There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.—Coach K
The other day, I was speaking to another coach about her season and the different approach she decided to take with her team. She said instead of yelling or punishing her players for what she perceived as a lack of effort, she decided to use those episodes as teachable moments where she would explain where the athlete was falling short. Assuming, I suppose, that the athlete didn’t realize they were coming across as lazy or not giving full effort.
Effort is a doozy. Some things are out of our player’s control, but effort and communication aren’t. Even the very worst athlete on your team can perform those skills at amazing levels. Working hard is not optional and is the only way to success. Sometimes, though, our teams think they are working hard, but we know it will take much more effort from them to reach the success they desire.
That got me to thinking about redirection strategies coaches can use. When an athlete or team is off track, for one reason or another, it’s our job to get them back…and there are many tactics we can use.
6 ways to help your team value and understand hard work
Yelling. This is the easiest, I suppose. I’m not a big yeller. Mostly because it’s just not in my personality, but also because I think it signals a loss of control. I’ve got to model keeping my composure if that’s a quality I view as an asset within my team.
Physical punishment. There are those who say that coaches should never use running or conditioning as a punishment…that you’re making something positive into a negative. I understand the sentiment, but I disagree. I would rather not have to be the motivation for my team, but sometimes teams are externally motivated and that’s one of the tools that can be used. Used correctly, “opportunities for fitness” (as I call them) are very effective.
Talk to your captains. Explain to them what you see. Explain to them that your frustration with the perceived lack of effort is maddening. Explain to them that opportunities for fitness are on the horizon. Strong leaders will pull the team together and get them back on track.
Review goals. Every team sits down at the beginning of the year and comes up with goals. They want to win conference or beat a rival they lost to the previous year, whatever it may be. As you go through those goals with them, you ask if not giving full effort in each practice is going to get them there.
Watch film. There are certain plays in every sport that are hustle or effort plays. Usually it’s something that no one in the stands will notice whether you’re doing it or not, but it’s a critical skill that is important to the team’s success. Show your team the film. Show them not doing that thing that is essential to your team’s success. I usually show them each instance in a game—it can end up being ten or twenty times of the same mistake—and then ask them how we’re supposed to be successful if we’re not willing to do the hard stuff of our sport.
Visualize. Have them think about the last game of the season and what they want that to feel like. Will they take the final shot? Or win the game on an ace? Or pass an opponent on the final curve to win the race? Walk them through it and then ask them what they’re willing to do to experience those feelings in real life.
What strategies have you used with your team to get them to work harder and go beyond what their perceived limits are?