Creating Identity:  Who.  What.  Why.

By Jason Kuhn

During my career, failure in baseball caused much self-reflection.  I recognized how much my identity was dependent on what I do, rather than who I am.  Prior to leaving for the Navy, I would not make the same mistake. Through failure, I learned who I was, what I wanted, and why I wanted it.

In the same way, teams have identity.  Collective identity is often left up to chance.  The various personalities and character traits of the players make up the identity but with no specific intent.  When I train a team, we create a specific identity through a common set of core values, a clearly defined mission, and collective motivation. I ask them three questions:  Who are you?  What do you want?  Why do you want it?

“Who are you?”  Players enthusiastically reply with their mascot or school name.  I then ask, “What does it mean to be a bulldog, eagle, wolverine…?”  The answers are quality but usually not consistent and collective.

Who

Have the seniors choose 3 core values they believe will create the success they want.  What does the team need to live each day to produce mission success?

Players have more influence on each other than coaches do. Player leadership defines the personality of the team.  Rather than dictate, engage the power of this dynamic. When the players choose the core values and present them to their team, they feel committed to living them.

When creating the values, keep it simple and limited to three.  Our minds can focus on 3 things effectively at a time. This will spark a discussion between the seniors as to which values are most necessary for the their team.  Simple is effective.

Example:

Who are we:  Big State Falcons are the best competitors in the nation through:

  • Relentless effort
  • Attention to detail
  • Courage

What

Next I ask the team, “What do you want?” Players often give a general response, “We want to win.”  I then ask more specifically, “What do you want to win?…A conference title?  National title?”

Conviction in mission success is the foundation of winning.  During the pre-season, no games have been played.  Therefore, a title belongs as much to you right now as it does anyone else.

To become something we want, we must act like what we want to be.  National Champions believe they will be champions before it happens.  Otherwise you’re beat before you start.

The mission may take time.  It may not be immediate for players or even during their career.  However, they will be just as responsible for a national title as the men who play the game if they commit themselves to establishing a foundation and leaving a better team than they found it.  The mission should be clearly defined.

Example

What is our mission? 

Big State Falcons mission is to win a National Championship or leave a better team than we found it.

Next I ask them “Why do you want it?”  Most players respond with their individual motivations rather than a collective motivation.  Teams that have a collective motivation to rally behind are next to unstoppable.  When a team feels they’ve been treated wrong, believes they’re underrated, or experience a tragic incident, they find a common motivation that fuels their effort.  This doesn’t have to be environmentally driven.  We can create our own collective Why.

Teams with a common motivation…to complete a common mission…through a common set of core values are very dangerous.   The last step is to wrap it up with a motto. Put it all together and it looks like below.  It should be in the locker room or somewhere they see it everyday.

Who are we?

The Big State Falcons are the best competitors in the nation through:

  • Relentless effort
  • Attention to detail
  • Courage

What is our mission? 

Big State Falcons mission is to win a National Championship or leave a better team than we found it.

Why do we want it? 

We want it for everyone who came before us and to prove to critics that we are a top-25 program regardless of our pre-season ranking. 

Motto:  “Embrace the Suck!”

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