Only you…can prevent forest fires

Poster of Smokey the Bear w. Smokey hold
Get your “Smokey” on you jackwaggons!


How many of you have heard the phrase, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”?

This month’s blog has a correlation with that saying. Originally, this month’s topic was going to address “timing” on the field and how it can impact the outcome of pretty much any circumstance you and your team find yourselves in.  However, due to some recent occurrences, I have decided to revisit a topic we’ve addressed several times in one capacity or the next (and will probably do so several more times over the course of this blog’s existence).  In full disclosure, you could almost say this is being written TO someone or some team specifically.  I promise… no names.

Imagine, if you will, you have just been handed a disappointing finish at a recent national event that you felt relatively prepared for. Murphy and his Law showed up and made absolutely sure you and your team knew he was there, rampaging through your carefully laid out plans like Godzilla on steroids in downtown Tokyo.  And yes, you were the guys on the tram… Where did it go wrong, why did it go wrong, and how do we overcome the disappointing setback and get back on track (anyone pick up on that mild correlation?  Tram/track?… nevermind)

Meet Murphy in metaphorical form


Let’s skip the first two questions and focus on that last one… overcoming the set back and getting back on track. How do you and your team refocus and remotivate yourself after that whooping that essentially equated to a 20- year old Mike Tyson fighting Justin Bieber.

In the past, we have talked about defining our values, picking the right personnel, practice schedules, how to practice, how to set goals, how to approach the game, how to learn, on and on and on. We have discussed those guidelines at length.  These are proven approaches and not just from my experience but many at the professional level.  But for some reason, this event didn’t pay off and the team fell way short of expectations and goals.  Was it the process?  The process has worked in the past, so why not this time?  There are countless variables that can affect outcome.  The question becomes do we reexamine the process in an effort to identify all the variables that went wrong and why?  Do we chalk it up to sometimes stuff happens?  Do we burn the whole process down and start over again trying something new?


First, recognize something(s) went wrong.  Now we have to reset.  Remember, it is how we respond to what took place that will ultimately decide whether or not we succeed in overcoming the obstacle.  And it will ultimately define you.

How do we get motivated again? We have to have buy in from the entire team.  If we don’t have buy in from the ENTIRE team, if there is an “oh well” attitude in just one team member, then there is a good chance we have lost before we have begun. We can turn around and blame that guy… sure.  We could cut him from the team but who else did he infect?  Or, we can address him and the team as a whole.  We can engage our team and tune up the “motivational engines” so to speak.

Motivated?  You better be…


Vince Lombardi said, “Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work.”

So what can we do to inspire? As a coach, a captain, a leader, a teammate, how do you bring your crew to that level of commitment and motivation after a loss (or several losses… that may be a different blog)? You begin by showing belief.  Belief in the system, in the process, in the team and in the individuals.  Make it apparent that you are going to hold them to a higher standard, because you have confidence they can achieve it.  When the going gets tough… the tough get going, right?

Step 1 should be to make sure everyone is on the same page with the team’s goals. Refresh everyone’s memory what those goals are.  If necessary, speak one on one with each team member and make sure they understand where they stand and what their role is in meeting the team goals.  Remind them of their opportunities (what they need to be working on) but also give them positive reinforcement by discussing what they bring to the table and how that will help move the team forward.  Everyone can bring something to the table.  If they can’t, it’s time for a different sort of talk… you trackin’?

Step 2 is recognizing our short comings as individuals and as a team; then providing the opportunity to improve them. This is where we understand WHAT to practice and HOW.  Honesty is important here…we need to acknowledge our shortcomings and work on them.  We can’t say you need to work on this and then not provide the opportunity for them to work on it.  Work on it as a team, emphasize those who need it and build upon it.  If you don’t, you will sow seeds of discontent and things will come off the tracks.  Of course, it is a two-way street.  If you provide the opportunities and they still don’t improve, well then, it’s time for that “other” convo again.  Copy?

An opportunity presented itself to hang the flag…


Step 3 is quantifying the goals. We have established our team/individual goals and we have established what we need to work on in order to meet those goals.  Now we need to determine or rather gauge what equates to achievement.  Plans never survive contact with the enemy, right?  So we need to establish what success will look like.  Sounds counter intuitive.  “But Bianca, if we set a goal, wouldn’t meeting that goal equal success?”  Yes and no.  We have to recognize improvement in steps.  Are we seeing improvement towards the goal?  Are we seeing improvement in a favorable time frame?  Are some seeing success and others not?  Ask yourself these questions and proceed from there.  You need to have reasonable objectives for everyone and be able to recognize when they are being met and when they aren’t.

Step 4 is for coaches, leaders, captains, etc. Lead from the front.  Be first.  Set the example.  Being the example is leadership.

Step 5 is recognizing the successes of the team and the individuals. When something gets done well, even if its small, make sure the team and the individual know.  Recognition is a great motivator (next to money but who are we fooling, we are ballers.  Money doesn’t translate here).

As Michael Jordan once said, there’s no “I” in “Team,” but there is in “Win.”

Bulls Jordan 1995


Remember, the real test of team motivation efforts is results. What have you done to motivate your team? An excellent question to myself. Or perhaps it is a question that maybe I did something to demotivate them… we better all check on that.

Be water my friends…