Kids With Options

Lots of people in the college coaching world are talking about generational differences and how to “relate to Gen Z” players (and staff). We are telling coaches and leaders that they need to open up and be more vulnerable to those they lead. What does that mean?

I think we’re getting “opening up” wrong.

Teams need trust for sure, but this does not need to be personal–on either side. Coach, you can show “who you are” simply by sharing honestly what you believe in.

When you talk about what you believe in and why, when you clearly share the things that are foundational to you, you’re automatically being “authentic”. When you know, you know and when you share “who you are”, that’s who you are. That’s personal without being personal. It’s unlikely that everything you do is going to work well, every time, but everything you are, the be behind the do, is real and that matters for trust.

Some coaches seem to think that sharing values and asking questions, aside from the rhetorical, is a sign of weakness that could damage their coaching authority. This is a challenge, yet by not sharing we risk lack of understanding as well as lack of commitment.

Commitment to what? This is an important question.

There is no middle ground. Either you state your beliefs and talk–even to yourself–about why they are important or you keep operating in a veiled manner that keeps people guessing. Kids with options want to know you.

Lessons of A Coach in Quarantine

1. The adage, “you have two ears and one mouth for a reason” stands true. I’m working hard to be a good listener while also leading the way with my voice.

2. The malaise of the unknown is a real thing. “What’s going to happen next?” makes doing the next thing challenging

3. Making time is still a challenge, even when you have nothing but time! Habits still matter.

4. Change is hard. ” Oh, here’s some good news, I’ll learn to _____ (paint, build furniture, garden, pitch, be a runner),” is way easier said than done.

5. Fear is powerful. Incentives to not change are often strong.

6. Poor leadership is just as powerful as good leadership. #showingup takes guts and a willingness to fail and be criticized.

College

Many athletes think about and plan for their four years in College. It’s scripted in our minds and we can see the good times, the wins, the classes, the friends the bus rides…

We know that it might not turn out exactly as we envision it, but it’s likely to be great. We’ll start, be healthy, maybe even make all-star teams and win championships.

Get strong, get sleep, be ready. It’s gonna be great.

Ok, have a plan B, too.

Enjoy.

Rule #31

This one is a rule that’s being broken in our current times. The era of COVID-19 is providing rare situations for certain.

The exceptions don’t make the rule invalid, however. Most things are not unique; even large scale pandemics have happened and we might learn from those instances. For sure we can learn from our personal, more day-to-day happenings.

When challenges present themselves look for examples of previous similar happenings and see what you can learn from those.

Most things are not rare.

Rule #29

Providing clear standards and expectations is a gift that coaches can offer. The comfort that comes from knowing what’s likely to happen, and what will happen after that, is real.

An important part of well defined standards is “what it doesn’t look like”.

If the downside outcome is achieved the real or imagined booooo you hear is the same voice that says, “I know you’ve got this!”.

Get back after it knowing your people are in your corner and will be behind you no matter what.

Rule #25

The rules are back.

After a few weeks of watching people break rules, written and unwritten, those of decency and respect as well as the legal system, we’re back with the Williams Softball culture of rules.

This one is obvious. All you can do is prepare for the next pitch, work to improve your pitch and support your people and process.

Rule #22

This one is a fan favorite.

Something so often said, “you just need to work a little harder” and you’ll get what you want or reach your goals.

Likely you said this to yourself before.

It sounds so simple, like a done deal.

Work is often a part of the solution, but working harder we know is not always the answer.

How can you ask yourself some questions that might allow you to see things from a different angle? How can you take your foot off the gas and maybe make things flow more smoothly?

Rule #21

By definition.

Be specific with your language. Know what you mean and be clear.

The shorter the hops the easier it is.

That doesn’t mean every ball can be a short hop play. Feel the pace, allow your brain to work and be smooth.

Find a wall or a partner and practice.