In an over-accessible but under-connected world, what value do we hold as coaches?
Before email, team group chats, apps, and instant messaging, we may have struggled to get our communications out but we haven’t gotten any better at communicating now despite our abundance of accessible ways to contact each other.
Quantity and quality often have an inverse relationship. The easier it becomes to access each other instantly, the less thought, time and care go into the actual communications. I find it ironic that the trend now for over the top prom invitations seems so romantic except that they almost always end with the person reading the invitation for themselves off a big piece of poster board instead of a meaningful face to face interaction.
This world is full of people who are accessible to one another, often instantly, and yet are craving that deeper relationship. We need more meaningful conversations, not faster ways to get a hold of each other.
What’s in a coach? What can we provide to growing athletes who spend a large portion of their day accessing each other via texts and social media but still feel alone and unable to connect on a deeper level to work through the incredible stresses involved in adolescents and sorts?
We can connect instead of simply communicating. We don’t have to merely inform, carry out the transaction of transferring knowledge and just another version of providing instant access. When we focus on just teaching skills we are becoming just another motivational quote, or “how to” video, like the ones they scroll through every day.
Try this and see if your players become more connected.
5 steps to connecting with your players:
1. Greet every player as they arrive at practice. Try ask them one specific question about something you know they have going on in their life. (How’s that math class going, is the teacher still moving super fast through the material? Did you find anyone to help you with that?)
2. Learn their names the first day. This is tough, especially if you work with several teams like I do. Get dollar store headbands and write their names on them, put tape on their helmet, repeat their name every time you talk to them and make sure you talk to each player at least 5 times that first practice.
3. Have check ins. Let players pick a day everyday couple weeks to meet after practice and let you know what they’ve been up, how they are feeling and if they need anything from you.
4. Notice things, pay attention. Are they acting different? A change of behavior or mood especially over time is a strong signal that you need to have that check in sooner rather than later. Sometimes it helps to have them just know that you have their back, whatever it is. Sometimes it’s more than that, and they need real help and direction to someone like a school counselor.
5. Figure out what positive trait each player brings to the team and write them down. Spend the season reinforcing that value and expressing how much you appreciate it.