Take it for what its worth, but ultimately, the source of infection and the point of origin for player/team dynamics begins and ends in the OFF SEASON WEIGHT ROOM.
It is a simple answer, but ultimately the bottom line comes down to how committed an athlete is to true competition. There has to be an investment in the program by the coaching staff and players. There really is no room to "just show up" in successful programs. You can beat your head against the wall and look for ways to win power struggles and coerce kids into submission and obedience, but is that what we really want? That may create obedience, but it won't lay the foundation for a team.
The servitude leadership, the athletes who will run through brick walls, are developed and cultivated in the off-season weight room. The commitment, the discipline, the camaraderie, the trust, and the desire to excel is forged in purposeful weight training. If a kid won't push himself to get better (weight room) then he sees the "team" as a platform solely for himself ("ME") and earns no trust with the rest of the kids busting their ass.
If you can invest in the kids that ARE doing the right thing (in the weight room), the team problem/issue/dilema (that everyone faces) will sort itself out on its own - the CORE group of athletes ( i.e. "the Team") will kick this guy off the team themselves (to protect the investment THEY made).
What's Important Now? What can you control in this arena?
1. make sure they are attending. Don't just harp on kids to show up, talk about togetherness and getting better (and have the upperclassmen mentor the underclassmen.....have them CALL/ TALK to the fresh/sophs)
2. create an enthusiastic environment. Coaches should be showing up to weights (#1), but they also have to do more than sip coffee,bitch about the kids who aren't there, and scribble attendance sheets. Coaches relating to players (develop your relationships) and coaching up lifts and forcing the TEMPO of the lifts. If you can teach a kid how to push themselves each set, each rep....THAT is the toughness we are ultimately after.
3. Track results ~ monitor progress and set goals for the kids. Whether it is a pyramid program, or quarter lift goals, or leader boards.....reward those that attend and those that are breaking plateaus. This sends a message that we are ALL WORKING towards something.
4. Make it competitive. Bust ass in the weight room, but break from the norm / program every so often to let the kids see their hard work paying off (feats of strength, quickness, explosiveness). Weight lifting IS drudgery (so is practice) so it is helping them find a way to see the joy in details, that I can make a 'game' of each set to FIND the appreciation for determination ("you can do 9 reps? I'll do 10!"). It is the incremental steps that are taken each day that make champions - Break the Rock (one chip at a time). Whether it is water polo, basketball, soccer, relays, fit tests, bowling,.....whatever, when you guys meet, develop the FUN of competition, that it is okay to dominate or come away as the best at something. Comprise the off-season of a series of 100 'wins' (no matter how simple) that the kids can associate themselves with.
The most powerful trigger and motivator of the athlete is PEER PRESSURE. Create a POSITIVE peer culture of people building themselves for the good of the program, and you will have all the determination (toughness) you are looking for. You can blow off a coach, but when your own teammates disown you and do not respect your toughness, then there really is no point in being on a TEAM/sport.
If Tim Tebow is on your team, would you be worried about letting a teammate like that down? If players see their other players busting tail in the weight room everyday, they will naturally feel guilty if someone else is bearing the brunt of the labor. Imagine what would happen to your "all-star" prima donna if there are 20 other guys on the team that think he is 'soft'? That guy won't fit in in the locker room.....the 'team' won't accept that type of person. ..........and the COACHES don't have to do a thing about it (in season).
Build the TEAM in the off-season.
When you go "all in" (invest everything), you have no recourse. You do not take yourself out or look for excuses because you have given everything for a reason (turning back on that goal is too much of a waste to bear).
1) Win Friends. Educate / include your most untapped resource, parents. Distribute quarterly newsletters. Email is best. But the newsletter covers EVERYTHING in 2-3 pages. Articles about kids, nutrition articles, current events, and ATTENDANCE LISTS (and an MIA section.......you'd be surprised at how many kids are telling their parents they are 'working out', when they really aren't)
2) COMPETE. When we used "strongman competitions" every month in the off-season and the weight room participation went through the roof.
3) ACTIVELY TEACH the kids that are there. Don't whine about the kids who aren't there, you never know how effectively or efficiently your workouts can be with a 'personal trainer'. Let the kids enjoy the visceral high/buzz we all get from a good workout.There has to be incentive to lift. Making it fun doesn't mean 'easy'. Establish a tempo, a passion, and fun in the weight room -> Crank the music, slam the iron around, and all the kids to get after it (show them HOW, then get out of their way).
The T-shirts and 'extras' mean nothing (this isn't a bake sale) if the environment isn't established during lifting. This isn't about following a checklist - it is about the program selling out to getting betterIf ANYONE can think of a way to build 'toughness' (mental and physical) outside of the weight room, I'd love to hear it. I just don't believe it is possible.
WHY should the kids come to the weight room? Because you said so?
What are other motivators?
One other point I'd like to mention, is as an element of "leadership training". Seniors and Juniors are responsible for the Sophs & Freshmen.
Leadership training is broken into groups. Seniors reverse draft the entire pool of football players. Freshmen, then sophs, then Juniors......So you should have 10 - 14 "groups" with 2-4 kids in each class.That "leader" is responsible for the attendance of his group. That leader has to call the freshmen/sophs to make sure they have rides and are making the sessions.
Highest attendance group gets a pizza party during the preseason camp. Lowest attendance group serves that group.
Think about it, if you do "spirit cards" or some other fundraisers, you probably are already doing this......just not for the weight room.