March Madness Mindset

March Madness is one of the best sporting events ever! The only thing better is standing on the sidelines or competing on the court. The fans, coaches and players have been waiting all year for the exciting buzzer-beaters, the upsets, and the ceremonial cutting down the net.  Basketball coaches and players spend 11 months of the year preparing for the most important and career defining time of the year.

Getting to the NCAA tournament and winning is an expectation for many programs. It requires a championship mindset, focus, drive and a high performing team to survive and thrive on the biggest stage.

My final year as a college basketball coach in the Big Ten, I finished with a winning record of 22-13 and was let go.  It wasn’t a good enough record at a Big Ten school or for the fans. However, my overall NCAA tournament record was 9-6 in seven trips to the big dance.

For most coaches, their season is over. But for the type A, driven head coaches, they are already planning for next season. There is no rest for the weary after a long hard fought, stressful, competitive, and pressure filled season. Back to work!

From my experience, there are 10 areas every coach should reflect on and evaluate immediately following their season and in preparation for the next March Madness.


  1. Evaluate Yourself – how can I grow and what do I need to learn in order to take my coaching abilities, leadership skills and team to the next level?


  1. Evaluate Your Staff – am I surrounded with people who are better than I am? Coaching at the Big Ten level, I needed talented assistants who were going to make me better and who were better coaches than my competition.


  1. Evaluate Your Team – do I have players who can win and compete at this level and who can be coached? Do I have the Big 3 – 3 consistent scorers every night? If not, it’s going to be a tough season.


  1. Evaluate Your Off-Season Strength and Conditioning Program – where are our strengths and weaknesses? Each year your approach changes depending on your competition and where your program is at. One year is was strength training, another year is was making sure we didn’t peak too early, another year is was developing mental toughness and developing leadership within the team.


  1. Remind Yourself of Your Why – why am I coaching? Through the good, the bad and the ugly years…this is a must. Make sure you define and know your WHY.


  1. Evaluate Your Support Staff – the people you work with are instrumental to the development of your overall program. Examine those cross-functional relationships, their commitment, the shared goals and if they feel valued.


  1. Get Out into the Community – this is the time of the year you must integrate yourself into the community. This is one of the most important roles you play as a leader and getting people to know you as a person and building up your social capital and reputation.


  1. Recruit, Hire and Re-Recruit– As a coach you should be doing something that involves recruiting every single day. Building relationships, selling your program, yourself, staff, vision, is an on-going priority. Every staff member, as well as the head coach, are responsible for filling the talent pipeline.


  1. Stay Relevant – The rapid pace of change in every industry in real. Staying relevant as a coach in college sports is harder than ever before. The rules, regulations, technology, competition, challenges, social media, the expectations and what it takes to win season after season has changed. Being a life-long learner, relevant and curious is critical to success.


  1. Recharge Your Batteries – Make sure you practice wellbeing, take a vacation and a few long weekends. What it takes to recover and recharge is different for everyone.


March Madness may only happen in March, but if you want to “win,” it’s what you do during the other 11 months that will make or break your season.