Defining What it Means to Compete

This post was contributed by Youth Ice Hockey Coach Karl Norton. I believe that the article contains many points that are also applicable to coaching basketball.

These are Coach Norton’s comments:

We will also be combining this (His 3 on ice objectives for his team) with our culture and compete objectives that we will ask the players to develop. I attended a coaching conference in June hosted by The Way of Champions and Changing the Game Project. There were about 60 coaches involved with a wide range of experience. This was one of my biggest take-aways and I’m looking forward to combining these ideas with my focused goals. The other element is the inclusion of the parents in the team culture so that they know what to support and encourage. This will be quite a challenge!

The intent of the process is to end up with 3 main points for Culture and Compete. A lot of words and phrases are synonymous so they will lend themselves to grouping of key ideas. The really big point is that it comes from the players!

I want to acknowledge where the underlying ideas come from. James Leath, Dr. Jerry Lynch, John O’Sullivan, and Reed Maltbie, as well as many others have been a major influence on my thought process. My own thoughts have melded with those who have ideas that I am attracted to!

Team Culture

At the start of the season, when we have all the players together, I would like to start working with the them on developing their Team Culture and their goals for competition.  What is important to them?  How do they want to play?

Objective #1: Players establish a set of team values.  What is important for your team?  What do you want to be known for?

Divide the players into 2 groups and ask each group to list 5-10 specific things that are important to how they want their team to be.  Combine the groups, discuss the ideas, and establish their team values.

Core values should be inspiring, believable, hold everyone accountable, things that will be rewarded daily in practices and games.

Words that describe great teammates and culture:

Team player
Giving – what can I give for the team effort
Good Sportsmanship
Great attitude
Gives all-out effort
Never gives up
Never loses confidence
Is never defeated – the other team cannot take away their mission


 Objective #2: Players define what it means to Compete.

Establish a Warrior Culture

Internal focus – not immediate outcomes
Process driven
Self-less attitude
All effort
Every day excellence
“When you compete, you’re difficult to beat.”

Divide the players into 2 groups and ask each group to list 5-10 specific ways that, when executed, demonstrate what it means to compete.  Don’t focus on winning, focus on competing “like crazy with your hair on fire!”  Combine the groups, discuss the ideas, and establish how they wish to compete.  This is their Mission.  The “exceptional execution of extraordinary excellence”.

For example:

Scrap for puck
Sprint hard on back checks
Play In-Your-Face tenacious defense
Be “present” on defense
Defend together
Attack together
Identify your man
Head up, feet moving
Reaction to mistakes – move on quickly
Work hard

All tasks that are controllable, doable and easy to accomplish.

Combine groups and create a master list “This is how we will compete!”

Show up to compete!

Focus on competition – do the little things brilliantly

Calm, Relaxed
Extraordinary performance




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