Sailing crew on sailboat on regattaFirst Day of Practice

I remember it like it was yesterday, my first day of practice. I played baseball, football, soccer, and basketball growing up. Every season began with that first day of practice. There are some valuable nuggets within every first day. I think these translate to every area of our lives like the marketplace, socially, and even spiritually.

Team chemistry begins the first day of practice.

Coaches and players must have introductions on the first day. Yes, some players will stand out more than others, but every player needs to know and trust their coach. I always met my coach on the first day.

Years ago I was subjected to training where people were put in a room from all over the country. We were together 60 hours and then the training was done. From the moment the weekend started we were intensely dependent on others. We went from complete strangers to very close friends.

If you are on a team you can’t hold back the “real you” for long. When you are not “you,” those near you won’t know how to take care of you. Great teams and projects are accomplished when the worth of the person next to you is greater than your own. This is why you must know your team on the first day.

If you are the project lead or the head volunteer, make sure every person on your team gets connected in some way. The longer we wait to know each other, the slower the progress is towards teamwork.

Run through some lite-drills.

The first day of practice was never too much. It was just enough to get the blood flowing and start working together. My coach never expected too much of us that first day, but he did expect us to try on every repetition.

Every project, volunteer team, or otherwise has repetitive tasks and systems to be displayed. Make sure the team knows these the first day. It’s not so much about perfecting them as trying to perfect them with every rep.

Assess Conditioning.

No matter how much I prepared for the first day of practice, it seemed there were some who did a little more or a little less than me to get ready. I know this because we were assessed.

If you are the coach, make sure to try the conditioning of your team on the first day. It is imperative to reveal the basics right out of the gate. Don’t compromise on the metaphorical wind-sprints when leading a team. What I am saying is, ‘get the team members a bit “gassed” on day one.’ It’s okay to deliver an excessive amount of action items toward the finish project on the first day, just to see where people are.

Beforehand, the coach must establish the expectations for the team. These are communicated on day one and then everyday there after, again and again, until they produce results. A good example of this are the slogans that are hidden at the end of locker rooms, just before teams run on the field. In Notre Dame Football, for example there’s a sign that reads, “Play like a Champion today.” Or over my Seattle Seahawks threshold, they take the field passing below a sign that reads “I’m In.” These are values.

Values are not suggestions and they are certainly not “cutesy sayings.” Values become the essence of every meeting, decision, and hour spent going toward the goal. A volunteer, business, or youth football team needs to know the values on day one.

Okay. It must be stated and restated to every team member and coach, “If we can do all these things above, and not lose focus we will be _______________.” I think of words like Champions, or the best. Bottom line is when you are leading a team it is the dream that keeps you alive.

Adversity will come. Setbacks are a part of the process. However the dream takes us past the obstacles, and over the hurdles. Keep the dream before your team!

I bet there are other applications for the first day that are out there. Let me know in the comments below.