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Making Your Values Your Compass

Are the right things guiding you?

By Katarina Miller - October 1, 2018

            Your team is getting ready to go on a long journey. Theres a mountain peak that boasts the most beautiful views, a peak that your team has been interested in reaching for a long time. Youve heard many people talk about the mountain peak, and the journey along the way, but you have yet to experience it yourself. Unfortunately, the directions to this mountain peak are unclear, and you know if you have any chance of making it to that peak you need to map out your potential journey. If you dont get started in the right direction, youll never make it to the mountain peak. If you dont have the proper equipment to navigate potential rivers and canyons and other obstacles, youll never make it to the mountain peak. How are you going to navigate this journey? How do you set your team up for success when each individual member is contributing their own ideas and plans?

            Just like a team getting ready to trek up an unknown mountain, athletic teams often start their seasons with a clear vision of their mountain peak. They want to win state championships and compete nationally. They want to take home national titles. They want to be ranked in a particular way. They want to scouted by a particular college. The image of the mountain peak is clear, and it looks beautiful. But when the journey and potential adversities on the way to that mountain peak are unclear, failing to prepare will leave your team stuck on a mountainside with nowhere to go.

            Whether youre starting a journey up a mountain, or starting a journey through a competitive season, there are two major pieces of preparation to keep in mind. You are going to want to game plan for some of the potential obstacles along the way. As you get started on your mountain journey, you know there are going to be some rivers you need to cross and some canyons to trek through. These are the specific goals your team sets for their competitive season. Your mountain peak may be winning a national title, but youre aware that there are many smaller competitions along the way that youll have to win first. So, you plan accordingly. You identify the goals along the way so you are ready to face the challenges that threaten to take you off course on the way to your mountain peak. But what about those unknown challenges that you didnt predict? What about the social pressure you didnt foresee taking you off course? What about the injuries that you didnt predict occurring right before Nationals?

            Just like our team climbing an unknown mountain, you can plan for challenges all you want but there will always be unexpected obstacles. These obstacles can leave you stuck momentarily, or they can threaten to take you off your course to the mountain peak entirely. Therefore, not only do you need to identify the challenges you can anticipate, but you need to identify a general direction that will guide you no matter where youve landed. When the directions to the mountain peak are unclear, getting taken off course can be catastrophic in finishing the journey if you dont have a general direction to guide you back on course. These are the obstacles you dont always expect like losing a key team member to an injury. Or experiencing a devastating loss to a team that you expected should have been an easy win. Or when theres conflict among team members regarding something completely unrelated to competing. Determining at the beginning of the journey what direction you always want to head towards will aid you when youre faced with uncertainty. This general direction, this compass, will keep you on track as a team no matter what kind of unexpected challenge threatens to take you off course to your mountain peak. Your compass for your team going through competitive seasons will be your values.

            Your values are what you hold most important, qualities or characteristics that you believe are the most critical to display in your behavior. These are things like respect, honesty, resilience, loyalty, and discipline. Values act as our moral compass, both individually and when we function as a team. When we are unsure of how to behave productively, in any type of circumstance, referring back to our values allows us to inform our behavior with something that we know we hold important. If we know we value being challenged, the way we approach injury rehabilitation may be different than if we were unaware of that value. If we know we value respect and teamwork, the way we approach social conflict may be different than if that value hadnt been identified. And if we know we value discipline and hard-work, making the choice between a good nights sleep and that fun party our friend is having suddenly looks a little different.

            We may have a large end-goal in mind, some kind of mission wed like to accomplish, but no matter what obstacles we face our values provide us with information about the general direction we should take with our response. Your athletic team will also face inevitable challenges that will take them completely off course. By identifying values, not individually but as a group, you can face those challenges with confidence knowing that you have a shared guiding force. When conflict arises and nobody knows how to move forward productively, referring back to that team value can be your moral compass to guide your solution. While there may be some inherent overlap in your team members values, taking the time to explicitly and intentionally identify your teams guiding value at the beginning of the season is what can provide stability in future times of adversity.

            As you get ready to start the adventure of a competitive season with your team, make sure that mountain peak is clear and beautiful in your minds; that image can energize and motivate your athletes to start the journey. But dont get started without mapping out your specific goals along the way and also dont get started without packing your values-based compass. By taking the time to map out your journey in this way, you can be setting your team up for their best chance of reaching their mountain peak.