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.
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?
What if that was the question we asked?
How can I help other guy?
What does this kid need from me as a coach? What am I going to do to move this situation forward?
We all have a narrative about what’s ok and what’s not, who is “good” and who’s not, but how often do we think about what’s actually best for the other guy? Now.
Of course what’s best for the team might be different. Then the questions change.
Accepting yourself or others as they are is important for well-being…yours and theirs.
As the saying goes, “give me the serenity to accept things I cannot change”. This is step one. If it’s someone else’s “stuff”, you cannot directly change the current situation. If it’s your “stuff”, you still can’t change the now.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t not work to get better (double negative noted).
Working to be different in the future is not the opposite of acceptance.
When was the last time you had a growth spurt?
Most likely you’re not getting taller, and you work hard to not get wider, but could you be growing otherwise?
Looking ahead in a way that makes you better by expanding your knowledge base, or asking great, probing questions of yourself, finding ways to expand what you know, or what you believe, or both.
If you need some supplements, then make your journaling habit actually a thing; take a break to take an intentional breath; make making real eye contact a regular habit.
You may find that growth spurt is happening all on it’s own.
Goals are important, action plans and affirmations can “work”, for sure.
But, it’s what you actually DO that is who you are.
You can wish for things, plan for future events, dictate your future in a journal, business plan or season itinerary.
But, it’s what you actually DO that matters.
You may say that you care about your players. A lot. You might actually, in your heart, care a lot. But unless you show them that, unless you show up for them in ways that matter to them, you aren’t really that caring coach that you think you are.
Look at your current actions to see what really matters to you, and plan your future actions to prove it.
What are the “rules” of coaching?
Do you need to have a handbook? A playbook?
A set of 4-10 pillars that you stand by/live by/teach by?
Is player buy-in the most important thing?
What about “knowing yourself”?
Are you allowed to change your mind? Do you have to change your mind?
You do know that there are secrets out there that only a few have access to, right?
Some of any of these things is probably a good thing…and the wrong ones only invite you to keep working on being better. Isn’t that what we ask our players to do?
No wrong answer. No right answer. I’m just going to keep asking questions.
- Pour the foundation. What are you all about, Coach? ID your drivers, your values, the things that you insist upon, or wish you did.
- Frame it. Determine the language and lens that you’ll use to see the creation of the program and team. What are the critical pieces? There is no shame in asking your people here either. Get consensus, have great conversations.
- Get the tools in line & get everyone to agree on the floor plan. Determine what the finished product will look like if it’s great.
- Decorate. What’s this season’s slogan? Do you have a hashtag? A secret handshake? A goal that everyone can get in line with?
Number 1 is mostly driven by the leader. The head coach, the person at the top. YOU must have an idea of the central principles by which you’ll drive the program and from there you can, and should, include all of the important people.
Start there. Simple. Not easy.
Did you ever notice that when you shine a flashlight under the bed, or simply turn on the lights, that the boogeyman disappears?
If you have issue in your operation or in any relationship, it works to turn on the lights. Illuminate the concerns, even if you are unsure who is “right” or what the “right” thing to do is.
State the facts, solicit opinions, and see if bringing it out in the open helps to give you ideas as to how to proceed.
“The thing to do” is often super clear after you get a good look at the problem. Reflect on your values and the lens at which you see the world, and a course of action will show itself.
One of the conversations that has stuck with me for over ten years…
“Coach, I figured something out,” she said one April morning. “I’m so used to coaches being the one who yelled at us and made us run, I never thought of them as being on the same team as us.”
She was shocked when she felt support from her college coach.
It’s doubtful that all of her coaches before that were “against” her and her teammates, or that yelling was the top activity.
Yet, she FELT that way…the prevailing FEELING about coaches was of being criticized, “yelled at”, even if voices weren’t raised, and of being on the other side.
Recognize how people feel in your presence. Your words may not be as important as you think.