While I have mentioned in past my love of coaching basketball and soccer – I didn’t have a chance to post about the great weekend that we had on the soccer field this past May. Since I just came across the photos below on my desk – it seemed like time to go back and write the blog post I should have written back then. Coaching youth teams is one of the primary ways I relax and get some exercise…. and it’s a great way to complement the hard work of being in the high-tech industry every day.
For the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of helping to coach the U14G CASL Cyclones. The team is a mid-level travel team – and typically plays in 4-6 tournaments a year at both the challenge and classic/premier levels. My oldest daughter is one of the original team members since it was formed when she was 9, and we have some of the deepest friendships with the other families that have been a part of the team for those 5+ years and 10+ seasons. Over the years, many of the girls who could have elected to move up to the premier teams have stayed on the team because of their strong friendships.
Similarly – my youngest daughter Megan just began playing at this level three seasons ago and I am also helping to coach her team. Our goal is to create a strong family environment just like we have done with Sarah’s team – all the while ensuring the girls play at the mid-to-top levels of competitive youth soccer and have lots of fun doing so.
When one is helping to coach two teams, the hardest part is usually scheduling. So this past Spring both teams I was both thrilled and quite logistically challenged when both teams were invited to play in the North Carolina State Championship Tourney – they NCYSA Singer Challenge Cup. Managing to work out tournament scheduling for 8 games in 2 days – and having the energy to coach them would be tough!
As you can see from the photos – both teams won the State Championship! The best part though was seeing each team play their very best soccer of the year. As a coach you always hope that your teams give their very best performance at the right moment – and that’s exactly what happened with both the CASL Dragonflies, and the CASL Cyclones. Both teams played their best soccer, and both had to defeat their arch-rivals who also played their best soccer as well during the weekend. Throughout the weekend — all the coaches and teams demonstrated some of the best sportmanship I’ve seen over the year – which is sometimes not the case when the State Championship in on the line.
It was quite a weekend – and quite a way to celebrate Fathers Day 2013 with my own two girls, and their teams (my 25 girls!).
Way to go girls!
U10Girls CASL Dragonflies NC State Champs. Head Coach Sam Guemple is back left.
U14 Girls CASL Cyclones State Champs. Head Coach is Ed Kelly in back center, and assistant Preston Sutton is back left.
- Megan (L) and Sarah (R) Riegel with their Dad & Coach on Fathers Day 2013.
At our first Global Entrepreneur Smartcamp event of 2011 last week in Bangalore – I was asked to share my observations and advice on how the mentors for the startups can be most effective and helpful as they coach the companies throughout the event. So I shared my five key tips for mentors –
1) Rely on your expertise and experience – each of you as mentors were selected based on your expertise and experience, so leverage that as the key areas that you coach the entrepreneurs on – and stick to those areas you know best.
2) Ask good questions – rather than telling them what to do or making statements. Too often mentors want to tell an entrepreneur how to position their solution, or how to adjust their business model. Instead by asking effective questions mentors can get the entrepreneur to think in new ways, to explore new options that might lead to a richer set of ideas than just the one idea or approach that might be thought of by the mentor. This is the essence of good “coaching” and socratic teaching at it’s finest.
3) Help entrepreneurs see connections across the elements of their business model. As senior business leaders and mentors, you are all experienced in seeing connections across various business models – e.g. understanding how certain pricing models will impact route to market and sales models, which might impact a customer acquisition vs. retention strategy and have impact on marketing and solution delivery. But often times entrepreneurs are not as experienced at seeing the inter-relationships of these business model elements and don’t see the interdependencies – or they assume items are inter-dependent when they don’t have to be. As mentors helping them see these connections is a critical area we can add real value.
4) Help them learn to anticipate. Given our collective experience in working with startups – we all know that the ability to anticipate changes in the marketplace and being able to evolve the initial idea is the key to success. Ask good questions about how the solution might evolve based on client feedback, how the business might be able to pivot based on either existing or new entrant competitor moves, or based on changes in technology or value capture strategies. Anticipating well is a key to survival.
5) Help them refine their value proposition and communications. The single area we most often see significant same-day improvement in during a Smartcamp is helping the startup improve the clarity of their customer value proposition. Often times the most impactful area we can help them is in clarifying the customer problem they are actually trying to solve, and crisping up their statement of value and 30-second elevator pitch to prospective clients. By helping them refine the positioning of the solution and the messaging of their unique value and selling proposition, we can really strengthen the startup’s chance of getting those first key clients.
I hope you find these tips helpful as we all work to coach and mentor these exciting startup companies!