Be a Great Communicator
- Avoid signaling players out
- There are a million different ways to communicate the same idea or feeling. Be mindful of the choices you make. Post game huddles can be some of the most influential moments for a coach. You can win and lose your locker room with your tone and aggression. If your starting pitcher didn’t make it out of the first inning and walked the yard, how do you address it after the game? “What were you doing out there? You never gave us a chance!” may be accurate, but very unhelpful for a kid that already feels bad about his performance. Instead saying “hey, you didn’t have it today, we all have those games. We don’t accept failure, so let’s get back to work tomorrow and help you get better from this.” I still expressed my disappointment in the player’s performance, but instead of isolating them, I offered my help and made them feel included.
EMPATHY is KING.
- Listen to your players
- You don’t have all the answers. So many times I watch bullpens and see coaches dominating the conversation. “Do this”, “Do that”, “You’re not focusing”, are all phrases that get thrown around far too often. As a coach we want our players to be vulnerable so we can address what is really holding them back. If a player is missing up in the zone on every fastball, don’t immediately suggest a change, ask them “what are you feeling?”. The difference in leading the conversation by asking for a self-assessment is huge. The player may admit to a discomfort that you can’t even see which will allow you both to attack the root of the problem. Players are desperate to feel like they are part of the process. Constant instruction isolates the athlete and makes them feel like a robot. It’s like playing Chess and having an expert player standing over your shoulder telling you every move to make. Yeah you might win, but you don’t feel like you accomplished anything, or even got that much better. Constantly ask questions that invoke thoughtful response and assessment. Work together, and ultimately make the athlete feel like they control their journey, you are just there to help when they need it.
- Encourage players to come to you with complaints
- One of the easiest ways to lose a locker room is to have players who are afraid to come to you with issues. The most glaring example is the issue of playing time. It happens every year, and so many coaches handle the conversations the wrong way. It starts on day 1, where you address the team and tell them that you are not perfect, that you will make just as many mistakes as they will this year, but we will never hide our feelings from one another. Let it be known that if a player feels like they are being treated unfairly by you or a teammate, that they can always come to you first and talk about it as adults. The alternative is that you ignore them and they go to their parents who then send you a passive aggressive email and confront you in the parking lot. “Come to me first if you have an issue, not Mom & Dad, adults don’t get their parents involved when things don’t go their way, let’s talk through it together.” Empathy goes a long way. Constantly breed this culture of openness and togetherness. Nothing divides the team, no one talks behind each other’s back, and we handle everything like adults. “Do you have a problem with me? Good, how can I be better and make this experience more fun for you?” Part of being a coach is being a psychiatrist too.