Category Archives: Mentor

How To Have A Difficult Conversation With A Player

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Whether you’ve got a player who has been slacking off in the weight room, not getting it done and about to lose their starting spot, or who is being an awful human being toward a teammate, sometimes coaching requires us to have tough conversations.

Reading Tackle Conflicts with Conversation showed me that it’s at least possible to have these conversations without things a) resulting in tears, b) completely falling apart irreparably, or c) feeling super awkward post-talk.

That a thing is possible doesn’t make it probable.  Here are a few steps from the article that would increase our chances of having a productive, rather than destructive, conversation:

  • Clarify the conflict.  This one is almost like going to Starbucks.  “It seems like you have a personal conflict with Susie that you are uncomfortable addressing with her directly.”  “Yes coach, I have a personal conflict with Susie that I am uncomfortable addressing with her directly.”  I suppose this gives both player and coach a common ground.
  • Consult a neutral friend or coach.  I do this one all the time.  Hopefully you’ve all got a trusted coaching friend who can tell you when you’re off base or if you’re right on track.
  • Reframe, refocus, and redirect the conversation.  If you’ve ever had a difficult conversation with a player, you know they can divulge into rehashing the past.  No fun and not necessary.  When you feel the chat going down that road, that’s when it’s time to refocus on what should happen in the future, not what has gone on in the past.



Well, it’s worth a shot!  While most of us would rather avoid these uncomfortable conversations, I think they are a part of the coaching profession.

Teaching our athletes to embrace power: part 2

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The last post introduced a Harvard Business Review blog post which talked about women being wary to hold power.  (Women and the Uneasy Embrace of Power)  Let’s finish the discussion today with the author’s “actions required to attain power.”  We, as coaches, have the awesome opportunity to equip our female athletes with what’s necessary to be in powerful positions later in life.  To be President’s and CEO’s and well, Big Shots.  Here’s what they need to learn:

And while men, too, are sometimes uncomfortable with the actions required to attain power — building relationships with useful others, displaying confidence, engaging in self-promotion, being willing to work long hours — women, as a rule, tend to be less willing to make the trade-offs required to attain positions of power.

Building relationships with useful others Not just others, but “useful” others.  According to this post, women typically dislike hierarchical relationships, so ladies probably aren’t super fired up to strategically target people for what they can do for them…but we should be!   I believe that it’s both what you know and who you know.  If you’ve got the next big thing, but only you know about it…how does that benefit you or others?

Displaying confidence This is one area that I do believe athletes are a little ahead of the game.  Think about the sprinter who has to believe that she has superior skills than the rest of her competitors.  Or the gymnast who is out there on an island, with no teammates to hide behind, performing her event knowing that she is being judged (quite literally) on every little detail.

Engaging in self-promotion Even for the most confident of us, this is probably the biggest hurdle.  But it is just a hurdle…meant to be leaped over, conquered, and dominated.  As leaders of women, we must get across to our athletes that promoting themselves does not mean that they are demeaning anyone else or their accomplishments.

Being willing to work long hours Our athletes are already putting in long hours with their sport and sacrificing their personal time for the benefit of the team.  How do we get our athletes to flip that switch so that they are just as dogged in their pursuit of success for themselves in the business world?

I suppose the biggest factor in women accomplishing these things on a greater scale and being okay with wielding power is having a supportive partner who’s willing to take up the slack at home while she’s off schmoozing at a party and selling people on the fact that she should be the next athletic director at their college or university.

How do we go about doing this?  Making sure our athletes are comfortable having and exerting power and that they believe that they can do those things while maintaining a family and a home when they’re older?

Read Part 1

4 essential items every coach needs to get better

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Folks who are fixer uppers or tinklers know that the key to handling any situation is having a nice toolbox.  Whether its needle nosed pliers or a power saw or cordless drill…these things will prove to be essential for any job that needs to be completed.  And it’s the same with coaching!  We need to have a toolbox that is stocked so that we’re able to deal with the disgruntled player, the starter whose spot is about to be taken, as well as the athletic director that wants you to fundraise a ridiculous amount of money each year.

Here’s four things that every coach should have in their toolbox:

Mentors When I took my first head coaching job at age 24, my toolbox only had a hammer and a couple of nails clanking around in it…not nearly enough for the repair project I’d taken on!  I was certainly enthusiastic, but that needed to be combined with knowledge…and I was a bit short on that.  Enter our men’s basketball coach who was a legend in his field and had a head full of coaching genius that he was willing to share.  So I’d haul my butt up to his office about once a week and we’d chat.  Sometimes about my team, sometimes about his, but each and every time I learned something from this man.

Peers Here’s one thing I know: coaches love talking about coaching.  Once you find folks with a similar philosophy, make it a point to talk to them and pick their brains.  I truly believe that coaching is coaching so it doesn’t matter if you talk to the football coach or the soccer coach…if you share the same philosophical foundation, you’ve set yourself up for fun and challenging conversations about coaching.

Seminars/Conventions Be a coaching nerd!  Go to your sport’s convention…and attend the sessions (not just the social stuff) and hang out after it’s over and chat with the presenter.  Go to local clinics even if you don’t think you’ll learn something new…you certainly won’t if you don’t go!  Plus other coaches will be there and maybe you’ll be able to chat them up and get a different viewpoint on an old problem.  This will help keep you current in your field.

Books I read a lot of books.  I read books for myself in order to grow in my leadership and influence.  I also read books that I think will be good for my team to read during the season.  Sometimes they’re sports books, sometimes they’re business oriented, and other times they’re faith-based…but what they all share in common is that I think that they’ll make me a better coach.

What do you think?  What would you add to the list?