“WORK ETHIC” by Angel Elderkin

Every year when one season ends, a new season begins. I always find it to be an exciting, forward-looking time, but also a time to reflect, evaluate and most of all “reset” for the new season. I am a strong proponent of communication with our players and feel like we learn as much from them as they learn from us. Like many of my colleagues, I find it very beneficial to meet with our players after the season ends to reflect on the year and to navigate ways we can improve. During our end of the season meetings a common theme kept surfacing with our players, and most notably from a rising senior and our hardest worker on the team. Although a difficult conversation, it opened my eyes and allowed me to understand something our team was struggling with: what our players “wanted” and what they were willing to consistently “work for” were two very different things.
Immediately after our conversation I took a hard look in the mirror and asked myself “Where have I failed them?” “Have I not modeled this behavior, or have I not communicated and preached hard work enough?” “Why don’t our daily commitments match our high-reaching goals?”
As coaches we need to understand that we are role models. We are the force that drives our culture, we set the tone, and if we want our players to learn, to grow and to ultimately understand the process we need to model this behavior daily and teach our teams what it takes to be successful. A constant roadblock to success is oftentimes we give in too early because we don’t see the results we want and expected. We give up right when we are about to breakthrough. We talk all the time about getting our players to understand that success isn’t instant, it’s the constant grind. We need to focus more on the daily commitments and the process that may give us what we “want”, and will give us the opportunity to become the players and people we want to be tomorrow.
A podcast that has really helped me outline some concepts for our team this season and has forced me to really think about “work to” vs “want to” is the Focus 3 podcast with Tim and Brian Kight. It explains simple but applicable concepts that can help change our thinking, to help mentor and model the behavior and mindset that our student-athletes need. To put it really simply, it’s no longer how bad you want something, but instead how bad you are willing to work for it. As coaches it’s not our job to tell our teams that the team that wants it more is the team that will win. I believe our job is to teach our players that it is only through working that we will even have a chance to get what we want, and it is time to get busy with that work. The want to is the motivation, the work to is what will give us the opportunity to experience both success and failure. Throughout the podcast you will learn that life is not what happens to you, it’s how you respond. Teaching our players about the process also requires us to teach them how to handle adversity and failure, how to fail, and most importantly how to respond to it all.
As you approach this upcoming season, think about work ethic vs want ethic and make sure your players understand the difference. Take time to ask your players, “What does wanting it more get us?” To understand the process, our players must realize that success doesn’t happen overnight and it’s never something that comes easy, especially not by sitting around thinking about wanting it. It’s the practice of daily commitments and of not getting what we want but persevering anyways, until we get what we work for. One of my favorite quotes of all time is “the greatest gap in life is the difference between knowing and doing”. In this coaching community, we are all competitive, we all want to experience winning, we all want to be great, but remember wanting and working, and knowing and doing are two separate things!
Love what you do, do what you love, and commit to the things that matter the most.

Angel Elderkin is a veteran coach who has had stints at ETSU, Siena, Tennessee, Virginia, St Johns and LSU before being named Head Coach at Appalachian State in 2014. Elderkin was awarded the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award along with ESPN analyst, Holly Rowe. Follow Coach Elderkin on twitter: @AppStCoachAngel

photo by Steve Behr

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