Developing a Competitive Culture

Posted: February 28, 2012 in Coaching Philosophy, Psychology

This off-season I’ve changed a few things to try and develop a more competitive culture on our team.  The objective is to raise the level of fight in our players, and to be the team that is playing to the last whistle harder than any other team.  I also want to foster a culture of unity; working together to be the best that we can be as a unit rather than as individuals.

At the NSCAA Convention this year I had the opportunity to hear Coach Dilanni break down his competitive environment philosophy.  They use a series of competitions in three main areas; The Player (soccer), The Person (personal growth), and The Student (academics).

So when we got back to Wesleyan we decided we could use an off-season competition to raise the level of teamwork and competitiveness in our players.  And stealing from Coach Dilanni we wanted to make it a competition that focused on the players as a whole person, not just a soccer athlete.

After the famous Anson Dorrance we decided to call our competition the Cauldron Cup, and our players were divided into four teams that were arranged by the coaching staff.  The four teams were organized to have an equal number of upper class men and freshmen, and each team had one of our four leadership council members on it.  Then we asked the teams to designate a captain (could not be a leadership council member) and those captains were responsible for reporting scores and organizing the team competitions.

Then our coaching staff came up with a series of competitions that we thought would be fun and encourage the players to work together several different ways.

  1. Skills Challenge: in the off-season we have a skills circuit the players are run through once a week for seven weeks.  Every week the players keep score in seven skills ranging from one touch repetitions to 1v1 battles, and they are ranked 1-25 based on their scores.  The four teams are ranked 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th based on how their team members finished that week.
  2. Basketball Challenge: to give us something different and unrelated to soccer we have the players do something outside their comfort zones that requires some physical challenge.  The four teams play a round robin, and then the top two seeds play a championship, and the bottom two seeds play a consolation game.
  3. Fund Raiser Challenge:  we decided to involve the players in the fundraising dilemma and thought we’d make a competition out of it.  Each team is given a week to raise as much money as they can, and the winning team was going to get a box suite at a local semi-professional hockey game.  My thought was it gave the players some ownership and an opportunity to be creative.
  4. Academic Challenge: midterm grades would be calculated and a team average GPA would be ranked against the other teams.
  5. Picture Hunt: teams are challenged to take a creative picture from town that best represents what we are about as a university soccer program.  Coaches will rank the pictures 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.
  6. Dutch Cup: our second soccer related challenge is an individual challenge essentially. Players are randomly placed on teams and put into small sided games of various kinds.  The players receive points based on how their team performed that one round, and then they are randomly mixed again and placed on different teams.  We use this throughout spring ball and try to get at least six rounds of games in.  Players accumulate points individually, and the four teams’ points are added up to give a team rank.

The idea is that we are creating a competitive environment where the players have to rely on each other, but also learn how to compete in a healthy way against each other to raise the bar of the program.

So far the guys seem pretty into it.  The mix of activities, especially the unrelated ones, seem to be a big hit with the guys to give the winter a different look.  I’ll post results and put together an off-season review to let you all know how it goes.

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