Three keys to surviving the plateaus of the season

written by Erica Quam

No matter how great a coach you are and how amazing your team is, every team goes through plateaus and valleys during the season. The question isn't if it's going to's when.

Remember: plateaus and valleys are a normal part of team development. They also can be where the biggest lessons are learned and the most growth takes place.

While you can't control your athletes - all the things they are thinking and all the good or bad decisions they make - you can control yourself and offer these three things:

  1. Be proactive 
  2. Be consistent
  3. Be vulnerable 


Are there unresolved issues - with individuals or the team? Is there an undercurrent of conflict that hasn't been addressed? 

One of my coaches shared this kernel of wisdom with me that I'll share with you: "It's not the elephants that'll it's the ants."

Many coaches avoid handling conflict because they don't like it. Part of your role as a coach is teaching your team how to manage conflict because they don't like it either!

Give them the words and model this behavior so they can develop this skill and get better. 

Handle the small problems now before they manifest into bigger issues. Which they will...when left unchecked. 

It's much better to take a little extra time to press the pressure release valve than let it build up - only to explode later on. Because you know when it will explode, right? When you are all under the most amount of stress and have the highest expectations all season long. 

Learn to be proactive...not reactive.


What is your M.O. (mode of operation) when performance is going well? What is your M.O. when performance isn't going well? Is it the same? If not, then your athletes are may be getting the message that when they perform well, you like them and when they don't perform well you don't. Whether it's true or not.

They deduce that the quality of your relationship is based on their performance.

Now I'm super competitive. I struggled with this as a young coach! It was something that I wasn't great at. Going back, if I could, I would do a better job of this to make certain that each of those athletes understood that I really cared about them as people first and athletes second. 

Do you have things you need to teach them so they can improve? Absolutely. And, show them consistently that they matter to you as a person first. 

They won't know that you care about them until you show 'em that you care! Consistently. Win or lose, thick or thin. Once they know that, they will put an even greater effort in.


One way to build trust and keep that trust is through vulnerability. When you can share things with them and stay vulnerable as a coach, that will help your athletes to trust you. 

Give them the time and the space to be vulnerable with you and with each other.

Get your team talking to one another and keep them talking to you: through the highs and the lows. It's important that when things are challenging and performance is not going well - to work even harder on this. 

It's great to have reliable leaders who you can check in with and get a better read on the group.

You probably spent some time at the beginning of the season getting to know one another and building a solid foundation of trust on your team. And it's something to continue to work on and revisit. 

Trust can dissolve in the midst of the stresses of the season. Sometimes you won't even know it! Instead of getting sucked into the day to day routine of the season, make sure you are taking time to pause, reflect, and check in.

Follow these three ideas to help you see the challenges and obstacles as opportunities for growth!

Share your comments AND your questions below. I'd love to hear from you and see how I can support you further!