Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Expect More Get More

Colleges are just starting to open up again which means frisbee practice is starting up again. I’m always a little torn at the beginning of each season. On the one hand I want to push the ladies to work so they can improve, but I’m always afraid of scaring off the new players. Here are some random thoughts about player retention.

One of my coaching mottos, stolen from Pete Carrill’s book The Smart Take from the Strong, is expect more get more. Carrill’s idea is that a coach should never allow a player to get complacent. We as coaches should continue to present new challenges for our players. Obviously, we need to be realistic with this - it’s not going to be helpful for us to make demands on a player that they can never achieve. But we want to always be pushing our players. I’ve had players tell me that I’m never satisfied with the way they play. I tell them that I’ll be satisfied when they’ve reached their maximum potential as a player – of course seeing as they’ve only played at most five years, they’ll probably reach this maximum potential long after they’re playing on my team. Last year, in appreciation of my approach to coaching, the ladies got me this book, which I think really sums up the amount of respect I get – but I digress.

In any event, it’s perhaps counterintuitive, but I actually think that starting the season with a serious attitude actually leads to higher player retention. When you think about what kind of people we’re trying to attract I think it makes more sense. The players who are going to be most successful are the players who are most interested in working hard. When we start off the season by just goofing off and trying to make sure everyone is having a good time we actually run off these types of people. Last year, I had a girl who had played field hockey her whole life quit the club field hockey team to play ultimate. The reason she gave was that they just weren’t hardcore enough. If we start the season with the attitude that we take what we do seriously we will attract the more serious people. Anyway, I’ll probably have run all the new players off by week two, but we’ll see how it goes.


Jason Becker said...

I think how hard you push your team should depend, to some extent, on how established your program is and how the sport is viewed in your community. New high school coaches, working with young athletes that may still be filled with the sense that frisbee is for pot-smoking hippies and dog-lovers (which it is, of course, but not exclusively), would be shooting themselves in the foot if they came out on day one with two hours of conditioning/skill-work built into the practice. If he then walked around constantly harping at the newbies to shape up, try harder, etc., he'd be practicing alone the next time around.

I agree, though, with the basic sentiment of this post. Teams that want to be legitmate contenders must make the switch eventually. Hard work and discipline is the breakfast of champions. So is Wheaties, by the way.

heacox said...

One thing that wold help your strategy of taking things seriously from the beginning succeed is if you are building on the same kind of intensity you had in place last year (which I think you are). While it may be alienating to some potential players, at least they all know what they are getting into. It also helps, and this is my main point, if the returning players have already "bought in" to this intensity, and therefore can bring the new recruits along with them into the program.

I imagine it would be much more difficult to establish these expectations of seriousness in the midddle of a season, or with a team that was was already entrenched in a less-demanding regime.

Tarr said...

Couldn't agree more with this. I think one of the big mistakes of the Purdue men the last couple years was having practices be too unstructured early on. What I said to them this spring was "you're going to get 75 freshmen the first week, and a couple months later you will have a dozen real recruits. You can't prevent this. You may as well make sure they're the right ones."

The people you want are the ones that are looking for a serious athletic endeavor, so give them what they want.

Jason, I disagree that you would be shooting yourself in the foot by being serious from the start. Now, you don't want to be an asshole, but it's entirely possible to be serious and positive at the same time. If the kids think ultimate isn't much of a real sport, then dispel that notion as quickly and completely as you can. The ones who want a real sport will stay.

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Keith said...

Agree with Heacox.

An established or burgeoning program is a good fit for this strategy. You have to make the switch from getting bodies to enthusiastic bodies to athletic bodies. 3 stage process, I guess.

Smaller or less established programs, such as mine, pretty much have to take anybody we can get.

mick said...

I totally agree. I've been through a few college seasons where we have varied between the "everyone has fun" attitude, and the "everyone is pushed" attitude and I think the latter leads to the retention of more players.

I remember playing in a beginners league at college where the emphasis was on "fun". We had about 4 realtively experienced players in the team and about 10 newbies. The experienced players just goofed off and treated it like a social event cause it wasn't a "real" frisbee night. As a consequence the newbies weren't really exposed to much good play.

It was really interesting when, for the last game of the league the good players decided to play serious and really bury the opposition. There was a lot of layout D and a controlled hucking offence. The newbies were blown away.

Later some of them asked me why we didn't play like that all season, my reply seamed pretty lame, "we didn't want to scare you off". They replied by saying that sort of play was more likely to inspire them to stay at it so that they could learn to play like that. In reality they had been bored the whole season and couldn't see the point in the sport....

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