Maintaining Motivation in the Off-season

This time of year, one of my primary concerns is keeping a team motivated. It is especially difficult because we aren’t allowed to be present while they’re over doing their thing with the strength staff. How do we keep a team “hungry” while not having contact with them, as a group, on a daily basis?

For us, this has become crucial due to events and outcomes over the course of the last few seasons. We last won our league title outright in 2011. Since then, we’ve blown a lead in the last 7 seconds to the eventual league champion (2012), and then coming up 3 yards short of a game-tying touchdown against the eventual league champion – on the last play of the game! – (2013). Making it more painful in 2013, we finished with identical league records, but they had the head-to-head tiebreaker. Our last setback in the 2013 season was a one point loss via a blocked PAT in our ECAC bowl game.

While we run a very positive program, we want the kids to have a bit of a bad taste in their mouths from these momentary lapses, and to remember how they affected our season. I saw an article recently about Coach Nick Saban and some signs he had printed and displayed as constant reminders to his team about how they came up short in 2013. Here, we have neither the resources for flashy signs, nor the GA’s to produce them.

I have, however, adopted a technique to keep my players hungry. Whether it is effective or not will not be determined until the fall. When I talk with our guys, whether on campus, in the dining hall, or in the office, I ask them how many conference championships are represented in the group present. They count. We’re a relatively young team this off-season, and we’re graduating a class who won 29 games in 4 years. When they look around, they are not satisfied with the answer. Hopefully, this helps them remember that we have a standard, and they need to push themselves (and others) to maintain that standard.

Time will tell if my trick works. As one of my old coaches used to tell us, there is more than one road which will take you to Boston. Hopefully, my chosen road will return us to the top of our conference and back into the NCAA tournament. Maybe you’ve got a different trick, but we all fight the same battle. Fight complacency and stay hungry.

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