Learning is a choice, made by the learner not the teacher. Therefore, a teacher should focus on what motivates others to learn; identify what sparks a learners curiosity rather than focusing on telling them what you already know.
It is easy to get the highly motivated player, the player who wants the same things you want to learn what you are teaching; but what about the majority of the players you coach who aren’t this way how do you get them to learn?
Great coaches like great salespeople understand people don’t buy based on what you know; they buy based on what it can do for them. Coaching success requires getting players to align their individual interests with the vision you have set for the team and the players role on it.
Today’s player needs to believe before they will follow. This may be different from when todays coaches were players; they might have followed a coach before they believed. This shift is why generally today in coaching threats don’t work for long, and punishment doesn’t lead to buy-in. A relationship based on trust, transperency, open communications, and void of hidden agendas is vital to coaching success. This type of relationship enables a coach to identify what motivates an individual player and allows a player to learn how, not told, to be successful within the framework of a team.
Coaches and players need to stop making asssumptions about what the other is thinking and wants. A coach needs to move out of dictating and demanding and move into the realm of dialoguing and discussing. Please hear me I am not saying a coach relinquish their voice in determining and upholding the standards, philosophy, and values of their team. What I am saying that a coach needs to understand the success of the values, philosophy, standards they set is depenendent on those charged with carrying them out. It is dependent players learning and fully buying into the vision and plan. The quickest and most effective path to that end is to help players discover the benefit of adhering to it; and this requires a true relationship with players. You can’t hold a player to a standard that they haven’t agreed to be held to.
Two final thoughts:
- No matter how talented a coach is and no matter how gifted a player or a team might be a coach can never push them into achieving their full potential. The sad truth is that some players and some teams never achieve their full potential because they never discover what would motivate them to align their interests with what is needed to be the best they can be.
- The best way to ensure someone believes is to let their buy-in be their decision. The best way for a coach to do this is to engage in effective question and listening with their players. If you have questions on how to go about this let me know and I would be happy to discuss this approach with you.
A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to hear Dena Evans from Point Guard College speak at a clinic on developing S.C.H.A.P.E. leaders (unsolicited plug this is a dynamite program). Dena shared during her talk the importance of leaders offering reminders to those on there team. I am not going to try and replicate her talk but a line resonated with me related to my coaching; “Reminders are only useful before they are needed – afterwards it’s complaining”
This statement got me to thinking about how much of what we say as coaches could fall under a category I call ‘true but useless’; meaning the statement may be true but it provides no immediate benefit or help to the recipient.
Below is a sampling of some common things that I hear, and have yelled myself, to players during a game. Upon reflection I wonder if there is any benefit to players in hearing these things or are they simply ‘true but useless’ statements to my players. You decide is there anything about the statements below that provide timely, actionable information to players that will help them take the next best action in a game. You see the players already realize they made a mistake so if what you are yelling is merely pointing out to them something they already know it probably is ‘true but useless’ and serves as a distraction rather than an aide to keep players focused on making the next best action.
“Don’t turn it over”
“Take care of the ball”
“Don’t go there”
“Throw a good pass”
“Rebound” – Usually screamed after the other team has gotten an offensive rebound
The examples above serve as a reminder to me to constantly evaluate what it is I am communicating to players. Is it helpful? Is it the right time? Does it improve the players chance to take the next best action? If the answer to those questions is no than that piece of coaching is probably ‘true but useless’.
Coaches talk a great deal of the importance of buy-in by players. But how is the accomplished? What is needed to lead so that others will follow? People and players don’t follow titles very far, so merely being a coach doesn’t ensure players will adhere to your demands.
I believe a big part of this is clearly communicating your goals and expectations for the team and its members. However, an equally big component is providing the players with the opportunity to indivdually share their goals and expectations with you. This only occurs if you start a dialogue as a coach. If you are willing to actually listen and not lecture during this time you will have a much better understanding of the individual player and a great foundation to operate from in helping them adjust into their role on the team.
There are many benefits to this dialogue such as:,
- Players feel heard and validated
- Players have ‘aha’ learning moments when they are talking through these questions as to their role on the team
- You can start to manage out of synch expectations between yourself and a player much earlier and at a time before anger and resentment have started to build up.
- You can discover better ways to communicate with the player as you will have a greater understanding of their motivations and what makes them tick if you listen well.
Below are examples of questions you can use at the start of seasons to initiate dialogue with players to develop the trust and relationship that can thrive during the adversity of a season:
- What are your expectations for being on this team? Playing time? Role on team? Shot attempts? Type of shot attempts?
Would you be able to stay positive in words, actions, and effort if these expectations did not get met?
- What would you say are your strengths as a player? Are there any others on the team stronger than you in these areas?
- What are areas of your game that you feel you struggle in?
- What are your goals for playing on this team? Personally? For the Team?
- How would you describe good leadership?
- What do you think makes a good teammate?
The benefits of sincere dialogue intiated and continued throughout a season by questions and listening will pay benefits for the life of a player coach relationship and definately provide a coach and their team their best opportunity to respond to adversity in a positive manner.
‘You haven’t taught until they have learned’
The qoute above is true more than ever today as players need to understand the why and the benefit to learning what you are teaching before they will act on it. With that in mind there are some important concepts to understand between teaching and true learning.
Teaching involves sharing what the teacher knows:
Learning occurs when they discover what the teacher knows
Teaching focuses on what the teacher knows:
Learning focuses on what is important for their needs
Teaching is deciding what they need to know:
Learning helps them discover what is needed for them to know
When you teach you are limiting players to what you know;
When you help them discover how to learn, you have set them up to reach their potential.
When coaching do we slow a players development and/or impose a false ceiling on their potential by teaching and encouaging them to avoid failure?
Whether intentional or not, teaching players to avoid failure through our words, body language or actions, will hamper a players development. Players must understand failure is a necessary part of their improvement process and they will experience it during the development process. It should not be viewed as making them some how inferior rather it is a sign they are moving in the right direction.
As Pixar director Andrew Stanton, director of Finding Nemo and WALL-E, describes this way of operating, “My strategy has always been: be wrong as fast as we can. Which basically means, we’re gonna screw up, let’s just admit that. Let’s not be afraid of that. But let’s do it as fast as we can so we can get to the answer. You can’t get to adulthood before you go through puberty. I won’t get it right the first time, but I will get it wrong really soon, really quickly.”
Failing quickly to learn fast is also a central operating principle for seasoned entrepreneurs who routinely describe their approach as failing forward. That is, entrepreneurs push ideas into the market as quickly as possible in order to learn from mistakes and failures that will point the way forward. This is an extremely well-known Silicon Valley operating principle. Howard Schultz’s experience building Starbucks illustrates the point. He and his colleagues had to try hundreds of ideas, on everything from nonstop opera music to baristas wearing bowties, to hundreds of different types of beverages before being able to define the Starbucks experience.
Sims, Peter (2011-04-19). Little Bets (pp. 52-53). Free Press. Kindle Edition.
Avoidance of failure means avoiding reaching your fullest potential and often times the quickest way to reaching new levels of success is through failing quickly.
Knowledge means very little if you cannot communicate what you know in a way that can be understood by others.
The role of a coach is to get players to acquire new knowledge that enables them to perform better. This is most commonly done by coaches transferring knowledge that they have either from their past, their learning, or their observations of the player and/or team. However, a coach can help facilitate this in other ways as well they can bring in other resources to help the player acquire the knowledge they need to advance, such as a specialist, another coach, a video resource, etc.. Below are some important things to remember to best transfer knowledge to players.
Provide specific actions for players to take more than theory on what to do and analysis of what they did wrong
Players care more about what you can do for them than what you have done
Players care more about whether than can trust you than whether you can trust them
No two players are alike some players you have to whisper too to be heard
Golf is a great test of one’s ability to focus on their strengths, as there are no reactions to opponents, it is you and you alone deciding the shot you are going to attempt. During a recent round I found myself again trying to hit a shot that I see many good players hit when facing the shot I was. I knew that was not the best shot for me as I am better at hitting a high flop shot than I am at hitting a bump and run into the side of the bank. Yet I had this internal debate going in my head that if I play against conventional wisdom (which is playing to my strength) am I somehow lesser of a player. Unfortunately, I displayed some mental weakness and attempted the conventionally wise shot and wound up making bogey, I should have played to my strengths.
This experience got me thinking how this relates to coaching. As a coach am I trying to get a player to play like someone else or am I trying to help them become the best player they can be based on their unique giftings? This is not to say that we don’t teach players fundamental skills, but as coaches we should not stifle creativity to do things a little differntly as that leads to innovation. The game of basketball would look differently if Whitey Skoog, John Miller Cooper, or Ken Sailors had not been allowed to take a jump shot as up to then it was believed that a set shot was most effective.
Good coaches don’t try to create cookie cutter players, they help players realize their strengths and how to maximize them within the team and the game.
Good coaches develop players to their fullest potential, not trying to force them mirror someone elses path to their fullest potnential.