If there is one “most important” thing I learned while earning my Master’s Degree in Athletic Administration from Concordia University in Irvine, it would be this two word statement: SELF EFFICACY.

Wikipedia defines it: “is the measure of one’s own ability to complete tasks and reach goals.  Psychologists have studied self-efficacy from several perspectives, noting various paths in the development of self-efficacy; the dynamics of self-efficacy, and lack thereof, in different settings; interactions between self-efficacy and self-concept; and habits of attribution that contribute to, or detract from, self-efficacy.  Self-efficacy affects every area of human endeavor. By determining the beliefs a person holds regarding his or her power to affect situations, it strongly influences both the power a person actually has to face challenges competently and the choices a person is most likely to make. These effects are particularly apparent, and compelling, with regard to behaviors affecting health.

It goes on to say: “High self-efficacy can affect motivation in both positive and negative ways. In general, people with high self-efficacy are more likely to make efforts to complete a task, and to persist longer in those efforts, than those with low self-efficacy.  The stronger the self-efficacy or mastery expectations, the more active the efforts.”

I spent a lot of my career as a coach not teaching and coaching my kids between their ears!  I just didn’t have the knowledge as a younger coach that I do now, and most of that came from studying my masters degree sports psychology courses.  I learned a lot about coaching the kids between the ears.  I think most coaches fail to really do a great job in this area.

This past weekend, we played for the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) 8 Man Division 1 Championship.  I’ve spent most of my coaching career in the 11 man world.  This was my third season in 8 man, my first season here at this school where they have played for the Championship in each of the last two years.

I came up with an idea about four years ago while in my sports psychology class, while studying self efficacy one night at Starbucks.  I thought “When my next team plays for a CIF Championship, I’m going to have a Championship ring mock up done.  I will show that to the guys a few practices before the big game.”  The idea here is that this last minute motivation would help to focus the belief of the team (we can win) to affect their situation (the game).  This would increase their self efficacy, helping them to making a stronger effort to complete the task.  In other words, it would be one final piece of that “ah hah moment.”  ALL this work, ALL this time, ALL these months, ALL this conditioning, ALL this hitting, it ALL comes down to this: this ring right here.  Visualize it!  It’s here.

It’s right in front of you!

So, I called three companies that produce Championship rings.  I don’t want to say who those are, but I will say that Balfour got back to me very quickly, within the day.   The salesman here in Southern California I’m working on with this is Chris Mader.  He has been great through this process.  He drove up that day we spoke on the phone, about a 2 hour drive!  That really impressed me.  (Almost two weeks later, still waiting to hear back from the other two companies!!)

The timing of this was kind of weird, because it was the same week as our Semi Final game. We had to do that.  Too busy during a Championship week to deal with this, so you have to plan ahead.  I told Chris about my vision, and he was all in.  He even knew he might be wasting a trip if we lost.  I met with Chris in my office and he showed me a bunch of ring designs, and we came up with something I think looks just great!

Check it out here:  CIFRING.  Chris emailed me this mock up of the ring a few days later, once we prevailed in our Semi Final game.

So, after practice on Wednesday (we played on Saturday), we had the kids spend a minute on their own with this image, blown up on a small poster for them.  Here is what we did it:

1.  We got the team together right outside of the officials locker room and told them that they were going to go in and look at an image all by themselves.  The looks on these kids’ faces, they had NO idea what they were walking in to.  In fact, none of the coaches knew what was going on either, except our Athletic Trainer Mikel Dickinson, who helped me set it up.

Some of the kids thought we were playing a prank on them or something.  They were hesitant to walk in to the room!  But they did!

Mikel and I set it up so that the room was dark, with just about 2 feet of light shining through from the field, and that illuminated the poster we had of the ring on the wall.  We set up just one chair in there, a few feet from the poster.

2.  We told the kids to go in, look at the image on the wall and to really think about what it meant to them.

3.  We told them after they had looked at the image, to walk to the locker room on their own, get changed in to their street clothes, without saying a word, and walk to their cars quietly.

4. Then we lined them up with the seniors up front, all the way back to our one freshman we had dressed out for the playoffs.

5.  We sent them in one at a time.

Here is a video of one of the kids doing this.

You should have seen the faces of these kids as they came out of that locker room.  They were pumped up.  In fact, I got stinking goosebumps watching some of them.  A few actually had tears in their eyes.  You see, they have played in this Championship game in each of the last two seasons, but lost the big game.  They had never seen what THEIR ring, THIS ring would look like.  It became very, very real that night!

I asked about ten of them “What do you think about that image you just saw in there?”

One kid said to me “It’s ours Coach, I’m confident now, we’re ready.”

Another said “Now it’s real Coach, it put all of this in perspective.  I can’t wait for this game now.”

One of our captains didn’t even stop when I asked him.  He just kept walking.  He was shaking his head with this big old smile saying “Unbelievable, unbelievable.  I didn’t know what it was going to look like.  I want that thing!”

Another said “I think that’s going to be ours, plain and simple Coach.  It’s our time for that thing.  I’m glad you did that.  It all makes sense now.

You certainly do not ever want to put the cart before the horse.  However, I think it’s very, very important to build confidence in your players, self efficacy in them, right up until kickoff.  Do what you need to do.  One of my mentors who was a coach of mine in high school told me in my first year as a head coach, “Chris, I would lie to you guys if I needed to in order to pump you up!  Maybe tell a fib about something one of their coaches did or said, or what the media put in the papers, anything.  I mean, nothing totally outrageous that would get anyone in trouble, or anything like that.  But if I had to make something up to fire up a team, I would.”

(THANK YOU TO MIKEL DICKINSON FOR THE PICTURES!)

And oh yeah, WE WON THE CIF CHAMPIONSHIP!!!

Check out the game articles and video highlights:

Video Highlights by Terry Kurtz

Excelsior Has Perfect Ending

Eagles Finish Careers On Top

Eagles Are All Business

BONUS: Actor Tom Hanks was there to watch

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