In the post, Do You Have a Leadership Strategy For Your Team?, I talked about the importance of having a leadership strategy: How do we pick captains? What characteristics should they have? How do we make sure the process is transparent and can be replicated from year to year?
So that’s what we’re going to focus on!
The following communication techniques are from this post and will keep us focused on our ultimate goal of creating an effective leadership strategy:
- Formal communication: I’m sure most of us do this whenever we’re in our captain-picking time of the year. We say something like, “Hey, we’re going to be voting for captains in a couple of weeks (or whatever your time frame), here are some things we look for in captains. These qualities should be present on and off the court. Being a captain is a big deal, it’s an honor, so make sure you’re paying attention so that you can use your vote wisely.”
- Informal communication: I use this in two ways. The first being those players who I think will get voted captain. I start talking to them about it at the end of our season…I want them prepared and I want them acting captain-ly so that they are seen as leaders. The other way I use this type of communication is in weekly captains meetings where I ask the team leaders how things are going. Early in the season, I may ask if any of the newbies are feeling homesick. Later in the season, I’ll keep checking in to make sure there aren’t any interpersonal conflicts that need to be addressed or to find out if the behind-the-scenes tone is generally positive.
- Communication related to the organization’s rituals and symbols. Older players, alumni, coaches who’ve been around for a long time are essential to helping paint a picture of “who we are” and give context to team culture. This year, we brought back a championship team to be recognized during one of our matches and our players enjoyed hearing from the alums and seeing the fire that was still in their eyes about competing in our gym. Those folks can give a fuller picture of the impact being a team leader has had on their life.
- The messages that leaders send through their every action. I think we, as coaches, are pretty aware of this, but are our athletes? I’m one of those fake it ‘til you make it kind of coaches. I tell my team (at least) weekly that their enthusiasm for being at practice isn’t as important as everyone (the coaches, their teammates) thinking they’re enthusiastic about being at practice. Didn’t do well on a test? I shouldn’t be able to tell by looking at them. Got in a fight with their best friend? They should be the loudest talkers in the gym. A freshmen took a senior’s starting spot? That senior should be screaming her face off in support. Leaders/captains put the team first. This could be the greatest gift we give our players: the ability to control their emotions and how they express them.
I like this strategy! These are principles from the business world that can be easily adapted to the coaching world.