As a coach, you carry something that can make an impact so great, that your team could be known consistently for their grit, determination, performance, resiliency, effort levels, focus, enjoyment, player retention, and suspiciously steep learning curve each season. What each coach has in their possession is more powerful than many leaders realize, and it’s available to everyone who carries the title. You can look inside your playbook, which may be one of the best, but it isn’t there.
It’s not inside your equipment bag, and it’s not your whistle. It’s not hiding on your desk under those papers, or in a file on your computer. It’s not in your phone, or an app, or in a book. It’s not in your pockets next to the jewlery one of your players asked you to hold, or on the ground next to that long forgotten and dog chewed looking mouth guard. It’s not with the stats, or on the back of the list of expectations or rules, or in their preseason training with some other coach.
But you have it in your possession right now, and every single day. You can choose to hold it, smash it, throw it out like a fisherman and then reel it back when you feel like it, you can taunt it, you can blame them for not having their own while you withhold the power to give it to them. You can use it as a gift, you can use it as a weapon. You can use it to drive them to greatness, to see an incredible vision beyond where they feel their limitations are, and to unite them on an unforgettable journey. Or you could use it to shame, reinforce doubt, shove realities and failures to the forefront and excuse yourself from the team’s shortcomings.
What could possibly be this powerful in the hands of every coach, and why wouldn’t every coach choose to use it to make their teams great if it’s really this amazing?
The tool is belief. The Power is in the ability to intentionally choose, paint a vision of, transfer and build that belief without letting circumstances, roadblocks, losses, ego, or pressure choose it for you. The power is in seeing a positive future through the uncleared path ahead, no matter how thick the weeds may look right now. The power is in making that vision so real that your team starts to clear the weeds as they pick up momentum, becoming an unstoppable force.
But it’s not just getting them to start, to head out towards that vision, because sometimes a simple pep talk can get them moving only to be held up at the first sign of difficulty or fork in the road. Its in the way belief is given consistently through daily struggles and when they fall down. When the vision is harder to see, is there a drive to move on and an urgency to keep moving forward because the future looks and feels real enough that it’s calling to them?
Why are there miraculous tales that come out of the last mile in a marathon? Why is it that someone who wanted to quit half way through and was sure they couldn’t go on, now with incredible pain and exhaustion to the point of buckling knees and bloody blisters is suddenly picking up speed and pushing through that last mile to cross the finish line? Because they see it and they believe they can make it.
It’s our job as coaches to help them see that finish line, the vision, the ability to cross it. It’s our job to continuously draw new lines they can cross and then bring them to the next one. Your belief becomes their belief. Not just with your words, because words have the ability to be empty at times. They are often scripted, repeated because its what we were told, based on our emotions in the moment, lacking conviction, only momentarily inspired, distracted, not heard or not received, or even absent.
It’s in what we truly believe in our core and consistently communicate with intentionality that models our belief. That includes our actions, our decisions, our presence, our willingness, our openness, and with all those things to support them, the words we choose to say and the timing and tone in which we say them.
Why don’t coaches use this tool more often if it’s so effective? Because sometimes we get owned by our emotions, or own doubts, our bad days, our failure to see our own vision and our imperfection as a human. It is in those moments that we must hold onto that vision and see it for the team, reflect it as a beacon, even when we struggle.
As a coach, we hold up the picture and the belief that it’s where we are going without plan b, with everything we have, and we lead them to it. Over time, your athletes will reflect it back to you, especially when you need it most. It becomes a part of the system, a part of the team’s daily culture and when nourished and supported, it grows stronger and more clear.
But we can’t get them there on the belief system that they aren’t good enough or fall short of the necessary traits or fail too much and must reach the vision to be worthy. That belief system is broken, even though it’s often the approach used.
The belief that holds the power to overcome, move forward and build grit is based on them feeling already worthy because they were chosen to be a part of this team and this vision, (worthy to receive knowledge, encouragement, given opportunities to overcome obstacles) already headed there (part of the team, valued, has a place in the vision and a role to play in getting there), shortcomings and all (failures don’t define me but refine me, worthy of forgiveness), and that together you will do what needs to be done to make the journey, and that you will show them the way.
What belief will you choose to pass on, and where is it going to take you this season?