Most coaches will tell you a high percentage of sports, and life for that matter, is played between your ears. If you have played or coached sports long enough you know that not every win is notated in the win column, and not every loss is in a column either. If your will to compete is diminished, that’s going to be a loss no matter the level.

I have the great opportunity to coach alongside Dan Dresen, a Director for the Juniors Volleyball Club and the Head Coach at Alverno College in Milwaukee Wisconsin. I asked Dan what he does to ensure his teams maintain their competitiveness, he says “I try to refocus the team on our goals we set going into the match”. Dan continued to explain the different approach at the levels he coaches now; “The focus depends on the level at which you’re coaching. Coaching 13s we want our athletes trying new things and being aggressive. This leads to more aggressive errors which we like at this age as it will teach them to look to score as they get older“. He explains “at the college level we are looking for specific scoring opportunities. Something as simple where we can find a mismatch at the net, or keeping our tempo up to beat blockers and defenders.” Dan’s sage advice and approach is perfect for the athletes he coaches, I’ve witnessed his coaching and it’s extremely effective.

Here are five ways to continue to develop your team’s competitive edge and help ensure they remain in the fight until the last point is scored:

1. Set, reference and review individual and team goals consistently.

a. Write individual and team goals early and track them, use them as an accountability measure and motivational tool

2. Put the message into an off of the court life lesson:

a. Tell them how being competitive will matter off of the court as well. Let’s face it, life is a competition too.

3. “Don’t fail each other!” 

a. This is what being a team is about- be about “us” not “I” and get to work!

4. Don’t leave this to “What If” (one of my military lessons).

a. We don’t want to look back and say “What If” we fought harder, this is a great way to lead into goal accomplishment

5. Tap into their passion for the sport and zeal for life

a. Most of our girls are stand out humans, not just athletes, tap into their personal lives to induce competition as well.

A while ago I came across a saying that moved me to tears, which my daughter would argue happens often. We walked into a local BBQ restaurant that supports our Military and First Responders and on the wall was the below quote:


It could always be our last time so while we’re hear LET’S DO THIS! Coaches, continue to develop your craft- read leadership and coaching books, learn from your peer group and become the coach your athletes deserve.

For related reading on culture click HERE. For related reading for coaches click HERE.

About the Author

Kevin Brylski was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania and graduated from Johnstown High School in 1988. He joined the Navy in 1990, served 20 years on active duty, completed numerous combat deployments, and retired in 2010. Since retirement Kevin has built his business, INVICTUS Training, with one thing in mind, helping people be the best they can be. He is a personal trainer, a life coach, a motivational speaker, and conducts Sports Organization Training. In addition, Kevin is the leadership Director for JVA member Wisconsin Juniors Volleyball Club, the Parent/Coach Liaison, and 15-1’s coach. Kevin is the father of two wonderful children, Maegan is 14 and Grady is 11; both Maegan and Grady are student athletes and maintain an “A” average in school.

If you are interested in contacting Kevin to learn more about how INVICTUS Training can help your club, team or organization he can be reached at 847-533-1185 or

Be Unconquered