Building a Strong Culture and Philosophy

As master coach Jose Higueras says, "Difficult times and times of adversity present opportunity." Although many of us would prefer to be coaching right now, this may present an opportunity to take inventory of why we do what we do and how we do it. In this episode, Dr. L and Coach Johnny discuss how to build a culture by clearly defining a teaching, coaching and playing philosophy, and identifying the values that underpin it.


J: Welcome to compete like a champion. You're here with Dr. Larry Lauer, mental skill specialist, and coach Johnny Parkes with USTA Player Development. Today, we're gonna dive into creating a culture. How do you build a strong culture in your coaching and in your programs? Larry, we're sounding a little bit better today.
L: We are. I don't know if it's our voices are better or Mick came up with some better mics and hand delivered. Well, you hand delivered to me, h hand delivered to you, I guess. So.
J: Yeah, well, big shout out to Mick, our, one of our executive, well, our main executive producer who was able to hook us up with these mics that we could have brought home. So thanks, Mick, if you're listening, we appreciate it.
L: We spend so much time ripping on Mick, we should at least appreciate him when we can. He deserves appreciation, you know.
J: And yeah, and he created a little video for us, a video tutorial of setting them up and, you know, how to make it go. So he's great with that stuff and helps us through a lot. So
L: Yeah, Mick [inaudible]. Yeah, thank you Mick.
J: Yeah, awesome, awesome. So today, Larry, we're gonna dive into building a strong culture and part of that is also what we, you know, how you sort of live out your life, live out your coaching and teaching with a philosophy and I think it's a good time to do this because of the situation we're all in at the minute and us as coaches, you know, having a bit more time on our hands. It's almost a great time to refine our personal teaching and coaching philosophy and be able to sit down and really think through that in detail and set goals around what our values are that help create the culture we're looking, you know, we're looking to develop in our programs or, you know, if we work with groups of players, or certainly if we maybe work with individuals, you know, what is the culture trying to create within, within the player? So you know, it's a pretty good time to work on these areas. And it will go nicely in with the the webinar that we've just done that is on philosophy and culture. So hopefully this ties in pretty well.
L: Yeah, indeed, I think, you know, a lot of coaches will be out there reviewing their programs, thinking about how to improve them. And some are talking about starting programs. Whenever you have these stoppages, when life is changing, you start to see, you know, people starting new businesses, starting new programs. And so I'm guessing that there's a number of coaches out there who are thinking of startups or at least they have a program, they have a business and are looking at on how to make it better. And this break is like a natural reset in some ways, not just for tennis or for sport because everyone's taking a break, but also for programs and how you do your business every day. And then certainly for life too, where it's kind of a natural reset of your daily schedule and the things you do. So I mean, I think this is perfect timing, whether you're thinking about what your culture is at home, what your culture is at work, in your sport program, or at your tennis club, this is a perfect time to be talking about culture and maybe resetting things to be maybe more the way you'd like them to be.
J: Yeah, absolutely. And your referenced the question we received recently that was on the first PD Webinar Learning Series that came out last week. And one of the questions that we weren't able to get around to was if you're starting from scratch, how do you build a program from scratch? How'd you build a culture, some of the main points in there? And so we're gonna, you know, I think later on, in this podcast, we're going to get to some of the feedback that we got from our general manager, Martin Blackman, who gave some great tips on on how to do that. And so I'll be excited to share that with the listeners here. But, but before we get inside, it's important to set the stage here. So I think when we talk about culture and philosophy, you know, I think it's pretty clear what, we have a general understanding of that, right, but what is culture exactly?
L: Well, for me, this is sort of how you live. This is the way you do things. And these are the norms that you exist by. And culture could be, again, within your family, it could be at work, there could be a culture within subgroups within your work teams. But culture is the way you do things, it's the way you live. And knowing what your culture is gives you the driving force behind how you make your decisions. You know why you do what you do. And so when you think about culture, it's greater than the sum of the talents of the people who are involved, it's this collective agreement that this is how we do things. This is what we believe in. This is how we're going to conduct our business. And everybody's aligned on it, and when you have that, now you have something special where, if the cultural norms are appropriate for the world that you're living in, then you can find excellence. You take, for example, you know, the New England Patriots are considered one of the best organizations because of their culture that's been created over the last couple decades. And they just decided to let Tom Brady go, because, not because he was a problem for their culture, but just in terms of the money they would have to spend would change their roster and the way that they look at the people that they bring in. And so they put team ahead of one player and they put culture ahead of one player. So your culture is only as valuable as it is appropriate for your goals and where you're working. And also is only as valuable as you are consistent with it.
J: That's a great point and then that's a great example. That should be really interesting to see what happens to the Patriots over the next couple of years, because you often see this in teams or even when players, you know tennis players, they switch coaches or coaching teams, and you often see, you know, that they go from maybe being pretty successful, then a change happens, maybe a coaching change or players change out of teams, and all of a sudden that the team struggles, right? Big time. And we see that in English soccer, English football all the time as you have teams that are on the top, especially I mean talking about Man United as a specific example. They're on top for so long. The coach retires. Sir Alex Ferguson legend, and then they've gone through three different coaching changes since he retired, which wasn't that long ago. Yeah, they've won a couple, I would say low at lower end cups on the way, but they haven't been able to secure their dominance at the top and that was due to a big coaching change. And you know, they won the Premier League title one year, the coach retires in the next year, pretty much with the same group of players, they really struggled. And you see examples like that all over the place. And I think we see examples like that in the in the tennis world too. When different players switch coaching teams and maybe something doesn't work out. You've got, you know, you need time to get used to each other. But you're maybe unsure of each other and what your values are and what the culture is that you're trying to create in practices and things like that. And you know, it's pretty interesting. But I just wanted to share with you, Larry here, I have a great coaching friend who mostly worked in rugby, but his name's Nick Hill, and he gave me a great quote here, I read a great quote from his blog, and he said, culture drives expectations and beliefs, expectations and beliefs drive behavior, and behavior drives habits, and habits create the future. So it all starts with culture. And I thought that was a really good sort of segue into how a culture, now obviously that process takes a lot of time, but it was a good sort of process and how everything starts with culture, but then how to create it as well.
L: Yeah, I think you look at any successful organizations, they have a strong culture and their expectations and their beliefs are very clear from the start and they know why they do what they do. And they may be going to Simon Sinek's kind of golden circle too about how you have this inspirational why, right? We exist because we changed the world through innovation or we develop the best Junior tennis players in the country to our training methods. So you have this mission, these beliefs, these inspirational why's that then drives sort of all the decision making, the way that people act on a daily basis, the way they interact, the way they dress, and all these things. So if you're going to start a new program, or you're looking to redefine a program you're already in, you have to decide what are those? What's the inspirational why? What are the expectations or beliefs you have about your company about your team? And that's where that comes from, right? So we talked about, in terms of like our compete like a champion mission, you know, I felt that we in player development needed more of a competitive mission, and that guided sort of the way we were thinking on a daily basis, it was clear to the players and if we're working with the coaches, we created this competitive mission of competing like champions and developing resilient, confident competitors. And through doing that, one of the principles was that the process is more important than the outcome. The outcome is always important, don't get me wrong, but how we get to the outcome is most important. And if we act with character every day, and we live by these cultural values that we think are so important, like being resilient, like being respectful, and being engaged, being professional, being confident, and determined, and tough, then we believe that success will come from that. We will develop the best competitors in the world, but that starts with choices that you make, right? That's where it all begins. So, a great quote by this coach Nick Hill. And I think, you know, at some point you're making decisions about what's most important and why you're doing that because you believe those things are the things that are going to get you to your goals, to your mission.
J: And that's a great starting point, Larry, you bring up there and talking about values. I mean, do you not thinnk that's the best starting point that we can go with is sitting down and identifying what our values are to us, because they're all each of their own, right, and they're all individual to us. You know, when you first started getting into coaching was your, let's say, if we go back to Simon Sinek's Golden Circle and you start with why, was your why really clear to you or did it get clear over time through doing the work you're already ingrained in or did your why drive you to do the things that you did and then now obviously currently do?
L: That's a great question. I think it evolved. At first my why was because I had a lot of questions about why I didn't perform the way I wanted at the end of my competitive career in baseball and why, you know, maybe I didn't perform as well now playing essentially like national tournaments for inline hockey or club ice hockey and just trying to understand those changes in performance. But I think that why became more inspirational as I was mentored by Dan Gould and so many great graduate students and professors at UNC Greensboro and then Michigan State. It became clear to me, you know a while back, that my why became that I wanted to make sure that other young athletes and athletes had the opportunities and the knowledge and the skills that I didn't have access to, that I've thought limited me. And so I want athletes, coaches, parents to have these things and not to be limited to go for it and have the resources to be successful. So that that evolved over time, and became a lot more inspirational, probably at first, like many mental coaches, sports psychologists, in many walks of life, even you start out doing something because you're trying to answer some of your own questions. You know, I've heard so many psychologists and mental coaches talk about they had a career ending injury and sort of the mental effects of that and dealing with that and they wanted to understand it better and that's how they got into the field or, you know, etc. And so I think that we all have this personal story and that's that inspirational, begins that inspirational why. And then I think along with that inspirational why is you pretty quickly need to decide what do you value? What do you believe in about yourself, about your organization, the way you want to do things, the way you want to live? I always refer back to this video with Ray Lewis and talking to the Miami Hurricanes, so he'd already left for the NFL. And you watch this 10 minute video of him talking to the hurricanes, and his values are just exuding out of this video. You just feel it and the way he communicates and he's wearing it on his chest and on a sleeve and it's like, Okay, you know what Ray Lewis is about, there is no doubt about it. And that's what makes culture successful is that they have an inspirational why, they are very clear about their values and what's most important, what they believe and the way they do things, and they can communicate often. They communicated through spoken words, of course, but through images, through branding and the uniforms you wear, to the way that they brand the buildings that they work in. You know, you look at all these professional sport organizations, they brand their facilities, and they have messaging on them. So, you know, I think you can you can look back as far as like the San Francisco 49ers, and I'm using NFL examples now, but just the way they treated their players as first class, the owner, Debartolo, always treated his players first class. And they wanted to perform, they wanted to be a 49er and they had a dynasty for many, many years because people wanted to play there. They wanted to be there. They wanted to be something great and I think the Patriots have, in their own ways, created something similar. And so any of these great organizations that have these unbelievable cultures, they have this inspirational why, they know their mission, but they're values-based and they know what they believe in and they share it, they communicate it through spoken word, but also through the nonverbals.
J: That's a great point. And what you're essentially saying is okay, you know, we've got examples of quotes or words that inscribe our values on the buildings and things like that. I mean, that's one thing, and that's great, but it's one thing to put it up there. But it's another thing to be living it out every day. And if you're living it out every day, and then you have these constant reminders on the wall, you're living in synergy in your values of what you're trying to do. And, you know, I guess there if you're unclear about what your values are, and you can get lost as an athlete, you don't you don't have a clear picture on what it is that you're trying to do and trying to achieve. So you start throwing out, and we hear this all the time, right, I mean, you asked, can we ask all the kids in our camps, which is great that they have this dream and we'll get to that here shortly about dreams and goals, but okay, what's your dream or what's your goal? And they'll say, well, my goal is to be, you know, Grand Slam champion. Is that a goal or is that a dream? What's the difference between the two? And so, you know, I guess, you know, when I look at the values and creating that, I mean there's this phenomenal book, if people haven't read it yet, it's from a professor in England at the University of Sheffield, I believe, and he's a sports psychologists, worked with many, many top athletes in Premier League football and other sports, British cycling and all that, and he referred this to the stone of life. And just basically in a nutshell, stone of life is your values and it's if you can inscribe things on your mind or if you inscribe things on a stone tablet, they cannot be removed, they cannot be erased. What would what would you inscribe? What would your values be that you inscribe on the stone tablets that's in your mind, and it doesn't really get removed and [inaudible]. So, again, coming back to what you mentioned, Larry, it's the way you do things, the way you live your life and once we start to understand that and we keep that very clear for ourselves, then we get to relay over, I guess, expectations, and be able to get on the same page with the coaches that we work with. Because if we have completely different values about how we go about doing things, it may be a non starter from the get go, right?
L: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I think you have to find that alignment. And that's why, for example, the compete like a champion, I could have just written out values in a mission statement that I believed in, but if the coaches, if it didn't come from the coaching staff then it didn't really matter I didn't think, because they weren't going to communicate it or they weren't going to own it. So I do think that's the case and when you think about this stone of life, right JP, I mean, what would go on your stone of life like I know myself, for example, one of the things that would be on there is loyalty, which I learned from my father and my grandfather just being loyal to those that, you know, that have done well by you or people that you're committed to. So, I know that would be one thing on the stone.
J: Yeah, no, I'm for sure with you on that. Loyalty, I think is a huge one. Respect, I think is a big one on mine. And I think for me, I put those two hand in hand loyalty and respect because you respect the people and everyone and everything to help you along the way, but then also what you can do in return. I have a number on mine, and it's, it's 100. 100%. And I think everything I try to do is at 100%, not 110% because I'm a strong believer that 110% doesn't exist. It's not real, right? 100% that's a max you can do.
L: If you're doing 100, I'm doing 110.
J: But I was, I got a great quote when I was a kid and the quote was "You're only going to get out of it, what you put into it." It's very simple, you're only going to get out of it what you put in. So you can look at that either way, go, okay, if I only put 50% in, I'm only going a 50% out for put 100% in, then 100% is, is the possibility to come out. So I think possibility would also be inscribed in mine as well. Because if you believe that anything is possible, then you basically work that things are infinite, that growth is infinite, and you just you just keep going with that. So that would be a few of mine.
L: Oh, that's that's good. I mean, I think that it's important to know those things because again, those those things, they direct behavior, right? They're felt very strongly because their values, their beliefs about yourself, and you don't want to act inconsistently with those so then you you're very driven to stay with those things in and to the point of what coach [inaudible] is saying if you do them enough, if you act upon your values enough, then you don't have to really think about them anymore. And they just become automatic, right? And now your culture starts to really take on momentum, it really starts to take off. I know, like one of the things that I've really tried to for myself and with the athletes and coaches I work with, the value of resilience and really emphasizing that maybe over perfection, whereas maybe when I was younger, I thought that the whole idea was to do things perfectly. Now, I believe in doing them, like you, a 100% at the best of what I can do, but understanding that there will be mistakes, and you have to deal with adversities in a good way. And so my favorite quote, you know, is this one, "Fate whispers to the warrior. You cannot withstand the storm and the warrior whispers back, I am the storm." And so to me that And sort of what I like to think about in terms of how we want to compete, or a cultural value that you know, we can't control everything that comes at us, but we're going to respond well, we're going to bring it and to me that quote just sums that up.
J: Larry, you might have just created a little business idea there, shirt development here.
L: It's already been done my friend I think.
J: Oh, it has? I am the storm.
L: I am the storm. That could be the next iteration of player ID shirts, man.
J: Yeah. That's a good point. All in, and then on the back, we could just put 'I am the storm'.
L: With your face like with a Spartan helmet over it. I love it.
J: I like that.
L: This is this is getting better already. So... Look, I mean, when you talk about culture, one of the things, JP, you have to understand is it has to be contextually accurate. The New England Patriots in the San Francisco 49ers can take their stances because at the professional level of football, winning is very important. People get paid a lot of money to win. I still believe at that level, the process comes before winning, because you can't get to winning without doing things in a certain way. But winning is very important. For us, winning is very important, but not more important than the character of the people involved or the way we do things. But if you're running a junior program, or maybe you're coaching a high school team, you can't just adopt the values of let's say, player development, and be like, well, this is what we're doing, everybody adhere to this. I think you need to have a conversation with your players about what are we about? What do we believe in? A coach can strongly facilitate that, but you need to get your players' buy-in and to do that you need to have that conversation of what is the mission? What do we live by? What are the values? I know when I worked in team sport, one of the things we used to do is we'd have these conversations and the players would create a mission board and they would put out what the goals were and what the mission was. And then they would list okay, one of the things we need to live by, values, cultural values, what do we have to live by everyday to achieve the mission? Being a great teammate, and we would define what that meant and giving 100% in every practice and sacrificing for the team and we talked about things like we before me. Every decision, the best teams I've been on, we came before me. The worst seems I was on, me came before we. So it's just stuff like this that got ingrained into the thinking, you know, these values were accepted. They were talked about and then people stuck to them and when they didn't, they were held accountable for it. So if someone was making excuses, I remember one of the best coaches I've worked with, Coach Rob Smith, he's a basketball coach in Michigan, he had in the gym that no excuse zone. And if you made an excuse, he would just point at it. He wouldn't be mean or he wouldn't be angry, he'd be like, look, we just don't make excuses. What is your responsibility right now? And so I think that if you want to create that culture, it has to be accurate to the context you're in and the goals that you have. So don't think if you're working 10 and under program that you're going to take compete like a champion, and well, these kids they need to compete every single moment, well, no, at that level it's a lot of cooperation, to be honest. So I think you need to keep that in mind as well, and that's a mistake a lot of people make is like, well, okay, who are the best organized sport organizations? How do they do things? Well, you can look at you know, Duke Blue Devils basketball, okay? Or you can look at the US women's soccer national team as some of the best out there. That doesn't mean that's appropriate for your level, your athletes, their motivation, their goals, that has to be considered when you're deciding what your culture is when you start talking about a sport team, or sport program.
J: Yeah, I mean, that's massive. I think as well, the clearer you are, when I think on teams, obviously a lot of the time it's the coaches selecting the players, right? So the coaches are selecting the players based off the values they're trying to create and the culture that they're trying to develop in an organization. I think when we talk about our junior programming, sometimes it's often the other way around in terms of selection. It's parents that are seeking out coaches. Yeah, parents seeking out coaches, and whether they're doing it consciously, if they're not doing it consciously, I believe a lot of the time it happens unconsciously, that they're selecting a coach based off their family values and principles. Because I think thing that's really important to everyone is that if their child is going to spend a lot of time with a coach in a program or in private lessons, they're going to want to select someone that's able to reinforce the values that they set at home. And I think vice versa, I think coaches obviously love to bring on players into their program that are going to be role models for others in their programs that are able to exemplify these qualities in their junior programs as well. And so from that aspect, I mean, I remember when I was a kid, I mean, I had a phenomenal coach growing up by the name of Chris Peter, who works in the UK. And, and I honestly believe to this day that my parents selected him and he was a phenomenal tennis coach. He taught us how to play. But I think they selected somebody that really, really strong strongly enveloped the values that our family lived by, so I think, you know, again, I don't always believe maybe it's consciously but if it doesn't happen consciously, it's definitely happening unconsciously, so just wanted to mention that.
L: That's a great point, JP, it makes me think about how parents decide to work with certain coaches. And I do think a lot of times, they match up values, that it's very important about working hard in my family and I want a coach who's going to hold them accountable for their effort. Or like for me, for example, that's important to me as well but also integrity, that I want my children to be with coaches who are really good people and find the best in the kids and push them for sure, but in a positive way, and treat kids well. So I think that parents do, consciously or unconsciously look for coaches who aligned closely with their values and when they find them someone that doesn't, they're pretty quick to try to move on from that, especially in tennis where you get to make that decision a lot easier than team sports. Then the other great point that you made was, if I'm starting a program and I know what the culture is that I want, then I'm going to find really good players or athletes who embody that. I'm going to do my best to find and it's sometimes hard to do, but if you have a player, or a couple players, who embody that, and they also are influential, as I used to say they're influential in the locker room, which I guess in tennis is not necessarily a locker room, but they're influential in the program, that people want to follow them. And they're connected to the core philosophy and a culture and the values and the norms, all these words we throw around that you want to have. Now you've got something because those people are drivers of behavior. They make sure the norms of what you your cultural norms happen right when you're not there. And that's huge. And so that's why in team sport, the selection of captains, I think you, we often talk about you don't take that, you take that seriously, if you're going to do captains, because the more they embody your philosophy, the culture that you want, the closer your team is going to be to having the culture that you want to have. So extremely important.
J: Yeah, absolutely. And so I think we sort of maybe set a little task here before we move on to maybe developing the blueprints, so to speak. So I guess this would be a time right now, and maybe you do this after the podcast, but take the time to write down all the things that matter to you as a person, and then all the things that matter to you as a teacher and a coach. And then take those two lists. Are they the same? And are there any differences? I think that was an exercise that I did, I've actually done multiple times, especially when I was first starting out because I was still refining my, as I still am, my teaching coaching values and philosophy, you know, as well as a person, I think I'm a little bit clearer, but then they're not too far away or they're pretty similar, you know. So it's pretty interesting exercise to go through and see what what the differences are and what's similar.
L: That's that's a great exercise. I've done similar things. If you're, again, coaches, you're out there and you're thinking about how you want to set up your culture, this exercise is really important because you got to identify how it is that you want your culture to be, and that's going to be, the origin of that is going to be you if you're in charge of the program. If you're not in charge of the program, then you got to coach up and work with the person who is, to try to get certain values in place, but to me that's an exercise that must happen at the beginning and start to think about, you know, what is it that I value most? And then like I said before, it's great to you value it, but does everybody else? And and so that's where, you know, going and finding agreement and something that everyone can rally around. I know that when, for example, we've started new initiatives, and let's say when I was working in university, we'd have a great idea, but until we took it to the stakeholders, and they got their hands on it, and they started to mold it to their context, to their environment, no one was going to do it. You know, it didn't matter that I had this greatest idea ever, for how to do something until they read it, they understood it, and they are able to adapt it to what makes sense for them. So to me, you know, you got to do exercises like this. If it's pertaining to your own self and your own life, well, then you can control a lot of that. If you're working in an organization or you're you're a team leader, but you have a team, I think, it's kinda like a broken record here, JP, but you have to communicate with your team members to figure out what truly are the values of that team or that organization to the program?
J: Yeah, for sure. Absolutely. So let's, let's move on to developing your blueprint, so to speak. So now we can kind of get into it a little bit here. So in my time, I've been fortunate enough to be in a position where I'm able to develop a program that I can create a culture or try to create a culture based around a philosophy. I've done it a few different times and each time I felt like I've been able to get a little bit better with it. And now I'm obviously being part of USTA Player Development, I'm part of a philosophy and strongly believe that I gravitated towards this because the philosophies in which I was doing things and created were heavily influenced by Player Development, but now, you know, I feel that are very similar. And a lot of the principles that when I first started, I looked into this and I use the acronym CORE. A lot of my philosophy in terms of for me personally was be based around commitment, ownership, responsibility, and excellence in myself. You know, now, how do you live that out? So that's where you have to develop your blueprint. And I think what you just refer to there in terms of can you get the other, you know, the coaches in your program to follow along? I think a big part of this is the number one step is is obviously clearing it out for yourself first. So when of court, and developing the blueprint, and I think first of all, I started with understanding, you know, what is my dream? You know, what is the absolute dream? So as a tennis player when I was a kid, my dream was, yeah, I wanna be a professional tennis player. That was my dream. Now, growing up, I was an average junior and watching my brother who was an excellent Junior representing Great Britain and traveling the world and all this as a young kid. You know, my dream wasn't essentially trying to be his dream, but my dream was to be a professional tennis player. I wasn't that great, but it was okay to have that dream. And I, and that drove me to try and be as good as I could be. But then there's goals. And I think sometimes we get confused between the difference between having a dream and what is the dream, and then what are the goals that you're setting for yourself? And so maybe I wanted to ask you, how do you define the difference between a dream and a goal?
L: Well, yeah, sometimes I have to think about that because I get mixed up and, you know,how important that is, but I think for a dream, that's something, it's something big, it's something inspirational. It can be certainly something that's a landmark on the way in your journey and your career. It could be sort of this aspirational career ending kind of goal out in the distance, but I typically think of a dream as sort of the farther off. Typically, it's an outcome goal. And it's something that you're so passionate about that it's something, you know, people get into tennis because they want to, you know, be a professional tennis player, they want to play college tennis, or they might want to win their high school championship conference championship, but they have this dream in mind, right? And this is what I think about that. And a goal for me, is is a little bit more I mean, you can have short and intermediate long term goals, but a goal is a little bit more action directed, right, like, okay, the dream is to play professional tennis. And the goal might be that I have to develop a well rounded game right, in all areas of my game. So goals are something that, just like dreams, you may not achieve. They're not totally under your control, necessarily. So that's okay. Because in striving for that, a lot of good things happen. But to me the goals are a little bit more specific, actions are taking on them. You can have short term goals, intermediate goals, and long term goals. This dream is sort of the culmination of achieving all those goals that brings you to something right, some achievement, some great thing that you have in mind. That can be, you know, six months down the road, it could be 16 years down the road, but these dreams are the reasons why, you know, kids get into tennis and sport and we do these things.
J: Yeah, no, absolutely. I completely agree with that sort separation or differences in the definition. I remember when I was 14. I was on the balcony of our Tennis Center at the school I was at, Millfield Schol, shout out to Millfield, and I remember, I can't remember what spurred me to think about this. We might have just done a project where I think we were like prettying up off PE folders. And they asked us to put like pictures of all our favorite athletes and things on our PE folders, whatever, like, and maybe it was that, and I remember thinking yeah, I mean, I'm here to do my school and play tennis and, yeah, my dream is to be a professional tennis player, but I also remember thinking, you know, maybe this was more of a goal. I remember think it was, you know, some day too I want to play college tennis in America. I knew I was going to do that when I was 14, or try to do it at least. I want to play college tennis in America and then I want to run and own my own tennis Academy. And that was something for, again, from the age of 14 was actually pretty clear in my mind and I remember thinking, okay, well, wanting to be a professional tennis player is a dream, a dream that is okay to have in terms of helping me strive towards that, but the goal is also something that I think was a bit more tangible, something that maybe is a bit more realistic, that is within your control. More within your control, as you said, more actionable items like, you can make that possible. A dream, like being a professional tennis player, you know, people put 100% into everything that they do to go into that dream and still might not make it and that's the reality of professional sports, and you're either going to be okay with that, or you're not going to be okay with that. And I think most people if they bought into doing everything that they possibly can, and I mean, everything they possibly can. Listening to the right people, if they find the right people, and being able to buy in and really fully commit. So as I said, number one, of CORE, is commitment. They're able to fully commit and then, yeah, it still may not happen for you, but you can walk away from that dream going, hey, I'm proud of myself because I did everything that I can. I put the commitment in into doing that. And, you know, so even going back to when I was young, I remember trying to understand the differences between dream and a goal even then
L: That's an interesting take on it and I agree, and I think that, you know, you're going to possibly have as David Rutherford, who's an ex Navy SEAL said, multiple missions. You know, he calls them missions, but these could be dreams as well. More I think back to the old Van Halen song, 'dream another dream, this dream is over', like dreams, we need to have those, and they inspire us and they drive us, but they're not very tangible, right? Like I wanted to be a professional athlete, and it didn't happen, but it drove me for many, many years. But it was hard to keep that in sight, right? Especially as it became clearer and clearer that I wasn't going to be. But the goals, you know, those were things that I could kind of grasp upon right now, and really sort of tackle and say, okay look, I got to do this, I got to get better at hitting the curveball or you know, whatever it may be. So these things, you need to have both, essentially and then when that dream changes, you have to go back through this process and understand what is it that's driving me and what are the goals I want to achieve? And then as you think about all these things, we're talking about JP, it really helps organize in your mind that, so if this dream is this aspirational kind of long term achievement you have in mind. This big thing. And goals can be a little bit more controllable and achievable, more recently, they don't take 20 years, you know. But then your values and your expectations and these are the things that you control, right? What we were talking about earlier in this podcast that Ray Lewis said I will never be outworked. Just a tremendous work ethic. That was a value that he stated and that then fed through and bled through everything that he did. And so this is where you start putting it together, if you're going to have a strong culture, you have this, what Sinek would call it, kind of your inspirational why or the dream. You know, and you're going to have goals to achieve that dream, but then you're going to have these cultural values that a become norms, right? The way we do things the way we live like Ray Lewis saying, Hey, I'll never be outworked, that these are the controllables and that's how you need to evaluate. With priority. The people that work with you can hold them accountable for that more than anything because that's What they control in doing so you can create a culture that really, that really pushes innovation or pushes performance to a higher level because people aren't afraid to make mistakes. There's not a lot of anxiety in your culture. It's you're not that stressed. And people are striving and they're stretching. And they're trying things where they're going to fail because they know that that's valued within your organization. So, to me, you need to you need to clarify those things within your culture. And that we have, we have this dream this aspirational, why we have very clear goals we're trying to achieve that are short to long term and are also Process Performance and outcome goals. But really, what it comes down to is we have these values that we live by that we all agree upon. This is how we live and if we live this way every day, we can reach our goals, which will eventually get us to our dream.
J: And that's a great segue onto the O of CORE, ownership. So what you're saying there is like, yes, we have our values and the next segment I sort of put under ownership is writing out, what is our foundation built on? So yes, we've already laid our values and part of our values are going to be ingrained in the foundation. But when I talk about foundation, I'm talking now, maybe from the business sense about how you go about doing your business. You've ingrained your values. Now you got to talk about how you're going to live out those values. And that's the foundation that they're built on. And I think when you talk about, well, when I think of in the physical sense, as tennis players, you talk about a foundation or something that's connected to the earth, right, it's connected to the ground, that's the foundation. So in a building if you have a bad foundation, the building could fall over. If you're a tennis player and your foundation, if your foundation is built on just a serve, an upper body movement of just to serve, or just a big forehand and your foundation is not built around the physicality of the sport and how we move. Obviously, there's a lot of different game styles out there, and that's going to dictate, but the foundation is essentially what's connected to the ground. So as tennis players. Now, for a program as a coach, what is the foundation you're built on? Where if things do crumble a little bit at the top, but you're saying I think Bill Belichik at New England, his foundation is still there, even though his top quarterback's gone. So some of the pieces may have fallen down or he may have replaced those pieces. But he still has his foundation that he's built his program on. And I think it's important to keep that foundation right there. And that foundation is backed by pillars of the stones of life and the values etc. But you've got to understand what your foundation is built on, so that when when the pieces do either come crashing down or they get replaced and remodeled or whatever you want to call it, that foundation still exists. It's not going anywhere.
L: Yeah, and I guess you know, this foundation, if you look at your program, how do you take your values and how do you make them become norms, right? Like for example, if winning and losing are secondary to how you do things, one of the ways to demonstrate that is when a player wins or they lose, going and practicing for 10 minutes on some things that you saw in a match and having a conversation is a way to create this foundation of no matter what, it's all about getting better and learning and this process of doing that. And so that is one of the best ways I found since I became part of Player Development to really put the process of getting better and learning first, because no matter what happens, you know, it's all about just getting better and learning from the experience. So that's just one example of what, like a foundational thing that I would think of that, okay, you're basing your philosophy on. You know, some companies talk about, you know, part of their foundation is that they have open communication and, you know, they have direct communication, and they don't just align just to align, but they have their arguments, they have their debates, but when they leave the room, they're aligned and have an aligned united front. And again, I think these are where you take your values of being open and communicating and being innovative. You have to have those situations where you are debating things so if you are running a program, you know, having those times because I've done this with coaches as well, where you get in a room and you have these arguments, you have these debates about how to do things, and about the philosophy and the culture and the nuances of it. And when you leave there, it's so much better. Because you've had that discussion and now you can go to your athletes and your staff and be very clear about what's important.
J: Yeah, absolutely. And so that, again, I mean, you got great segues here, Larry today, so that segues
L: I'm on it today. Surprisingly, because you know, I woke up early, so I'm surprisingly on it.
J: The mind has had extra time to get going.
L: I guess so. I don't know. Trust me, the engine's about to die so we better get going here.
J: All right. So we've covered commitment and ownership. So responsibility and responsibility always talks about what is our responsibility to creating the plan and then referring back to the C, what is our commitment to that plan? And that's our responsibility in order to create that plan and follow through with it. And then I'm going to move on to excellence here because I put a few different things under the excellence category. Because when I talk about excellence, I don't you know, I don't see that as an outcome. To me excellence is then the process of how you then start to get better once you've created your values. You know your difference between your dream and your goal, you've laid out your foundation, you've created your plan. Well, that's great. Now it's patience to roll through with that and trust in what you're doing in that plan. But then excellence is really the ability to A. adapt the plan, so you're constantly sharpening the iron. It's your ability to do an audit, which might happen every quarter, it might happen twice a year, it might happen once a year, it might happen every week. There's an auditing process and somewhere that you go for feedback that makes you better at what you do, even if you feel like what you're doing is pretty good already. And then there's obviously outcomes. And when I say outcomes, I mean, I talk about really your ability to deal with and reflect on those outcomes. So those might be positive outcomes, and they may be outcomes you deem negative. But if you don't go through how you can adapt a plan and audit the plan and focus on how you deal with certain outcomes, then I think you can't reach excellence.
L: Well, I think those are good points and, you know, great companies or programs do, you know, adapt and they audit and they reflect on what they do, they monitor what they do. So, you know, I like the idea. Like, say if you have, you're running a tennis club and you have a couple other pros, getting together once a week or once every other week just to sit down and talk about how things are going and getting that feedback as a leader is really important. Getting their ideas. And that's going to make them feel heard and motivated to be bought into the culture that you're looking for. And one of the things I learned as a young professional, again, working with Dr. Gould, and we would do a presentation and when that was over, it's like, hey, I'm done, let's go have dinner. Like, now it's time to reflect like, or maybe it was at dinner, but, you know, what did you do well with the process, what about the product, and so I find that, you know, really good companies, organizations, sports teams, programs, they do go through these things to not only hold themselves accountable for or responsible for the values that they've expressed, but also to check like, are we taking the steps necessary? Do we need to change course? Do we just need to stay committed? And doing so keeps that dream, that mission, that aspirational why clear in your mind, right? Because this is why we're doing this. We want to develop the best Junior players in the country. Okay, how do we do that? Are we doing that? That's a good thing, you know, if you got a tennis program, to be checking on often, are we working in a way that lives up to our values to achieve that dream?
J: Absolutely, absolutely. And I guess maybe it's a question just for the listeners that they can ponder or not know something maybe we need to answer right now, but I guess then once you have your core, or first of all, you've developed your stone of life, then you're clear on what your CORE is your commitment, ownership, responsibility and excellence and that's developing the blueprint. And then how do you know if your blueprint is working to achieve the culture you want? And that, the reason why I say we don't need to answer that is because I think that's going to be so individual base off the very start. So if we come back to the start of developing and creating your stone of life, that's going to be different for everyone. So depending on what your stones of life are, or your stone of life is, and what you've put down in your blueprint, some some people might reflect that they're achieving the culture of success because they have X amount of players, and whatever in that program. I understand every coach has a bottom line and obviously, that's, you know, everyone's got to put food on the table. But in terms of developing that culture, is it, hey, a one of all players over there, one of our older players just went and took that much younger player over to hit for 10 minutes, and offered to go and help that kid out or help that younger player out or it might have been one of your players comes up to you and asked if there's anything they can do to help you. You know, things like that, is that how you're going to know if your blueprint is successful or not. And again, all of these things are going to be built off from the very start. What the value system is? I think that's why we can't really answer it right now, but...
L: That's a great question. All we can do is give examples, I guess. I know, for example, with our mental performance and the mental training that we do, a couple ways that we know that the blueprint is working, just beyond looking at outcomes, you know, are the players using the language that we use. We see them attempting routines in practice, and trying to really deal with their emotions in a good way and to problem solve, and we see that competitive piece in practice, right? We see that in the gym. So those are a couple of ways and then when we get to tournaments, you know, do we see this just this professionalism and this hard work and this composure that we're looking for, you know, so there's process things that we can look for that tells us, hey, we think that the blueprint's working. I remember that a friend and a colleague of mine, Lorenzo Beltrame, who is a tennis coach and mental coach here in Orlando. He came over for one of our playoffs one day, and there was, I don't know, we had the red clay courts going, so I think we had like, six matches going of these these girls in this playoff and Lorenzo said, look across these courts, Larry, and I'm like, Okay, yeah, look at how well all these girls are competing. He said, what you're doing is working because the message is getting out. I was like, wow, I appreciate that. I don't know, but clearly, I believe, you know, I'm just using this as an example not to prop up what I'm doing, but I do think coaches have adopted the messaging. They've made mental important. They put an emphasis on having routines that actually work. And so I do think we're seeing a change in many of these athletes, where they're competing better and better. So that's just an example, but that all started with some decisions that we made nationally that we just didn't think that we were spending enough time on the mental side, across the board, not just with pros, but juniors as well. And we needed a language and we needed a direction, and that's where the compete like a champion came in. You know that these are the things that are important to us, and if you agree with us, here's how we can work on that. So a shout out to the coaches who are listening, who've really bought in and have done such great work with the juniors because I have seen a difference and the way they talk about tennis, how they they evaluate their performances, and how they act on the court, the way they're training their mental game.
J: Absolutely, and that's a, I mean, it's for me, it's been incredible to see the development of the compete like a champion. Because I think before, I think when you first started is such a great framework, but as we've been going from year to year now, I think what you've been able to do is really integrate it in such a simplistic way because I think if you overcomplicate it, you lose the whole messaging completely. And all we're doing is confusing the athlete, and we're maybe confusing ourselves as well in the process. So I really do sort of commend you and the rest of your mental performance team because having been somebody that's led a lot of camps and I've references this before, seeing how it's fully integrated in now is a really cool thing as a coach and it's something that I actually wish, you know, many years ago when I was coaching in the private sector that I had to add that tool to my programming because I think it would have just made it a bit more next level in A. what I'm offering, but B. is just the quality of delivery, delivering a program to players, to parents, you know, and to other coaches that I would employ. So, you know, kudos to you and your team for that.
L: I appreciate that. And I didn't bring it up for that, but I was just thinking and trying to give an example. But, you know, and that's been a team effort from player ID to our leadership and our coaches, to the coaches working out there on the ground who really make the difference, who are working with the juniors every day. And so we appreciate that, that's been a team effort and just very humbled that we could center that around the compete like a champion. But you know, when you ask, how do we know the blueprint's working? Well, are we seeing people compete in tough situations? And that's what I boil it down to, are they following the routines? Are they using the skills that they've learned? Are they hanging in there trying to find ways adapting, continue to stick it out. And if that's happening, then, you know, players doing a good job, and some coach somewhere is doing a great job, and probably the parents are too.
J: Absolutely. And I know we're short on time here now, Larry, and this is, I've really enjoyed this one and and talking through this. I just wanted to give four points that our fearless leader, Martin Blackman, gave us and, again, this response was inspired by a question from one of the coaches that participated in the first PD webinar Learning Series that was centered around starting a program from scratch, what are the main points and things that I should be targeting? And so I just want to I want to give this from Martin because he gave a very great response. And he put, I won't give it all in its entirety, it's pretty long, but number one, establish your philosophy for development, it's going to be one of the key drivers for your success. So we pretty much just went through that. Number two identify passionate, positive and driven coaches who want to get better and who align with your philosophy as somebody that is running the program. The culture will be defined first by the coaches and then by the players. So if you get the culture right, the results will follow in terms of developing that culture. The third one is make time to define roles and responsibilities with all of the parents. Great programs partner with their parents and create joint accountability along with the player for what the plan and the process is. I thought that was a really great one there. And four, last but not least, is having fun. So at the end of the day, fun is what keeps the players coming back, create the environment which facilitates your players falling in love with the game. You challenge them, but you can also give them the freedom to express themselves as individuals. So I thought those are four great points that Martin gave in response to that question we received and thank you to, I believe his first name is Adrian I won't give his full name, but Adrian for inspiring A. that response, but B. this this podcast.
L: Yeah, excellent response from Martin and a great question. You know, obviously, he does a good job of summarizing that. And considering all the different stakeholders, you know, involved in that process, I think, you know, the one thing we haven't talked about, is the fun aspect. You know, and that's truly important. And you know, what makes it fun, you know? Because fun should be a part of your culture. And certainly being appreciated and contributed makes it fun, being challenged and supported makes it fun. And feeling like you're getting better and have connection with others, makes it a whole lot of fun. So, to me, you know, I always lean on that, and that kind of comes from self determination theory of motivation, that we as coaches, we don't force people to do things, we facilitate it. And if we can get people recognizing that they're getting better and we can challenge them and support them to get better, if we can give them opportunities to have a choice and a voice in what's happening, and they feel connection, they're going to want to come back. You know, there's people that they enjoy being with, coaches, other players. That's to me, you want retention in your program. That's a big part of what you're trying to achieve in your program, having kids come back. Well, make it fun. And there's a whole lot of layers in that onion when you talk about fun, but there's a top three things in the self determination theory. And Martin does a good job of certainly identifying some very good points. And you know, I just wanted to highlight that last one.
J: Awesome. So let's finish up here with the drop the mic moment, although we have these portable mics right now, we're not actually going to drop the mics because we might frustrate Michalowski.
L: I thought in the outline that meant drop the Mick.
J: Drop the mick..
L: Drop the Mick moment.
J: This is for you,Mick. So I don't want to steal your thunder because I love hearing your drop the mic moment. So I'm going to let you start out but I'd love to also give my drop the mic moment before we finish up here. So I'm gonna hand it to you first for that you'll drop the mic moment.
L: Oh boy, I'm on the spot. Wow, okay. Well, I don't want to steal any of yours because they're excellent. But I would say that if you're looking at setting up your program, and you want to create this culture, I think, you know, you really want to identify your values and just what you believe in, your core values, and you want to share them and get, find agreement around the things that are important to you. If you can't find agreement, either that you have the wrong people, or your values just don't fit the environment that you're in and what you're trying to achieve. So to me that that's what I have. Dropping the Mick. So important.
J: Awesome, awesome, I guess mine would build on from after creating the values, I put down a three things here. One is have a dream, something that drives you every day to believe in your process. Two, create a plan based off your foundation and be patient. The road to excellence is infinite. And then three, review and audit your plan multiple times a year. And I get those three things. I mean, those are three things I try to do constant check ins on and sometimes it can be tough, you know, when we're all so busy, but again, I mean, going back to the start of this, I mean, we all I think have a little bit more time on our hands now and maybe this is something that we could go through but yeah, so.. But Larry, I mean, that's sort of wrapping things up here.
L: This might be the longest one we've done too. So hope the listeners are hanging in there.
J: Well, hopefully and I think we went a little bit longer a little intentionally on this one. But anyways, we appreciate you tuning in and Larry, until next week. We're checking out.