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Coaches Guide to Daily Improvement (for Every Sport)

EVERY coach wants (and most of us say it to the media and our teams) “Our goal is to get better every day.” 

While that’s a great thought, it is really ONLY A WISH and NOT A GOAL if you don’t have a plan that YOU KNOW WILL Work.


I am providing you with that proven plan that you need to get your program and yourself to the level that you are striving to get to!

STOPLIGHT Theory of Daily Improvement

I learned this system from Mike Neighbors, women’s basketball coach at Arkansas.

Apply this to your improvement as a coach or to your program as a whole.  Or better yet, to BOTH!

Red Light: Things I am committed to STOPPING that hinder daily improvement.

Yellow Light: Things I need to continue with, but use caution as to how much I do them.

Green Light: High leverage things I need to start doing consistently to make daily progress.

For this system to work, you have to keep it SIMPLE.  Determine no mor than two items for each light color.  If you pick too many, your focus will be spread to wide!


Your red light items are your efforts at eliminating unhealthy and distracting actions.  You can’t do anything you want, but you can’t do everything you want.  Pick one or two and no more.  

If one, or both of those become a habit, then you can replace those with a new TO DON’T.  Use these examples as inspiration to select ones that will have a big impact for YOU!

I won’t… (Ideas for you)

🏀Imagine the worst case before I investigate and get the facts and both sides.

🏀Take out my frustrations on others.

🏀Search for things to be offended by.

🏀Let things that I cannot control impact the things I can control

🏀Fear failure.

🏀Try to make everyone happy–it’s impossible.

🏀Blow problems out of proportion.

🏀Put off the important to handle something that seems urgent.

🏀Over-explain and over-talk in practice and meetings.

🏀Do anything that isn’t job related during the work day until the most important task is done well.

🏀Check email more than 3 times per day.

🏀Won’t be sarcastic.

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Yellow Light (Don’t OVER DO)


I need to continue doing these things, but CAUTIOUSLY.  If done in moderation, all of these are POSITIVE.  If they take up too much time in you workday, they keep you from getting to your important but not urgent responsibilities (or green light areas listed further below.)


🏀Talking.  Yes, you have to communicate expectations and explain techniques clearly.  But, your athletes improve more by what they do in practice, than they do by listening to you.

🏀Staff discussion. Over-analyzing and over-thinking as a group hinder your ability to make a decision and move forward.

🏀Being “brutally honest.” Brutal honesty is not always leadership or constructive criticism.  It can border on cruelty if done too frequently. Genuine honesty is a combination of truth and compassion. Make sure that your player or staff member you are correcting knows that your words are meant to motivate and/or improve their play. As Dean Smith said, “I always mean what I say, but I don’t always say what I’m thinking.”  Some things are better left unsaid.

🏀Focusing on only negative with our team.  (Find some reasons to praise as well)

🏀Spending time in analysis. All input is great–analytics, observation, the views of other coaches.  You can also carry the research too far and past the point of diminishing returns.


🏀Focusing on only positive with our team.  Too much of anything is a bad thing.  Another of my favorite coaching quotes: “You can be demanding without being dem

Green Light (Start Doing)

Green light items are habits I need to develop and execute more of…


🏀Earn trust from our players, parents, and administration.

🏀Simplify our program so we can better focus on the things that produce results.

🏀Teach rather than coach in practice and coach rather than teach away from the field, court, pool, etc.

🏀Shout praise, but whisper criticism.

🏀Spend time the necessary time to build meaningful relationships.  We should develop lifelong relationships with the participants (athletes, managers, trainers, support staff) that can never be broken.

🏀 Spend time every day in purposeful study of my sport, coaching in general, or leadership.

🏀 Coach and teaching using images and bullet points rather than long winded “filibusters.”

🏀Use least invasive correction that is needed.

🏀Be productive rather than busy.

🏀Look at things from the viewpoint of others and let that impact how I react and behave.

🏀Show people how much I care rather than how much I know.

🏀Focus on and measure daily improvement for our athletes, our staff, and myself.

🏀Spend time in directed and purposeful thought every day that will make our program better and then develop an action plan to implement the best ideas.

🏀Use practice to rehearse situations that happen in games.  If it doesn’t happen in a game, then we should not spend time on it in drills.

🏀Confront when it is necessary then let it go and move on.  Avoid holding grudges or being judgmental.

To Summarize: Keep it Simple!

When you develop an action plan to improve, if its too complicated, you won’t see ANY results. Make sure at you narrow your focus to one or two items for each color.  Once you start seeing the type of progress that you are looking for, then you can add an extra item for each color (category).

Disclaimer: This system is proven to work and has produced results in several program.  But, every day will not bring upward progress.  There will be days when you feel that you are getting worse. You will only see improvement if you and your athletes believe in and stay with your process.

Now, I challenge you to get to work and develop a stoplight list for every area of your program and yourself that you want to improve.   We at Sideline Interactive wish you the best as you begin your journey of improvement.  Your athletes deserve nothing but your best!!

We sold $30,000 of sponsorship on our Sideline Interactive scorer's table last season. We kept 100% of it
David Smola
Athletic Director, Cathedral Catholic High School, San Diego, CA
We paid for our scoring table within the first month. With Sideline’s high quality scoring table, we’ll be making money for the next 10 years.
Kevin Herron
Central Heights HS, TX
Sideline Interactive has the best scorer's table, best software, best service. Their digital scorer's table and service are AWESOME and wow our fans.
Ben Paul
Athletic Director, Monroeville High School, OH

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