What I Have Learned From March Madness

basketball“There is one quality that one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.” –Napoleon Hill

March Madness is upon us. From high school to college, we see basketball teams chasing the dream of a championship. Over the years of watching the different tournaments, especially the NCAA Tournament, I have been able to identify five valuable insights into achieving your goals. They are:

  1. Choose A Definite Purpose—A Goal
  2. Create A Plan of Action
  3. Prepare for the Unexpected
  4. Assess and Redirect
  5. Celebrate Your Victories

Choose a Definite Purpose—a Goal

Each team begins the season with a certain goal. They determine how they want to identify a successful season. For some teams it is a winning season. For others it is a conference championship. For still others it is the State or National Championship.

Educator set goals, too. We want our students to learn. We want out students to grow. We want our students to have good relationships. We want our students to be successful. For evaluation purposes, our goals become very specific about the growth/change we want to see.

At the beginning of every year, calendar and school, I set goals based on what I hope to achieve. I want to read 26 books this year—13 professional and 13 personal. I want to write a blog post a week by July.

Create a Plan of Action

To achieve their goals, each coach must develop a plan of action. Teams prepare for opponents by watching video and looking for tendencies. They prepare a report for the coach. The coach creates a plan, teaches the plan to the team, and they practice the plan.

The same is true for goals in education. We ask ourselves several questions about our goals. When do we hope to achieve these goals? How are we going to get there? What do we need to do? Then we develop a plan of action to achieve these goals and put the plan into action.

Personally, I do best when I develop a daily, weekly, and monthly plans of action based on my goals. The monthly plans help me to focus on the overall picture. The weekly plans help to focus on personal and professional calendars. The daily plans help me to use available time slots for specific actions.

Prepare for the Unexpected

When I first started decided to write this blog, the NCAA tournament had not started. The teams had not been named. Yet, I know that every year, the first (now called the 2nd) round holds many surprise. This year, one of my favorites, the Iowa State Cyclones, blew up my #PrincipalPLN bracket, by losing in the first round to UAB.

What is the best way to prepare for the unexpected? Know that the unexpected happens so you need to prepare and practice contingency plans.

You have to know students and their tendencies to recognize when something seem out-of-the-ordinary. You have to have a relationship with students. If you have a relationship and they know you care, then you have to be willing to ask questions. Start with, “How is it going?” Younger students will tell you a great deal. You may have to use other questions with older students, like “You don’t seem yourself, is everything okay?”

Listen for their responses, and you will be prepared to ask more questions or determine a change in your plan of action.

Assess and Redirect

In basketball, you will notice a coach calling a quick time out when they feel the other team is gaining momentum. The coach assesses the situation, calls the time-out, and redirects his team. He knows they need the words of encouragement, a reminder of the action plan or a change to the plan of action.

We need to assess on the fly. We need to be willing to call the quick time-out. We need to be able to reset our team. Knowing our goal, having an action plan, and preparing for the unexpected allows us to assess our situation and redirect the action.

If we fail to call the time-out and redirect the action, we can lose control of the situation. Our students may feel lost and unsure of the next step. If we do not notice, and students do not ask for help, they may shut-down. It is hard to get students back in the game, when they have shut-down.

Celebrate Our Victories

During the tournament, teams celebrate every victory. They know that they are playing against the best teams in the country. They know if they do not win, their season is over. Therefore, a victory is big. A victory allows them to play another day. Only one team ends the season with a win.

Often, we do not celebrate our victories. We need to take every opportunity to celebrate the day-to-day victories. We need to recognize the “light-bulb” moments for ourselves and our students. We need to recognize when things are headed in the right direction.


For each goal we need steps to measure our level of progress. We determine these steps through the creation of our plan of action. We take the time when creating our plan of action to plan for unexpected. We assess these steps to know whether we are moving forward or not. We continue to move forward or we redirect our plan of action based on our assessment. Knowing where we want to go and whether we are getting there helps us to determine whether we have been successful. Celebrating the small steps to reaching these goals will help us feel refreshed and renewed to keep working on our goals.


Please share your thoughts and comments below or you may email me at marc@marcdaly.com. I look forward to engaging in a discussion of your goals, plan of action, or celebrating your victories.