Loyalty, All In, Family. Just a few of those key words we use as coaches to promote an atmosphere of driving with purpose towards a common goal. We often talk to our players about loyalty to their teammates and the mission. We press them to be all in, not just giving a part of themselves out there every day but to commit to putting out their best efforts even on the tough days. We talk about family, about how even if we don’t necessarily get along all the time, we always have each other’s backs and best interests at heart.
But there are teams who have mastered this kind of culture, and others who just preach it to no avail. What gives?
All In, loyalty, and family come from the top down. I’ve seen teams that start strong with these concepts as they are promised from their leadership only to fade out and crumble throughout the season. It’s time to ask ourselves as coaches, are WE all in? Do WE have their backs? How about those days when they aren’t playing well, are less focused, what if they are falling behind? Do we jump our attention over to the ones getting it done, do we threaten, or act in ways that make our players wonder if they might not have value anymore? Or are we all-in for ALL of the players we have chosen to be on our teams, no matter what? What if we are having an off day, feeling stressed, frustrated? Do we push that aside and focus the way we ask them too, or is it an excuse to be a little harsher at practice or maybe even a little complacent? I heard of a coach that actually sat on the bench through practice letting the captains run it because he was “emotionally drained” that day. What kind of example does that set for work ethic? How often are our players emotionally drained from all of their crazy schedules but we ask them to put that aside and do work at the same level, are we doing that? Are we giving what we are asking for in return at the same level of commitment?
Are we rallying for them when then need it, or leaving them behind? Are we loyal to our players in the same way we ask them to be loyal to the team, or do we trade them around with our loyalty given to wins, points, and titles they can bring us? Because they know, our players know what we value deep down, and it matters a great deal to the culture we are building.
When we are leading people to a goal, the people must come first, and when we put our people first they will reach that goal. Loyalty, faith, and trust in our players are the only things that builds loyalty, faith, and trust in our teams. Fear and uncertainty build only more Fear.
Some of the greatest coaches, who teach accountability and have the highest standards, have incredible culture because they are ALL IN for every player on their team. They can push a little harder, because their players know that if they fail, if they have a bad day, the coach isn’t going to write them off, but rather step in to redirect, care about them and help them get where they need to go. Players are part of the team, they don’t play in fear of losing that. If a player falls behind, they will catch back up on the sheer belief they know in their heart that their coach has in them and the fact that their coach won’t quit on them, ever. That kind of devotion from a coach is what builds the all-in atmosphere. Not that twitter hashtag, not the word you have screen printed on the back of the players shooters, not the speeches about how they aren’t living up to that family, loyalty, all-in theme for the season. They will return in great number what attitude and focus their coach consistently puts out, and nothing else.
A coach who is all-in for every player, in all circumstances, builds a culture that can claw its way through any challenge, any adversity, because they know the leader isn’t going to let anyone get left behind.
All-In starts with you, coach, then you can set the expectation and they will follow your lead.