Defining Discipline


As coaches. the more we can define the different qualities we want to see in our players and our team, the better the chances of them  being able to adopt those characteristics and perform up to the expectations we set for them.  Many times we throw out terms that are intangibles.  We assume that they understand the intangible, but we take for granted that their definition may be different than ours.

It is pretty safe to assume that our players understand that discipline is something that leads to success.  What they view as discipline may vary.  Merriam-Webster defines it as

1.  training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character
2.  orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior.
The dictionary definition, doesn’t exactly point to the specifics.  We need to be detailed in exactly what that pattern of behavior is.  Part of it is being detailed in what we want on the field whether that is their assignment or technique.  If we want to see something happen on the field, we must coach it.  I described a fun exercise we used for installing some of our sideline procedures and expectations and specific examples of the enthusiasm and engagement we want out of our players on game day here.  This would be and example of an orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior. Being specific in all aspects of what we want is a big part of instilling discipline.  Performance to an expectation cannot be expected if standards are not set.  Furthermore, the standards must be evaluated and both correct and incorrect behavior or performance need to be addressed (corrected, molded, and perfected).
In general though, I want my players to understand that my generic definition that they must apply to all of the different things they are expected to perfect is that discipline is intense listening and focused action.
Intense Listening
Whether it is in a classroom type of meeting, on the field instruction, or post practice meeting, players are expected to listen intensely.  In the classroom part of that falls on me as a teacher/coach to use methods that keep them engaged and on the edge of their seats.  For some detailed “on edge” coaching techniques, click here.  The other part is on them.  I expect them to have their eyes up or to be taking detailed notes.  They should ask questions if something isn’t clear. On the field, they should always be listening.  We talk to them about mental reps, but part of that is hearing the instruction and correction that the player performing the drill or rep is receiving.  It’s not time to talk or socialize when it’s not their turn.  If they fail in the same way as a previous player, they were not listening well enough.  The last is in post practice meetings.  As a coach I know they are tired at that point, so I make it a point to be concise and share only the most important observations of practice that I need them to understand so they are better the next time.  I also set the expectation that eyes are up and all other activity stops.  That means don’t be taking tape off or unsnapping or unbuckling pads. Intensely listen to the message.
Focused Action
Focused action  is doing exactly what you are supposed to do in the manner you are supposed to do it.  Again, as the coach I better be as detailed as possible in setting those performance guidelines.  I also need to constantly evaluate and correct.  Being specific in the language I use is important.  I should be able to say a word or phrase that I have taught the players which will cue them to exactly what the error was, and exactly what I want.  “Catch the ball” isn’t specific enough.  They know that.  “Eyes” helps them understand that the error was they moved their eyes too early or didn’t follow the ball in.
Intense listening and focused action will help a player be more cognizant of what they need to do to show discipline.  As I pointed out, as coaches we have a huge role in discipline as well.  It comes not from being a “drill sergeant”, but rather from being a great teacher.
I hope this perspective helps you help your players this season.
Pick up a great resource and reference for the 2013 season. 101 Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays for the iPad is loaded with video, diagrams, and ideas that are useful in any offense.  Get it here:

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