Category Archives: Player & Team Development

Great coaches ask great questions – about themselves

Questions are a powerful and often under utilized resource for coaches. 

Using  questioning techniques with players can reveal what they have learned and facilitate an effective method by which they learn. However, asking questions as a learning technique requires a committment by coaches to prepare, observe and listen.

Questions to others about your team/program provides a coach with valuable insight into the effectiveness of their communication and their strategy.  Asking other questions about your performance requires courage, humility and an intense desire to grow and improve.

The reality is that if you want to be in control, if you want to play it safe, and/or if you want to stay at your current level don’t ask questions. However, if you want to achieve new levels of success, help others maximize their potential and discover the true abilities you must ask questions.

Let’s  look at some examples of questions coaches should ask to staff members and/or others close to the team  to recieve valuable insight into the effectiveness of their communication and teaching.  Some examples of great questions to ask others would be:

  • What would you say this program and team is known for?
  • What are non-negiotables in this program? In our offense? In our defense?
  • What would you say is the biggest objective I have for the playes on this team?
  • What are the common goals we have established for this team?  How effective are we at having all activities we do build towards those goals?
  • H0w would you define our style of play?
  • Based on your observations what would you say are the three biggest principles/character traits emphasized to players?

The questions listed above may be hard for coaches to hear honest answers on, but without hearing the geniune feedback we are merely making assumptions on the effectiveness of our communication and if we are progressing toward the vision we have for the team.

In future posts I will look at utilizing questions to develop players.

Simple is not inferior

Everything should be made as simple as possible, and no simpler.

— Albert Einstein

As coaches the simpler we can make things the easier it is for players to understand the priority.  Too often we think that effective equals complex, that simple equals inferior.  Yet so much evidence points to the opposite.  The success and the relentless pursuit of simple by Google serves as a prime example in the business world.  The benefit of the pursuit of simple is also applicable in athletics, the most successful coaches are the ones who make the game simplest for their athletes and teams.

The challenge for coaches is to seek out honest feedback on the simplicity of their teaching. As coaches it is hard to identify our own weakness in keeping our teaching simple and most effective without outside feedback. Yes it takes courage to invite someone in to evaluate our teaching and help us to be our best, but isn’t this what we are trying to do for our players.  Also, this process doesn’t have to be a painful experience either. An effective coach of coaches understands  the best approach is to ask questions that lead to self-awareness as that is the quickest path to lasting and effective change in behaviors.

Common pitfalls that lead to complexity in our coaching can be:

  • A coaches own lack of clarity on what are those truly vital priorities to success in their system.  Due to uncertainty or not having spent the time to ask themselves the question
  • Falling back on doing things that were done to us and teach the way we were taught
  • Feeling the pressure to make things more complex to justify their position

Failing Quickly

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.