Know Which Side The Gas Tank Is On In Your Rental

When your are in an unfamiliar car (typically a rental) and you go to get gas, take a quick look at the dashboard. The car will have an arrow (or something similar) indicating which side of the car the pump is on.

Get A Free Upgrade With A Van

Have you ever rented a van instead of a standard coup? In our experience, the vans typically have all the amenities. They come with Sirius internet radio, backup cameras, more leg room and they can double as a hotel room which makes up for the additional cost of gas. And what is really great is that rental companies want to get rid of them because nobody wants to rent  them. So rent a normal car at normal car prices and then ask for the upgrade to a van.

Hang Out In The Baller Lounges At The Airports

Most airports have lounges that offer free wifi, comfy couches, free food, free drinks and some even have showers. There are a number of ways to get into them but the simplest and cheapest is the Priority Pass . You can find information on the website at http://www.prioritypass.com/. There is nothing better when you have a long layover then heading to one of the lounges where it is quiet, and you can grab a free Coca-Cola and get some work done on the free wifi.

Organize Your Travel Through Tripit

Tripit https://www.tripit.com is the way to organize all of your traveling and have access to it on your mobile device. It automatically tracks all of your travel plans without having to do any data entry. It simply connects to your email account and whenever you get an email regarding a travel itinerary, the information  automatically gets pulled into Tripit.

Never forget your iPhone charger

This is just cool. It has not been released  yet, but we think people will love it. It’s an iPhone charger that is the size of a standard key that fits on your keychain. For information go to http://www.hellonomad.com/products/chargekey-iphone5.

Shorten Your Airport Check-In Experience

If the check-in line is really long AND you must check-in first, then use the curb side check-in. They can perform the same actions but are often overlooked as people run inside.

Upgrade Your Room For Free

Always ask for a free upgrade when you get to the hotel. It’s just silly not too :) The probability is just too high.



GoPro Cameras Are A Great Way To Show Your Coaching CreativityMonday, September 23rd, 2013

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

We here at Front Rush been playing around with GoPro cameras. These are the devices that a lot of extreme sports athletes wear on their helmets to record videos from their point of view. Let me tell you, they are very impressive. To start off, they are inexpensive $200 to $330 depending on the model. The only add-on that is required is an SD card (the thing that stores all the video) and they are approximately $40-$80 . After that, it just gets better.

First off, they are built to get beat up. The default casing is waterproof so you don’t have to worry about weather conditions. Secondly, they are mountable to almost anything: helmets, tripods, your wrist, your jacket, your body, whatever. No doubt you have seen some antics with these things where you are watching from the perspective of a dirt bike rider doing back flips or a skateboarder clearing a set of stairs. And this is just the beginning of the creativity.

All of the models have built-in Wi-Fi. This means that the GoPro can be mounted anywhere and with a remote controller (or an iPhone app), you can control the recording with a simple click of a button. And with that click of a button, the quality of video is as good as it gets. If you have any ambition of posting video to the web, the GoPro can record at definitions far higher than what you can stream on YouTube.

There are a ton of accessories and they are all inexpensive. Whatever you are looking for, you can probably find. Whether that is a tripod or a way to attach it to a fence or pole, or a helmet mount, there are inexpensive options and third party suppliers.

The GoPro also records audio which is a nice touch. The only negative is that it does feel a bit old school to attach the files to your computer instead of remotely transferring them. But, this is just a mere drag and drop, but still an extra step compared to what you may be used to on your iPhone or Android device. Overall,  the GoPro is a great tool for coaches and players alike. As soon as you start using one your creativity knows no bounds.


Making Sure Your Team Isn’t Licking the Taco ShellsTuesday, September 10th, 2013

A national restaurant power like Taco Bell employs smart, well-educated people to craft a branding message that results in increased business and loyalty to their menu and story.  Literally tens of millions of dollars of carefully crafted advertising is dedicated to telling this story every year, in just the right way and with just the right balance of entertainment and information.

And then a minimum wage employee licks the tacos shells. Or, across the street at Dominos, they’re doing horrible things to your pizza.

All of that marketing expertise, all of the money, and all of the carefully crafted marketing messages…they’re down the drain.  All because of a kid and his friends killing time with a cell phone camera.

In the same way that fast food restaurants try to clamp down on their minimum wage employees so that they don’t ruin the marketing strategy and brand name of the corporations they work for, colleges and coaches tend to try to clamp down on their student-athletes.  Many athletic departments view them as liabilities waiting to happen in the recruiting process (“What if they take that recruit to the frat party?”  ”How do we know what they’re going to be doing for those ten hours overnight?”  ”What if they tell the prospect about what happened at practice the other day?”).

And then there’s the military.  They know that the best way to make peace with a local population and establish roots in a new territory is through the efforts of soldiers – the lowest paid, most junior-ranking members of the military.  Handing out candy, talking to local children, helping to re-build a school…those things are the basis of a theory called Krulak’s Law, named for Marine Corps Com­man­dant Gen­eral Charles C. Kru­lak. He talked about it in a 1999 arti­cle titled, The Strate­gic Cor­po­ral:

“In many cases, the indi­vid­ual Marine will be the most con­spic­u­ous sym­bol of Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy and will poten­tially influ­ence not only the imme­di­ate tac­ti­cal sit­u­a­tion, but the oper­a­tional and strate­gic lev­els as well. His actions, there­fore, will directly impact the out­come of the larger oper­a­tion; and he will become, as the title of this arti­cle sug­gests – the Strate­gic Corporal.”

Which brings us to you, Coach.  How are you using your army of “boots on the ground” – your team – to recruit your next class of athletes?

So much of it depends on the quality and individual personality skill-sets of your team that it is virtually impossible for me to outline a four point one-size-fits-all plan that will work for every coach in every situation.  That said, there are some general principles and key questions I think are important to talk about so that coaches can craft their own approach in how they use their current team to recruit their future team.

The first point I’ll make is that, in my opinion, not using or limiting your current team of student-athletes in the recruiting process is a mistake.  That goes beyond a personal opinion, and really points to the research which clearly points to the interaction with your team being one of the biggest contributors to your “brand” in the eyes of a recruit.  Want to overcome subpar facilities and a town that isn’t all that exciting on a Saturday night?  Get them to fall in love with the guys on your team.  Want to see nine months of intense recruiting efforts go up in smoke in a matter of seconds?  Let them spend time with that jaded, dissatisfied Senior who you just benched (trust me, they have no problem with licking the taco shells in front of one of your recruits).

It’s your job as a college coach to not only put together great game plans for competitive success, but also great game plans to build your team and make them part of this crucial recruiting effort you engage in each and every year.  To do that, I feel one of your primary responsibilities is to understand what’s going on with your team personally, from top to bottom.  Unlike the starting line-up you’ll take into a competitive contest, every team member matters when it comes to your recruiting effort.

One of the key questions each coach needs to address in formulating a strategy for recruiting interactions with their teams is who will make up that primary contact – underclassmen or your upperclassmen?  Without a doubt, we have seen underclassmen make a bigger impact in the process versus their older counterparts.  They are closer in age to your recruits (who seem to get younger and younger every year), which is important.  Your recruits want to know who they will be competing with – in fact, we’ve heard numerous college athletes look back at their own recruiting process and point out how irrelevant meeting and hanging-out with a team’s Juniors and Seniors is.  Why?  It’s pretty basic: They know those older athletes won’t be around when they finally join your team.  Why have them spend time with those older student-athetes?

Another key question for  a coach to answer is how to incorporate time with student-athletes in their recruit’s visit schedule to campus.  From what I’ve seen play out in thousands of recruiting scenarios, more time with your younger athletes is always going to be better than less time.  Even if it means fewer meetings with older men in bow ties in an ivy covered building on the other side of campus?  Especially if it means fewer of those meetings!  Your success rate for recruiting visits will rise proportionally with the amount of time you allow your recruits to just hang out with your current team.

But what about those disaster scenarios you have looping through your mind as a college coach who is leery of handing over so much power to a group of new teenagers who have been on campus a few weeks or a few months?  The biggest piece of advice I can give you as a coach that would make you feel more at ease is to encourage you to meet with your team as soon as possible, standing in front of them with a white board and a dry erase marker, and have them establish what they should do with a recruit, what they shouldn’t do with a recruit, and what they will do to keep each other accountable.  Have them establish their own rules of what gets talked about and what stays private, as well as where they should and should not take a visiting prospect.

Coaches who have gone through this exercise know that it’s extremely effective, and will actually make your team more enthusiastic about hosting visits – especially if you convey the idea that they get a voice in the process.  Let them know you want their two cents at the end of the visit to determine whether or not you should recruit that athlete.  Of course, your vote trumps their opinion.  But I will say that in my experience, your team is usually right on the money when it comes to how that recruit will fit in to your current team culture.  Pay attention to them, Coach…they instinctively know who’s right for your team.

Whatever rules you decide to establish, understand that your team has incredible power to promote – or irreversibly damage – your brand.  As the chief architect of that brand, I suggest you devote time to establishing the right culture and message in conjunction with your team.  If you do, you’ll like the results.

Use the $300 Million Button In Your Recruiting ContactsSunday, September 1st, 2013

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

So often times you are just a test subject. You are part of a test to figure out how to make someone else a lot of money.

Its true. Decisions by enterprising companies are made depending on how you interact with something relative and how other people react to that same thing. If you react the way they want and so do many other people, then you have proven their hypothesis…if not, they will reiterate and try something else.

When you go to a site like Amazon.com and you bounce around searching for a book, or ski pole or whatever, Amazon is showing you one version of a page. Somebody else might be looking for the exact same stuff on Amazon but they will see a completely different version of the same page (or subtly different depending on the test). What’s happening is Amazon is testing which version of the same page converts to getting customers to check out and buy their items and which is making them more money. They may show two totally different versions of the same page, or they might be testing subtle differences like the size of the font.

The famous story in this space is the “$300 Million Button”. It’s a story of how testing a specific site and simply changing a few aspects of the checkout button caused an increase of $300 million in revenue. Click here for the link to that story.

So how does this apply to recruiting? Well if it has to do with marketing AND web, you get the double wammy of direct correlation. Just like Amazon tests its web pages for conversion, you should be testing your campaigns for the same. It doesn’t necessarily have to apply to your web-page (although if it did, that’s awesome). It can apply to your emails, your phone calls, everything. So the next time you send out a mass email to recruits…send out 2 versions. Fifty percent of the recruits get one version of the email and fifty percent get another. You should try different subject lines, different email content, different email templates (with pictures). Try them all. If you are using email tracking software, then you can see which had more opens, which had more people click links, etc.

If you want the recruits to fill out online forms, track which email induced more completed forms. Once you do one test, then do another and another…keep reiterating and improving and keep testing. Then once you get the testing process down with email, try it with phone calls, text messages, everything.

The technical term is A/B testing and there are a million resources on the web relative to the same. Definitely check it out.

Electronic Monitoring And The Benefits For Coaches, Recruiters And AthletesMonday, August 12th, 2013

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

For the past few weeks, I’ve been wearing a Nike Fuel Band and a Fitbit. Both devices are wristbands that track various data sets of your physical being. They track them through built in accelerometers and pedometers and then allow you to sync your data wirelessly to your iPhone, Android, etc (device specific). The idea is that without you having to manually enter a bunch of information, you can track your health by knowing the number of steps you’ve taken in a day, the length of time that you were physically active, how many hours you slept, etc. You can also set goals for each of these data points as a way to gamify your physical health.

Tracking personal data is becoming a common trend known as “quantified self” and it extends to essentially anything. For instance, how many emails you send in a day, how your weight has fluctuated over time or what your daily calorie in take is. What’s interesting is the potential for these (or similar devices) to expose data coaches could use to benefit their coaching, recruiting and evaluating similar to the way “Moneyball” changed baseball (and now basketball and others).
Through hardware that athletes wear, we potentially can learn more about them specifically or the respective sport in aggregate ways that can be used to your advantage. For example, we could strap a device to a lacrosse stick to track acceleration of shots or put a device on a pair of shoulder pads and track the forces of a hockey hit. What about tracking the most common area of impact on an athletes serve or the spin of a baseball pitch? These are hypotheticals and some already exist, but what we are talking about is making this data so cheap and accessible that anyone with $100 bucks can generate it and have access to it. It’s really interesting to know that there is a whole other side to this evaluation thing that we haven’t touched because we haven’t yet been able to generate enough data to know its value.
We really like the evaluation potential because it brings the data to the forefront and balances it with the historical anecdotal observation. An analysis on your athletes can be done prior to the visual evaluation which leads to more precise estimates and more focus on key athletes (i.e you can filter out athletes based on these new data points similar to the way you know if they are a fit for your school because of academic credentials.)
So what about the Nike Fuel Band and Fitibit? Well, I’ve learned that they are both very inconsistent and seemingly inaccurate. Even when worn at the same time, on the same wrist, they produce different results for the same data point One will say I took 10,000 steps in one day while the other will say 11,000. So right now I think it is up to a creative coach to find a way for either to make an immediate impact on their team but no doubt the future will be super cool.

Take The Right Steps To The Next LevelMonday, August 5th, 2013

by Dr. Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

You’re at your desk. An athlete knocks. She comes in.

“Coach,” she says, “I want to take it to the next level!”


She is asking to get to a place different (a better one, hopefully) than where she is now. But does she know what that new place will feel, look, smell, sound like?

Do you?

And, what if, instead of that athlete wanting the next level, it is YOU who wants to crank it up?


Getting to the next level, regardless of what next level means, and regardless of whoever wants to get there, is rarely a comfortable process. It entails working harder, being smarter, and being prepared for opportunities when they appear.

Those steps, critical parts of the process of getting to the next level (let’s call it NL from now on), throw most people out of their comfort zone, and because of that, many fail. It is easy to get blinded by the rewards of the NL and then blind-sided by the process of getting there.


Here’s an example, a family friend was smitten with the idea of climbing to the top of Mount Everest. He was a climber, with some experience, but nothing under his belt to prepare him for climbing Everest. He talked constantly about being on the peak, but never once did I hear him mention about preparing for the trip.

So when I got the email that he pulled out of training for the climb, after three weeks, it was not too much of a surprise. He was blinded then blind-sided.


I’ve heard from numerous coaches that they want to get to the NL. As soon as I hear the desire to “go up the mountain” I bounce two questions right back at them:

  • Q1: What does the NL look like to you?

  • Q2: If you never got to your NL, staying right where you are, how would you suffer?

It is pretty obvious how committed the person is to getting to the NL by the responses to those questions, and not just in words, but by the passion they present them with.

So, let me ask you those same two questions: 1. What does your NL look like, and 2. If you ended up staying at your CL (current level), how would you suffer?

Stop for a moment and answer those questions. Really-stop-and-answer.


I’ve taken to using the mountain-climbing metaphor quite a bit. Let’s bring it closer to home. Here are a few things for you to consider, once you’ve gotten bit by the NL-Bug.

  • Consideration #1: What are the in-place opportunities? Is there a system established to get you to the NL, like promotions, or will you be going off-road to get there?

  • Consideration #2: Who can help you get better? Can a mentor, coach, peer help you achieve your goal? Other people, it turns out, can be very helpful in getting to the NL. Who can you count on?

  • Consideration #3: What would be the price of failure? You try. You fail. Are you penalized? Lose your job, house, family? It won’t be all roses and chocolate trying to get to your NL. In fact, there could well be poison ivy and Brussels sprouts. But that’s why you do you homework beforehand, so you know the prices.

Speaking of  homework

Motivated for the NL? Then let’s get there using these five core steps:

Step 1: Imagine what the view is like from your NL. Come back to your basic senses. How does it feel, sound, taste, smell, look?

Step 2: Get more knowledge about where you want to go and how to get there. Now put some flesh on the sketch you did in Step 1. If your NL is a better coaching position, find out all your can (good and bad) about coaching at that level. (What’s the pay? How many hours are you working? How long do people last in that position?) Dig and get the answers.

Step 3: Now reverse engineer how to get to your NL. How did the people who are already at your NL get there? What did they have to do?

Step 4: Take action. Go. Begin. Take your first step. Take the info from Step 3, and put one foot in front of the other. Up the mountain you go.

Step 5: Compare your results to the original drawing. When you finally arrive, take a breather and compare where you are to your original image (Step 1). Is it everything you thought it would be?


The Next Level can be a cool and rewarding place; or a frightening, crushing place. Before you attempt to get there, do your homework. Don’t go off blindly or you might get blindsided.

Mike Davenport is in his third decade of coaching college rowing, and is one of the most respected leaders in his sport. His website, CoachingSportsToday.com, is dedicated to helping 1,000 coaches craft a positive legacy.  Dr. Davenport is a frequent contributor to College Recruiting Weekly and the educational events at Tudor Collegiate Strategies.