MENTORING & ADVICE

Wisconsin coaches share secret to 37-game winning streak

By Ryan Lucchesi & Tyler Kunick
Muskego High School, Wisc.
Twitter: @CoachLucch

At Muskego High (Wisc.), we compete in the state’s highest classification, Division 1, and in what many consider the most highly competitive league, the Classic 8 Conference. For many years, our program was “knocking on the door” but left searching for that breakthrough.

In preparation for the 2018 season, we discussed ideas as a staff that can continue to help push us over the edge. One significant area we wanted to develop was the area of our mindset. We knew we could continue to push our young men to grow in the areas of leadership and character development through what we called “mental training.” This program has continued to this day, as our program is currently on a 37-game winning streak.

How to Implement – In-Season

At Muskego, we have benefited greatly from using various texts. Initially the first book we used for our Mental Training program was Chop Wood, Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf. We have continued to grow our diversity of books over the years. In recent years we have read Pound the Stone and Win in the Dark by Joshua Medcalf and Lucas Jadin. Additionally, books like The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon and excerpts from Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright have been utilized. All of these books and more are all great options for this process. 

For us, we get together for Mental Training right after school on the day prior to game days (usually Thursday afternoon). 

Below are methods we used to design our Mental Training sessions:

  • Optional but Accountable
    • Set a high standard and enforced it
      • Locked door that doesn’t open after we start
      • No phones
      • Silence means silence 
    • Questions were given to guide players’ thinking about a chapter, and some direct instruction happened from time to time, but it was purposely built for players to take the lead in the meetings.
  • Focused on teaching the value of the process – both practice habits and school habits
    • “Dominate Everything” and “Live Like a Champion” mindset created
      • This became an integral focus of our program the remainder of the season. We talked in terms of dominating or championing every aspect of our days. It was our goal to dominate breakfast, school, practice, weight room, and lastly our games.
  • Mindfulness
    • Taught players how to focus
    • Visualized moments that we would have on game day (this was started in the summer led by a coach and transitioned into what players did on their own when they were done reading and waiting for others).
  • Biggest compliment, “No matter the moment, your players never flinch. They seem to carry the same mindset no matter what.”
    • Taught players how to respond, gave them the tools yet allowed them to find their own answers – Ex. they came up with key words to say to each other in certain moments to calm each other down or get each other to focus on the moment, they also talked about body language expressions and how that built or sucked the energy out of the team.
    • Put the game in perspective of life. (i.e. We love football, but who are we without it?) This helped drive the character conversations.
    • Admitted fears and vulnerabilities – coaches modeled this by participating in conversations as well (some topics were about football, some topics were about life).

How to Implement – Off-Season

This portion will address what our Mental Training program looks like in our “off-season.” We start this portion of our program after the start of the new year on an annual basis in January. These meetings take place on Wednesday mornings from 6:20 to 7:10 a.m. before school. At a recent meeting, 88 student athletes and another 11 coaches were present. The summer portion of our Mental Training program also takes place on Wednesday mornings. The message does not change and the increased participation from multiple programs creates a schoolwide culture of respect, appreciation, and accountability.