10 Ways to Effectively Lead Through Change

Written by VersusTue Aug 30 2022
10 Ways to Effectively Lead Through Change

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Coach Tim Walton shares what he’s learned about leadership and adapting over 24 years in coaching.

Coach Tim Walton shares what he’s learned about leadership and adapting over 24 years in coaching.

When Versus asked Coach Tim Walton for a session on leading through change, we knew he would have several quote-worthy insights about sports and life. While some of his responses might include the occasional cliché, they all ring incredibly true. 

Let's have a look, shall we? 

Sport is a game of life. Athletes, coaches, parents, and fans all know sport is about more than a game. At all levels of involvement, the benefits of sport spill over into other areas of life and some lessons learned reflect how we live outside of the sport.

The only certainty in life is change. Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, the world (and the world of sports) is always changing. Individuals, teams, and businesses that recognize and adapt to change, usually end up in the best position.

With the scene set, let's do a quick recap of Coach Walton’s impressive credentials.

Dedicated to Growth On and Off the Field

Tim Walton’s coaching pedigree is unquestionable.

He’s been a head coach in college softball for over 20 years, 17 of which have been with the Florida Gators. The team has become a national powerhouse under his guidance, winning the SEC Regular Season Title in five out of the last six years.

Walton reached his 1,000th career win in May 2022, becoming the second-fastest NCAA coach to achieve the milestone. He’s been the recipient of the SEC coach of the year award five times, plus had several team awards and nominations for coaching staff of the year selections.

Players consistently thrive under Tim’s tutelage. Below are just some of the athletic and academic awards his students have collected:

  • 46 NFCA All-American accolades 
  • 67 All-SEC honors
  • 18 CoSIDIA Academic All-American Honors
  • 2 x USA Softball Player of the Year honorees
  • 3 x Honda Award winners
  • 127 appearances on the SEC Academic Honor Roll
  • 10 x SEC Player & Pitcher of the year

Essential for a discussion on change, Walton also has some solid life experience on his side.

As a former professional baseball player—he’s dealt with the ups and downs of an athletic career. Walton knows all about family life. He’s a devoted husband and loving father to his three children. And lately, Tim has been actively promoting mental health awareness in the community for athletics and life.

Information in this article was adapted from an exclusive video interview Tim gave to Versus. Any of our game plans will give you access to the video, plus loads more content from our roster of elite athletes and world-class coaches.

Now, let's get into Tim’s 10 top pieces of advice for leading through change. While most of his tips are aimed at coaches—they also apply to parents, students, and anyone in a leadership position. 

Good Talent Is Flexible

Walton borrowed the following nugget of wisdom from Amanda Lorenz, an accomplished athlete and talented softball coach in her own right. The key takeaway here is that as with all mindset techniques —

flexibility is a skill that can be learned.”

If you are a coach or parent of an athlete who struggles with uncertainty, gently start a dialogue on the topic. Much of the difficulty people find in being flexible is a result of a fixed mindset and a belief that they can’t handle uncertainty. Yet, just opening up the possibility of a different outlook can yield big improvements.     

Experience Makes People Change

When you set aside the habit of judging all change as positive or negative, the simple fact that experiences are what makes people change becomes clear. 

Coach Walton illustrates the point by recounting how getting married and needing to provide for his family pushed him to take a job as a paid softball coach (he was a volunteer baseball coach prior). 

Most of the problems people have adjusting to change come from trying to resist it. If we accept that experiences will change us, no matter what—it becomes easier to accept change as part of life.

Have a Plan, but Be Adaptable

Coach Walton is big on making plans. Take one look at his Ultimate Practice Plan, and it’s clear he’s into detail and organization. Although he still remains quick to recognize that

“every player has different needs, and you have to be adaptable every day to help them be successful.”  

If you are in a leadership position, make sure to always have a solid plan for your team. That’s an essential part of the job. But just as there is benefit to talent being flexible, good leaders know when to adapt and let the plan slide, and how to properly handle what's most important that day by prioritizing. 

Each Team is Different

Leaders must recognize that teams are different. To honor this fact, Walton creates a mantra that fits each of his team’s unique personality and goals for that year.

Problems with buy-in and motivation often stem from individuals feeling an organization's goals aren’t aligned with their own. You don’t have to create a mantra, but a team’s mission should resonate with the desires and interests of its members.    

The Power of Meaning

Tim reminds us that “every team, every year tells a story.” Meaning (which can be found through story) is increasingly being seen as one of the components of resilience and positive mental health.

Helping your team come up with a compelling narrative about their individual and collective “why,” can greatly enhance the dedication and well-being of team members.

Build Confidence through Technology

“Technology is the greatest separator in sport right now,” Walton says.

He utilizes technology to build confidence and get players to try new training methods — because he can prove they are improving.

Some examples he gives are tracking swings, testing overhead velocity, and measuring vertical jumps. By using objective measures of improvement, Walton shows players that the training plans they’re following are achieving concrete results. 

Change Happens in Multiple Areas

Most people are constantly dealing with change in several areas at once. This is particularly true for student athletes, who often have simultaneous changes in their academic, athletic, and personal situations. 

While leaders should encourage resilience and perseverance through change, they also need to be mindful of the amount of change an individual is experiencing at once. If a players struggle with a particular change seems out of proportion, it could be to do with the amount of change they have going on—not the specific issue at hand. 

Coaches Must Change, Too

Walton believes that evolving as a coach is non-negotiable, particularly in high-level leadership. This point is a friendly reminder that being open and receptive to change applies to coaches, just the same as it does for athletes.

As far as Tim Walton’s concerned, “Evolving for the betterment of your career, your program, and most importantly, your players is a requirement to being a good leader.”

Your Game Will Change

Despite the rich traditions in sport, most games change substantially even over the course of a decade. This is a good thing. Sports are a reflection of society and sometimes have to change to better align with community values.

You might not always agree with a change in your chosen sport, but one thing is for certain. As a player or coach, if you stick your head in the sand and try to ignore or resist change—you will get left behind. 

Re-Define Change

Tim’s parting words in the video are a call to action for leaders to help their teams redefine change. 

Here is his closing comment:

“Life is constantly evolving. New things are thrown at you. In order to be really good—you’re going to have to be adaptable.


You may have to change from the first inning to the second. You may go in with a plan, and that plan doesn’t work. It might start to rain in the middle of the biggest game of your career. Life is all about change. It’s all about making adjustments. So my biggest recommendation for the game and for improvement, is it doesn’t have to be change—it can be adjusted. 

Adjust to what’s thrown at you. It will be a lot easier to make improvements if you recognize that adjustments have to be made.”

If you want to go deeper on coaching and what it takes to have a winning mindset, head over to Versus and check out our Game Plans. Any of our packages will get you access to his lessons, plus tons of other training sessions, interactive content, and more.

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