I seem to have a different understanding of what success means in minor sport as I just don't get caught up in our win-loss record. In the professional leagues, success is really only measured in one way - winning games and championships. But with younger athletes, winning can't be the only measure. Only one team wins the last game of the season and countless others don't end up with the championship trophy. So, that can't make every team that doesn't win unsuccessful.
As coaches, we need to communicate what success is to all the constituents in our team community - assistant coaches, managers, players and especially parents. Success can't only be measured by wins and losses. Here are my five "metrics" on what makes a season successful:
1) Having Fun. Are my players enjoying coming to practices and games? This is not an easy one to measure but as a coach, I think you can get a pretty good feeling from being around your players if they are having fun or not. Full attendance is always a good indicator of whether players are enjoying themselves because if coming to practice is not fun, athletes will find a reason to not be there. And, if you really want to know you can just ask them. Players will tell you.
2) Improving. Are your athletes getting better? Is their skill set improving? Are they understanding and executing individual and team tactics? Are they getting physically stronger as the season goes on? Best part of this is that you can measure much of it. Have your players do fitness testing and skill testing three times during the season. Coaches don't have to use results for anything other than measuring that their players are improving as a whole. Further, as the season goes on, are scores against opponents getting better? In other words, if you lost 6-1 against a team early in the season, a 3-2 loss is an improvement later in the season. It's still a loss but it is a closer game and a team can celebrate that as a success (and next time you may just beat that team!).
3) Working hard. There is great joy to working hard - both as individuals and as a team. I make it a team goal to be the hardest working team in the league. Coming to the rink everyday to work hard is a must for players if they want to leave the rink feeling good about themselves. As coaches we need to give our athletes the direction as to how to work hard in practice and in games. Insisting on doing their best and giving their all is key to being successful.
4) Becoming a team. This is a little bit of an intangible but athletes will feel like they have been much more successful if they have become stronger as a group rather than just stronger as individuals. This means that they feel a responsibility to their teammates to always do their best. Belonging to something that is bigger than the individual is an important part of the team sports experience. Make sure your players understand this and get to feel it.
5) Striving towards a common goal. Winning a league championship is a goal. Being the most coachable team in the league is a goal. Playing .500 in league play is a goal. Set goals, communicate them regularly and strive to accomplish them.
Having everyone on the same page will undoubtedly help in having a successful season, and wins and losses are not the only way to find and measure success in a competitive team environment.