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.