Defining The Process

Defining The Process


The Process.  These 2 words have become the key to success in the eyes of many coaches and others who find themselves in the position of trying to achieve a desired goal.  Few, if any, have epitomized and mastered the meaning of The Process more than the man credited with coining this phrase, Coach Nick Saban of Alabama. Simply put, The Process is focusing on all the elements that lead to a desired result rather than focusing on the result itself.  

In this entry of Coach With A Purpose I will give my understanding and explanation of The Process.  Like many things, The Process is not a guarantee for getting our desired result…it does not guarantee victory or championships.  One thing for sure can trump The Process…talent. A vastly less talented team who has mastered The Process will almost always lose to an exceptionally talented team who may only exhibit certain qualities of The Process.  However, that’s the beauty of The Process. Though we may not get the desired result, we never fall victim to the one thing more painful to a competitor than defeat…regret. The Process will give our team a chance to maximize its potential and in a competitive environment that’s all we can ask.  Furthermore, as a coach, focusing on The Process will ease the frustration and disappointment associated with factors beyond our control that make winning more difficult. To extremely competitive people, losing hurts and focusing on The Process instead of the result not only increases the chances of avoiding this pain altogether (by winning) but it also helps to cope with losing and to keep life in perspective.

Finally, before I began giving my thoughts on “Defining The Process”, I want to emphasize I believe there is much more to coaching than winning championships.  However, when done with life and eternal goals in mind, the value of The Process can and should be related to purposes outside the athletic realm.

By nature, I have always been intrigued by what makes people the best at what they do.  I enjoy studying these people either by talking and listening to them in person, by reading their books, or listening to them through various forms of media.  As I have moved into a different phase of my coaching career now, I have a stronger desire to give back to the coaching profession and sharing my thoughts on topics I have studied is a way to do this.  So with that being said, I will share my thoughts on the meaning and benefits of The Process and I hope it will inspire you to do the same!

I believe there are 5 pillars to “The Process” and I will define my understanding of them as well as vertically aligning these 5 steps.  Also, I have put many of my beliefs in written form either in my Coach With A Purpose blog or handouts for my coaches and players. I have included a link to each of those at the end of this entry.


I believe that every successful program or organization must be strongest at the top.  There must be someone with a vision of how The Process fits together, someone who establishes and drives the culture, and someone who can identify potential problems along with providing or recognizing solutions.  Finally, the leader must hold himself/herself to the highest standard and be willing to accept responsibility for the result derived from their version of The Process. In a previous entry of Coach With A Purpose, I gave my thoughts on leadership so I won’t delve further into this initial portion of The Process.


As stated above, the leader drives the culture.  Consequently, I believe the culture drives the program.  Simply put, a program’s culture is the vertical alignment of all aspects of the program.  It is the standards a program is built upon which are exemplified in the program’s core values.  These attributes should shape those within the program long after they leave and be recognizable by those who encounter your program.  Personally, I believe these core values should be generic in nature in order to encompass values that not only apply to your program but also provide a pathway for life after athletics.  During my tenure at White Oak, our culture was defined and driven by 3 things: The White Oak Way, our I Believe philosophy, and our core values. Links to these are provided at the end of the entry.


Leaders can have a vision for their program and an idea of the culture they want to create but it’s not going to happen unless others can be convinced the vision is attainable and the culture they are creating is desirable.  For this reason, I believe it is at this third pillar that some programs fall to the wayside…there is not enough buy in. I believe this is especially true in an instant gratification society. It is challenging and difficult to change the culture of program because winning is hard and sustained success is even harder.  It’s at this point where changing expectations toward commitment, work ethic, behavior, etc. will either make or break some of those involved…coaches, players, parents, administrators,etc. Everyone wants to win until it comes time to do what winners do.

At this point of The Process, the leaders must not give into the temptation of lowering the bar and must acknowledge and celebrate any and all aspects of The Process that are being met or exceeded.  The focus must continue to be long term and not short sighted. Unfortunately, but necessarily, in order to get the level of “buy in” required to win it will require some to tap out. Our locker room always had multiple signs and sayings posted that I felt were important and one of those said, “If everyone can do it, the bar ain’t high enough.”

For some programs, The Process will bog down at this point.  Players will decide they don’t want to make the effort to be a part of this process and many times coaches will decide to move on.  Without a doubt, this is a part of The Process that will start to separate successful programs from average-at-best programs. I have attached links at the end of this entry that describe ways I tried to get “buy in”.


Once the culture has been established and those involved believe in this culture and buy into it, I believe a program is now at the point where it can compete at a high level. It’s at this point where I believe 2 elements now will go the furthest in determining who wins and who loses.  Those 2 elements are talent and preparation.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”  I believe there is a lot of truth in this statement but I also believe “Talent that works hard can be beat by less talented that works harder.”  Without a doubt, great conditioning, competitiveness, fundamentals, execution, team work, leadership, chemistry, strategy, and coaching can allow lesser talented teams the opportunity to compete with more talented teams that may not be as strong in these areas. It’s at this point where most programs will level out because in the words of Coach Saban, “It takes what it takes to be successful.”  There are no tricks or secrets, it’s merely just a matter of being willing to do what others are not willing to do to a degree in which they are not willing to do it. Preparation creates separation. It’s really hard and some will never get to that point much less beyond it but for those who do, The Process now becomes very rewarding.

So, I believe the best way to evaluate this point in The Process is by using the following rubric.  Teams that are at Pillar 4 of The Process rarely, if ever, lose to teams that are less talented than them, they regularly and routinely defeat teams that are on their talent level, and finally, they often defeat teams that are more talented than they are.            


It’s at the highest level of sport, where I believe we see many of those who have mastered The Process.  On the professional level, coaches such as Bill Belichick, Pat Riley, and Tony La Russa. On the collegiate level coaches such as Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, and Coach K. What do these guys all have in common? They have been able to take The Process to a level where they are the best of the best. Sure, they all have talented teams and many times they have the best talent.  Why? Because the most talented and competitive are drawn to their level of The Process.

So, on whatever level, when the best of the best meet up, both teams are talented and prepared, who has the best chance to win?  Notice, I didn’t say who wins because there are definitely extenuating circumstances (injuries, illness, officiating, etc) that come into play but who is able to tilt the scales ever so slightly in their team’s favor when the best of the best square up?  

To me, it’s the team that has compartmentalized to the greatest detail in the months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds leading up to game time and then is capable of unifying all those individualized, detailed parts back together again with a singleness of purpose…winning. Their attention to detail is second to done, they value everyone and the role they play, and they inspire every individual part to do what is best for the whole.

The degree (legally) to which the top professional, collegiate, and even high school programs go to gain the slightest advantage is a constant battle of one-upmanship and thus guarantees two things about The Process…it’s always evolving and it ain’t waiting for anyone!    

Thanks for reading and Coach With A Purpose!