Many times as coaches, we see the effects a day has had on our players but are clueless to the cause. I’m sure you know all too well what I’m talking about. Someone comes to practice with a very obvious storm cloud above their head…you know that it can’t be practice related, so you’ve got to figure out what’s going on. Or maybe it happens in a game when two of your players are chippy with one another out of the blue, again you’re left to try and figure out the cause of the disruption. This is a major part of coaching and I’ve seen folks botch this one over and over. When things start going sideways, there are three things that you can do to guarantee that you’ll lose credibility with your team. Before we discuss how coaches sometimes lose credibility with their teams, I’ve got a story for you.
The Baked Ziti Story
In college, our coach had settled us into a routine for our pregame meals. When we were on the road, we’d go have pasta at a local Italian restaurant after our walk through practice, then slowly make our way back to the gym. No matter the city, it was the same routine…often with the same meal choices. Spaghetti with marinara, meat, or mushroom sauce. That was it, every road trip.
About halfway through the season, one of our best players had had enough. When we got to the restaurant, she started talking loudly about how she wouldn’t play if she didn’t get to eat baked ziti. Now if you remember, that was not on our list of choices. The coaches, seated at their own table, just laughed her off. But she just kept on and on about this baked ziti. When the waiter came to ask for the orders at our table, he got: marinara, meat, meat, mushroom, and (you guessed it) baked ziti.
Of course the waiter knew that wasn’t an option, so he smiled thinking that she was joking. She didn’t smile. The waiter looked questioningly at the coach’s table and asked with his eyes what he should do. The coaches huddled up and decided that she could not have baked ziti. Well, she crossed her arms and legs, sat back heavily in her chair and announced loudly that “I guess I won’t be playing tonight.”
As the rest of us silently nibbled on our bread, we tried not to get caught as we stole glances at the coaches. After a while, our food started coming out and there she was without a plate in front of her…arms crossed, looking defiant. Eventually we saw one of the assistants walk over to the kitchen and a few minutes later, the waiter came out with baked ziti. The rest of us pushed our plain ole spaghetti around our plates while she happily dug in to her yummy ziti.
So what happened here? Let’s look into it by learning the…
3 Steps to Losing Credibility With Your Team
1. Create antagonistic relationships: Baked ziti girl and our coach butted heads early and often…this certainly wasn’t their first rodeo. As coaches we have to realize that creating this type of environment forces your team to choose sides…but aren’t we supposed to be on the same side as our team?
2. Ignore team’s grumbling: Due to our coach’s inability to successfully address the very obvious personality conflicts, the team hashed it out amongst ourselves. Now that I’m a coach myself, I think that I would have tried to connect personally and privately with each of my players and ask their opinion. Not only does everyone like to give their opinion, perhaps my team members would have felt “heard” and would be less likely to gossip in the locker room.
3. Be unapproachable: If your team is afraid to talk to you, then you may have put up a wall. Don’t be a coward, face up to your team. Wouldn’t you rather they feel comfortable talking to you instead of throwing a temper tantrum over baked ziti to get your attention?
Coaches, stay away from these three things and hopefully you can keep disorder from attacking your team.