I am a fan of the Olympic games particularly enthusiast about team games. I also interested to know what really separates world-class performers from everybody else. Is it largely because of an athlete's talent being supported by a coach training regime or because a coach brings out the untapped power and potential of an athlete ?
On Sun, I watched a super thrilling volleyball match. CHINA took down Serbia and WON a volleyball GOLD MEDAL !!!! Congratulations. A lot of news coverage reporting the team's victory over Serbia but the major spotlight was on their legendary coach Lang Ping. The first woman to coach in a gold medal match also the first person to win gold as both a player and a coach. The team's head coach Lang Ping was praised for her leadership that lifted China's volleyball out of a downturn. Lang, who once a head coach in the Italian professional volleyball league, won the league championship and coach-of-the-year award multiple times. She also led the United States national women's volleyball team to silver in the Beijing Olympics. So, what's her secret sauce in producing champions?
1) She beliefs in all players
Lang Ping recruited new blood, promoted young players to key positions and let them play in important matches. More importantly, she gave up the conventional semi-military training method and encouraged her players to develop their own individuality on the court. Lang also announced that each player would have an equal opportunity to be included in the starting lineup for any match. Previously, the team had used the same top performing players in important competitions.
2) She inspires and encourages The final match with Serbia was tough and intense.
She kept thinking about how to deal with the opponents as their scores increase alternately. However, she didn't put pressure on the team but said " Let's play real volleyball. Forget about the pressure, forget about the result. Just go ahead and concentrate on the game." On the other hand, on the semi-finals, they have beaten the former champion, Brazil. The victory provided stimulus that boosted the team's confidence but Lang Ping told her players to try to forget their previous results and just play "in the moment." Lang's instructions from the sidelines kept her team focused and grounded the entire time.
3) She creates a relationship of trust and respect
Lang Ping's interaction with the team is more of a "mother" and "daughters" kind of relationship rather than "coach" and "players". She said she would take full responsibility for the team when they lose and not take all the credit when they win. And, the team said " We are really honoured to fight along side a respectable figure like Coach Lang and we will do our best to win the gold for her" .
4) She is the inspiration of the team's fighting spirit
Behind encouraging words and smiles, the head coach watched the video of every game until late night to study the other countries' players movements to get ready for every potential challenge. Her girls returned with determination to fight until the end. One of her ace spiker Zhu Ting was injured during a game but she endured it and helped the team win that game. The spirit of the Chinese women's volleyball team is to never give up. Lang Ping's duty as the coach is to guide this young team to carry on this spirit. She once said, " We didn't think much about success, but just played the best game we could. Our players are really brave."
There's a lot of key takeaways as a coach from Lang Ping's. I came across this Harvard Business Review article titled Five Coaching Strengths that Produce Champions showed us another perspective in how we can apply the principles of producing Olympic champions to the coaching of corporate performers. It's quite a good read!