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Interview: Tony Williams

Tony Williams is the head women’s basketball coach at Cleveland High School and has partnered with us at A Better Way Athletics. Eric sat down with him to ask a few questions about how his program is doing since he’s implemented the philosophy and strategies from A Better Way into his program. Check out a small piece of their conversation.

Eric: “Coach, you’re six games into your season and have just implemented the A Better Way process. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in yourself as a coach?”

Tony: “Well, traditionally, I’m a pretty bad loser. We’re six games in, and we’re 2-4. But through the paradigm shift of what we’re focusing on, which is our mission, vision statement, and becoming a value driven team, it has been something that’s easier for me to stomach and work our kids through the process. We’ve realized these early season setbacks have been an opportunity to grow and push forward toward our ultimate goal, which is to pursue excellence. That’s our mission and our vision, to pursue excellence in all things. Making this change has been good for us so far because we’ve become more of a value driven than outcome focused team.”

Eric: “So, typically when you’re 2-4, where would your emotional condition be at right now based on years past?”

Tony: “I’d be in a bad place.  Typically, when you lose 4 out of your first 6 games and you think, “Ok, what are we doing wrong? We must fix this now? We must make wholesale changes on offense and defense. The reality of the situation is that we can rebound better, we can drill some things better, and put a greater emphasis on certain things. Even so, we have maintained and stayed the course in terms of remembering our mission. We are continuing to focus on our ultimate north star that guides us to where we want to be as a program. We’ve continued to focus on the positive things and to build kids up. We’re continuing to praise our kids through our parent networks and through our communication systems via email and GroupMe. The mentality is more, ‘The place is not burning down. We are just continuing to build up as a team.’ That’s our mindset right now.”

Eric: “Do you feel like you’re heading in a positive direction even though you’re 2-4 at the moment?”

Tony: “Oh, no doubt. We set a tough schedule to begin with, and three of those games were close games. Ultimately, it’s not about the outcome. That’s the biggest change in our mindset. Yeah, everyone wants to win and be champions, but its more of focusing on building better people and better relationships. And, in the long run, that focus is going to create the outcomes that we have been looking for to begin with, which is to be a successful program.”

Eric: “You touched on relationships which is a big focus of A Better Way. We give professional strategies on how to build and maintain healthy relationships. What is the biggest difference you’ve seen in the relationships with your athletes and your athletes’ relationships with each other?”

Tony: “Our kids just continue to build one another up whenever things are going south. They know everybody is going to make mistakes in games and in practice. For us as coaches, we correct those mistakes, but then our players are building one another up and have each other’s backs all the time. Its just a genuinely more positive environment.”

Eric: “So, you feel the strategies have helped you to create an environment that’s more conducive to success with teammates who appreciate one another and appreciate you?”

Tony: “Oh, without question. I think the biggest thing that stands out to me is one of the quotes from the training. You said, “What gets rewarded gets repeated”. When you continually try to find something positive to speak on during practice and games, I find it to be contagious in our program. I used to harp on the negatives, but now I’m looking for something positive and that becomes contagious throughout the program.”

Eric: “That being said, have you seen a change in the way you communicate with parents and how they communicate with you by implementing the communication model we have worked on and taught?”

Tony: “Absolutely. We lost a heartbreaker in overtime the other night, and I had a couple parents who made a point to walk across the gym to shake my hand and say, “Great job tonight coach, everything is moving in the right direction.” To have that affirmation from parents is a testimony to the changes that we’ve made.”

Eric: “Tony, that’s awesome. I know you’re 2-4, but I see your girls are positive and upbeat. I’m proud of you; stay the course man!”