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The Value of Competitive Greatness

Rubbing Elbows
They understand the value of association

With 22 Championships to his name, more than 70 All-American players, seven Coach of the Year awards, election to the National Soccer Hall of Fame, and a 719-39-24 record, it is safe to say that Head Coach Anson Dorrance has created a truly Great program in the 33 years he’s been at the helm of University of North Carolina’s Women’s Soccer Dynasty.

One of the most successful techniques Dorrance has employed to motivate his athletes is the Competitive Cauldron, a ranking system he developed in the early 1980s. After each practice, he posts the statistics of every member of the team on half a dozen drills. As the system developed, the Cauldron expanded, including more and more rankings and prompting the Tar Heel women to achieve at an even higher level as they sought to outdo one another.

Anson & Don discuss the Competitive Cauldron (1:07)

Apply this Characteristic: If your office does not already have one, consider posting an "Accomplishments Board" where everyone's sales numbers, client count, or other accomplishements can be posted for public viewing.  You might be surprised how motivating a little friendly competition can be!

Part of what motivated his system, he explained during an interview I did with him for my upcoming program on Building a Culture of Greatness, was cutting through some of the cultural baggage that his athletes were carrying and convincing them that competition among themselves was healthy if it helped develop the team into an even stronger unit. “So much of what girls have been taught growing up is about cooperation and acquiescence… Girls would rather be accepted and liked than to be competitive and respected,” he lamented. “We want the girls in our system to understand that we don’t want you to be popular, we want you to be respected.”

What Dorrance found was that once young women shed the constraints of believing they have to “play nice” they can stretch their talent and their muscles to achieve at levels they never before imagined. Even the best of the best, like the women recruited to play for the Tar Heels, find themselves improving as they practice each day against some of the most challenging young talent in the country.

Anson & Don discuss team motivation (1:22)

Anson Dorrance

That’s not to say that Dorrance does not stress sportsmanship and camaraderie. Quite the contrary, in fact. As each athlete pushes her skills each day to achieve a higher ranking in the Cauldron, she earns more and more respect from the other players, which in turn increases the trust and cohesion of the entire team.

“The winning mentality is partly optimism, but mostly it’s a combination of focus, pride, competitive anger, relentlessness, hardness, fitness and courage all the most descriptive words for competitive athletics,” Dorrance wrote in his book The Vision of a Champion. “This type of mentality is not about your skills or tactics. What it comes down to is intense desire. To get this winning edge, you need to build an indomitable will. This means you must be relentless; you must never give up.”

Anson & Don discuss investing in players (2:11)

By encouraging his team to compete against one another towards a shared desire to win, Dorrance has led the University of North Carolina’s Women’s Soccer Team to create a lasting legacy of Greatness.

Tips from the Great Ones

Anson Dorrance

How is competition viewed on your team? Is it something to be avoided at all costs for the sake of being liked, or are you and your teammates willing to challenge and push one another to grow in your abilities and accomplishments as you work together with an intense desire to reach your common goals?

“I have been up against tough competition my whole life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it.”

– Walt Disney

The truly Great understand that if you surround yourself with talented people and if you are willing to push yourself to compete alongside them you will find your own talents developing, as well. Being meek or passive won’t help your team grow. Rising to each challenge will. Embrace competition, don’t run from it. Learn to appreciate the motivation that competition can provide, and seek out opportunities to be stretched as you hone your skills.

As long as you remember that the ultimate goal is to build a stronger team rather than to create conflict, you will find that you and your teammates can push one another on to Greater achievements together, as well as Greater personal successes.

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About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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