Michael Jordan once said, “The ceiling is the roof.”
What he meant, I believe, was similar to “the sky’s the limit,” or that the team he was referring to, the North Carolina Tar Heels Men’s Football Team, had a high ceiling. A high ceiling meaning the group could accomplish certain things, like a championship. Or, look good in Jumpman swag, I guess.
This type of talk can also be applied to individuals. You may have an athlete that you know could (if they put in the work) achieve a certain level of potential. You know, the one who has a chance to make it to the league. That was the basis for the blog post I wrote about turning pro.
That is great for the outliers, but as I’ve talked about, that’s only the 1%. What about the other 99% who compose your programs?
That’s where we need to talk about the other end of the spectrum--the floor. Floors can still be high. For example, when evaluating collegiate prospects for the NFL draft, a scout might say that the ceiling is an All-Pro caliber player, but the floor is still so high that the player should certainly be a starter. The proverbial “can’t-miss” prospect. For many, the outcome floor is not making the team.
The floor doesn’t just relate to talent evaluation. We use it, and other terms, like baseline, to refer to minimum expectations. Thus, a floor is a foundation. Or, maybe an better word that works for our context today is standard. Every program needs standards.
High or low, your standards are your expectations of every athlete that is a part of any program you run, regardless of their personal goals. So while something like a dress code is an objective, material expectation of athletes, I want to touch on the immaterial or intangible expectations of athletes.
The tough reality is there are plenty of kids who do in fact want to go pro or want to make it to the highest level who will fall short of their dream. Many will not even play competitively in high school, let alone college.
Then, there are plenty of kids who are participating in a program because, for lack of a better phrase, they don’t have a choice. Maybe they chose to but for a simple reason like they just want to play with their friends or just need the credit. The majority don’t have aspirations to go pro or even to play collegiately if even at a varsity level.
I know that you’re here because you are working with kids who are at least involved in a recreational sport. And, yes, even recreational athletes should be training. It always goes back to health and safety, but I don’t want to digress. So, even a program for recreational athletes should establish base standards.
I want to give you the following list ahead of the new year because it’s one of the best times to reset, to make sure you are creating the culture you want. Take the opportunity to remind your players on what the expectations are.
I have four main, minimum expectations. The "four for the floor". Here we go!
Half the work is already done. The preparation by you, the coach, is half the battle.
The other half? The athletes need to show up.
Attendance is the only objective item on this list. It needs to be clearly established, and to the best of your ability, fairly enforced. I mentioned there are good reasons for missing practice. There are good reasons to miss a workout, but even too many “excused” absences result in setbacks.
Missing training sessions lead to the loss of gains, and furthermore, it can affect morale. Like Boobie Miles in Friday Night Lights, you can’t have players slacking while others are putting in the work and getting their lifts in.
A big part of King Sports Training is to also help you, the Coach, with your half. We want to be a resource that makes your job of showing up even easier. Not only are there workouts for every sport and season, but we want to continue to improve how we can help your program be prepared every day.
Apathy is an epidemic among youth today. Caring is so important. So many kids, too many kids, don’t care and don’t try. They go hand-in-hand. You need your athletes to care in order to try, especially with training that can seem repetitive at times.
Ironically, trying hard has somewhat of a negative connotation as an indictment on somebody who is giving excessive effort. The proverbial scout-team superstar. When it comes to training, the biggest challenge with this is motivation. There are a couple ways I’ve had success motivating youth athletes to take working out seriously.
First, shape their perspective by educating them. Help them understand the practical benefits of being stronger or faster. For some, it could be what helps them earn more playing time or produce better. You need to help them see that it’s worth it to try, whatever the endgame.
Second, so many kids look at workouts like a chore. Create a culture where it’s one of the funK parts of their day. Kids will try harder if they enjoy it. An easy example is the daily line leader for speed work like the ladders or hurdles. Reward a different kid each day with that responsibility so that they are motivated to try hard in front of their peers.
Third, celebrate PRs and other achievements. Help them set realistic goals that they can work toward.
I let my athletes know that I need their best. To go along with that, they need to know that their best is good enough.
Create a culture where they aren’t afraid of failing, especially after doing their best. In the context of training, there shouldn’t be much failure anyway. Still, you don’t want your athletes thinking that they aren’t good enough simply because they didn’t hit a certain time or certain weight.
This ties back to #2 of trying hard. Every athlete knows when they did their best as opposed to getting lazy or distracted. Hold them accountable when they don’t. Maybe they skipped the last rep of a set (or maybe miscounted but ask to be sure) or the last box of the ladder or the last yard before a cone. Coach it as you see it. Let them know you saw it and that the next time needs to be better.
On days where they may not be 100%, then I want 100% of whatever percent they have. If they are only 75% one day, then I want 100% of that 75%.
This expectation is the highest of the minimum expectations. I believe it is good and right to make the lowest expectation for your athletes that they always do their best.
Let your athletes know they need to do their best to help others be their best. You know it when you see it. Sometimes it’s simply having the right attitude on a consistent basis. The minimum expectation here is that they don’t show up with the wrong attitude. Bad attitudes can be contagious. The worst case scenario is having kids bring others down.
You want to create a culture where your athletes are intentional about helping each other and supporting each other. This takes some extra awareness, which may be difficult for some kids who are more focused on themselves. Still, teach it and encourage it. If you identify a problem, address it immediately. There will be days with some drama. For the most part, though, your athletes should embrace this expectation.
Teaching your athletes life lessons they can take beyond sports is one of the most important parts of this job.
What do I mean by “make plays”? I mean, go be confident in your ability, and take advantage of your opportunity.
What I don’t mean is don’t try to “make something happen.” You’ll often see professional players – the best in the world – make mistakes because they won’t live to fight another day on a play.
If you saw the ending of the Patriots vs Raiders game in Week 15 of the NFL, then you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.
Making plays can be mundane. It’s the things that add up to helping a team win. You want all your athletes to know that every day, they have the opportunity to prepare for that moment where their number is called and they can make a play for the team.