How Vision Took the Ashland Eagles to New Heights

Recently, I posted a few tips about inspiring your team with vision. In an effort to build on that, here’s a real life example of how one coach’s commitment to vision has resulted in unprecedented success for her team.

Seven years ago my friend, Sue Ramsey, created a vision for Ashland Women’s Basketball. She used words and then created a fantastic visual of those words within a basketball court. Though Sue has coached for over 25 years, this was the first time she had articulated the values of her program in this format. This one simple step resulted in heightened focus on the key principles upon which she had always built her coaching.

At first Sue called the document The Vision, but it since evolved into The Program. It’s not just Sue’s vision anymore, it’s the team’s identity. That didn’t happen overnight, but through relentless communication.

It wasn’t enough to stick the 3′ x 5′ poster of The Program on her office wall or to put a smaller rendition on the back of the team notebooks. Developing a vision and not communicating it is like preparing a gourmet dinner and not taking a bite—you miss out on all the delicious benefits!

Sue has incorporated The Program into every aspect of her coaching, including:

Recruiting/Hiring: Sue uses The Program in her ongoing communication with recruits. She explains The Program to them, illustrating how each value creates the team’s identity. Whether communication comes from Sue or her assistants, emphasizing the principles of The Program streamlines the words used and concepts shared. This makes things crystal clear for the recruits.

In addition, The Program reminds the coaching staff of the qualities each recruit must have in order to fit with the team identity. And just as it identifies the athletes who will fit, it also weeds out the ones who won’t. This is also true when Sue interviews assistant coaches. The Program helps Sue accurately describe the Ashland way and determine if potential hires buy in to this philosophy.

Discipline: When players make poor decisions, Sue uses The Program to remind them what they committed to as a member of the team. She has even used the Program to dismiss a player who didn’t uphold the standards. No athlete can use the excuse that she didn’t know, as The Program has been communicated both verbally and in black and white (or in this case, purple and gold) from the very beginning.

Accountability: Every day, each team member measures herself against the standards of The Program. They use the mantra “Commit to IT” (Integrity & Trust, the two end lines of The Program) as a reminder. Sue uses the various words that comprise The Program to encourage and inspire the team at every opportunity.

The last 7 years haven’t been easy. The Eagles have endured their share of disappointing injuries and losses. But through it all Sue stayed committed to The Program and created a new culture. This year she’s reaping the benefits of having 13 players and 2 assistants who know, understand and embrace The Program. It’s played a huge part in getting the right people on the bus.

And the best benefit? Along with exceptional talent, The Program is largely responsible for the Eagles’ 16-1 record and #9 national ranking (the highest in school history). If Sue can do this, you can too. But it all starts with investing the time in documenting your vision. (Look for more on this in a future post!)