One of my passions is helping coaches (& parents) focus on the person before the player. This can be a balancing act at times because we all want great results for our clubs, teams and players. The challenge is to ensure that our club and team culture is not driven by results, over relationships. This is when the player becomes more important than the person.
As Tom Statham, Manchester United Youth Coach said, “The cones, bibs and balls are the easy part. It’s the relationships that make the difference.”
Remember, you are coaching a person.
Learn to Listen: Listening needs to be intentional, not accidental. Whether you’re coaching the under 7s C grade team or the A-league, being a great listener is an empowering skill for a coach.
Engage the eyes: Eye contact communicates connection, care and interest. If you are not genuinely interested in your players and athletes, then you need to ask yourself why you are coaching in the first place.
Empower their emotions: Validate and affirm the emotions of your players, they are real and important to them. Don’t brush their emotions aside, even at the highest level of sport, your players are people first.
Control your chaos: “Intensity makes you stronger. Emotionalism makes you weaker.” Emotionalism—ups and downs in moods, displays of temper-ament—is almost always counterproductive, and at times disastrous. I came to understand that if my own behaviour was filled with emotionalism, I was sanctioning it for others. As leader, my behaviour set the bounds of acceptability. And letting emotions spill over onto the court was simply unacceptable. The impact my example had on those under my leadership was another compelling reason to become vigilant in controlling my feelings and behaviour. The message I sent to the team was simple: “If you let your emotions take over, you’ll be outplayed.” John wooden, Wooden on Leadership.
Create consistency: If your team isn’t sure which one of your multiple personalities are going to turn up to training today, then you’re in communication crisis. Be consistent in how you communicate, behave and respond. Don’t keep your team second guessing by being inconsistent with your attitude, tone and demeanour.
Model the method: You need to coach by example and model the style, manner and delivery of all communication. “The things you hope to teach those under you are best taught by your own behaviour demonstration whether it’s the act of showing respect for others, being on time, shooting a free throw, or exercising self-control. Action speaks louder than words.” John Wooden, Wooden on Leadership.
Watch your words: Use your words wisely and learn the language of a great coach. Instead of asking WHY questions of your athletes, ask how or what. The negative attachments to the WHY questions can be quite damaging. Instead of asking, “why did you do that?” or “why did that happen?” ask “what might be a better way to do that?” or “how can you improve next time that happens”. The other little shift I make in communication is deleting the word BUT from my language, and replace it with the word AND. For example if someone makes a suggestion and I say “that’s a good idea but .. “ I am immediately discrediting their idea. If I say, “that’s a great idea and … “ I am empowering their input.
Performance studies clearly indicate that while threats and harsh criticism may provide short term results, the long term costs in terms of mental health and performance are extremely negative. Threats take the fun and the desire to play out of performance and competition, and directly lead to your child or player performing worse, not better.
We need to challenge our players (and children) because a positive challenge holds onto the empowering belief that, “I believe you can do it”.
Amy Cuddy says, “People make the mistake of over-weighing the importance of expressing strength and competence, at the expense of expressing warmth and trustworthiness.”
Coach the person first, then the player. Great results come from building great relationships. Bretta