I’ve heard this concept expressed in different ways over the years, but one philosophy I have always tried to incorporate into my professional life is that if you aren’t moving forward, you’re really moving backward. Your competition is moving forward so you are losing ground. In many ways, it relates to being an athlete...you always strive to improve, to get faster, stronger, and refine your skills. You better be improving, because your opponent is certainly improving!
In any business, there are numerous processes, procedures, committees, and various ways of doing business. Some of them work very well and accomplish the goals they are designed to accomplish. Some fall short of those goals. Regardless, it’s imperative as a leader that these processes and procedures are constantly evaluated. If there is a better way to do something, then let’s try it! Organizations that excel are on the cutting edge of new ideas and innovative ways of doing business. It’s no different in college athletics.
I challenge each of our coaches every summer to evaluate all aspects of their programs – how they train, how they prepare, their recruiting strategies, and every other aspect of their programs. Is there something they can do better? A new way to train? New technologies we can utilize? New in-game strategies? Additional areas to recruit new student-athletes? Coaches are always looking for an edge, and often it’s the coach who thinks outside the box and takes risks who gets ahead.
Over the past few months, I’ve read several articles about the way major college and pro teams are using technology to enhance their training and performance, from advanced metric heart rate/GPS monitors worn during practice to measure exertion, to the use of iPads for playbooks, and the use of video technology for skill instruction. There are numerous programs and resources online and in mobile form to enhance and provide opportunities in recruiting, fundraising, and team management. There is no shortage of innovate ideas and options, and successful coaches always look for ways to improve.
I challenge myself to be innovative every year, and challenge our coaching staff as well. Sometimes, the current way of doing something is working just fine, and that’s okay. But it is still important to evaluate those processes and make honest assessments, to see if there is a better way. Charles Diehl, former President of Southwestern College, said “good is ever the enemy of the best.” So, while one way of doing something may be good, coaches must always ask themselves “is this the best way” to achieve our goals?
At a small, private institution like King, we are sometimes limited by financial resources. We do not have the resources to invest in the advanced metric heart rate/GPS monitoring system and associated software for our student-athletes, like many NFL and Division I football teams who are utilizing the technology. Some of these limitations cause our coaches to be even more creative and innovative, and I can say I see a lot of creative ideas from our staff! I think it is a big part of why we experience the success we have on the field!
One way that we have new ideas injected into our programs is through the addition of new coaches and staff. While there is value in continuity amongst coaching staffs, there is also value in new ideas, even when a program has been successful. Most assistant coaches don’t remain assistant coaches forever; they move on to become head coaches. The result is a lot of turnover in assistant coaches, which has some disadvantages, but advantages as well. A new assistant coach will bring ideas from their past to the program, and inject a renewed energy with those ideas, which will challenge our student-athletes and have the potential to elevate our program.
Sometimes, even successful head coaches will move on to other challenges. Our men’s and women’s cycling programs have won back-to-back conference championships and had two top five finishes at USA Cycling Collegiate Road Nationals in the past three years. During this time, Dan Kreiss, our head coach, was also serving as a full-time faculty member at King. Dan stepped down as cycling coach to pursue his Doctorate, but will remain at King, leaving us with a new head coach of a program that has been very successful in recent years. I can’t wait to see what new ideas, techniques, and philosophies our new head cycling coach will bring to the program to take the team to even greater success!
We’ll have some new faces at King next year, as various staff move on to new challenges. We’re always sad to see them leave, but the new ideas and concepts the new staff brings will be welcome and challenge us to improve every day.