The greatest obstacle to success is taking action daily, the greatest obstacle to taking action daily is finding motivation, the greatest obstacle to finding motivation is belief, and the greatest obstacle to belief is faith. Thus faith is the foundation for all worthwhile accomplishment.
A great many players desire to achieve success in their sport. They may even strongly desire and dream of the outcomes they can receive when successful by societal standards; wins, championships, recognition, scholarships, professional opportunities, etc. Yet why do so few start and last on the path of full committment towards those standards of success ? Why doesn’t the possiblity of those rewards drive every player through adversity? Why do so many stop at obstacles?
I believe the answer lies in a lack of trust, or faith, by the player that is borne out of the uncertainty of not seeing the alignment between what is on their heart and the path they are being asked to travel. In order to stick through a difficult journey, a path paved with adversity, a person must have deep faith that this is the path for them. They must possess a deep faith that the path and the reward line up with their personal goals, values, and purposes. When faced with times of adversity what is at the core of our motivation will win out. If a player doesn’t believe in the path the prospect of an extrinsic reward will not carry them past the obstacles. Only the determination found in pursuing intrinsic goals can drive someone repeatedly past obstacles.
The only other explanation would be players simply do not desire the extrinsic reward being offered. I hear so many pundits and expertts like Dick Vitale say on television something like ‘if the kid would just go to class and work hard they could be millionaires, I don’t get what he is thinking’. Two things in response to that. 1) Believe it or not money and fame may not be the greatest source of motivation for everybody, if it was we would all be entreprenuers or entertainers. 2) Has anybody taken the time to find out what truly excites that player? Has anyone helped them identify their passion(s) and how the path of working hard on the basketball court and showing up to classes might align and be of benefit with their passion(s)?
The world’s extrinsic rewards will never be able to compete with the power found when a path aligns with somebodys passison and purpose. Likewise a coach will never be able to fully motivate and teach a team until the players and team have faith in the alignment between their passions and goals and the coaches vision and plan for them.
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.
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.
Coaching is all about creating change. As coaches we try to change skills, habits, behaviors, and mindsets to help players and teams achieve desired outcomes.
I have recently been reading the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath and highly recommend it http://www.heathbrothers.com/switch/ if you haven’t read it.
Here are a few examples of concepts covered that are key for coaches:
- “We need to switch from archaeological problem solving to bright-spot evangelizing.” -From Switch
As coaches we need to focus our attention on identifying what is working and how we can do more of it; this starts by not letting something done right go unnoticed. We need to spend less time deconstructing with players what went wrong; as that approach is not as effective at getting players to change.
- “To provide movement in a new direction, you need to provide crystal-clear guidance. That’s why scripting is important — you’ve got to think about the specific behavior that you’d want to see in a tough moment” -From Switch
Unless you have prepared players with a clear action plan for dealing with adversity don’t expect consistent and positive responses to tough times.
- “If you are leading a change effort, you need to remove the ambiguity from your vision of change. Granted, this asking a lot. It means that you’ll need to understand how to script the criticial moves, to translate apsirations into actions.” – From Switch
The following link is to a great story on how coach Andy Fleming scripted out the moves to change his program http://www.coachad.com/pages/October-2011-Blueprint-For-Turning-Around-A-Struggling-Program.php