Coach Communication Part 4

By Craig Sigl

9) Listen to your players at a deeper level. Let’s put on the table a few human communication tendencies that will be beneficial for you to be aware of for the purpose of improved performance through better communication as a coach.

A. Understand and accept this….most people, in general, are not very good communicators. They say things they don’t mean and they use words that don’t accurately describe what they want to get across. They often speak in line with how they feel AT THE MOMENT which is in direct odds with their greater or longer term goals. They can actually hold a completely different meaning of a word than the person hearing it.
B. The male of our species tends to hear and process words from others much more literally than females (but females do this too).
C. Young people learn quickly, through their past embarrassing experiences with their peers, to not speak up whenever there is a hint of that embarrassment happening again. Without going into it, can you see the potential for all sorts of problems in communication that can occur from just these typical human communication errors? There’s lots more I haven’t even mentioned. All of them have the potential to create long-term destructive beliefs in your players (mostly along the lines of fear of failure and rejection) that trigger nervousness, tension, freezing, timidity etc. at the wrong time and wrong place in their competition, that destroys their performance.

Performance = Potential – Interference

Now that I’ve scared you with all of that, let me give you a secret weapon that can help you navigate all of this like a ph.d. communications expert.

In any communication with your players, or their parents for that matter, you want to hold in your mind this central idea while you are listening to what they have to say:

“What is it that this person REALLY wants and is trying to say?”

In other words, we sometimes call this “reading between the lines.” I could write a book on this but let me give you a typical example:

When you hear a kid say: “It’s just not fun anymore” it’s highly likely that what they are REALLY saying is that I am tired of the pressure and the conflicts.” As a mental toughness trainer having worked with hundreds of kids in person and practicing the skill of listening at a deeper level, I know this is true for most kids. But, even if you didn’t know that, you could ask yourself the key question above and logically conclude that since the sport itself hasn’t changed, that something ELSE has changed to make the experience “Not Fun.”

…and you go from there asking follow up and more probing questions like:

“What do you mean ‘it’s not fun anymore’?”
“When did it start not being fun anymore?”’

In order to go a level deeper into listening to your player or parent to get to the root of the issue.

In simple terms to sum up this tip, have a general rule in mind to NOT take what people say literally unless you are 100% sure. Have your radar up for any time someone communicates something to you in any kind of emotion to trigger you to ask yourself that question:

“What is it that this person REALLY wants and is trying to say?”

10) Do not try to “Motivate” players. Instead, trigger their highest self motivation. One of the biggest problems I hear from coaches is lack of motivation from their players. It shows up in the form of not hustling in practice, lack of focus, too much horse play or joking around.

So what do most coaches do when they run into these problems? Why, they crack the whip, get tough, and enforce consequences to MAKE them do what you want them to do whether it’s in practice or competition. Now, I’m not saying to throw those tactics out, there’s definitely a time and place to use them. However, those tactics tend to be over-used, they usually get short-term compliance at best and, even worse, risk causing interference programs that hinder athletic performance.

(Notice coach how I continually tie my communication advice here back to improved performance because I know that is YOUR self motivation strategy for even reading this!)

There’s another tactic to add to your arsenal.

In my H.S. Coaches Mental Toughness Toolbox program, I teach coaches how to deliver mental toughness to their teams in 8 pre-practice meetings. Meeting #1 is ALL about this tactic here and what it entails is getting each player to specific WHY they are here on this team and what they want to get out of it. Here’s the kicker….you get the players to write this down and sign it! It’s a statement of commitment based on their self motivation! You are going to use this to the max.

You, as the coach, collect these papers and if you don’t memorize them, keep them on your clipboard and you pull them out often and everywhere and use the exact same words they wrote on their papers to help them connect THEIR desires to what is happening in the moment. And then, when appropriate, you re-communicate that connection to the player. It might be in the moment in practice or it might be a 5-minute chat after practice.

Speak in simple terms like:

“Do you remember writing down here that what you want out of this team is to give yourself the best chance at a college scholarship? Why is it that you want that scholarship? Why is that
important to you? Tell me how what I am having us do right now contributes to you getting what you wrote here? Tell me how what you were doing (not doing) is in line with what YOU WANT?”

The reason why this communication technique is so beneficial is because of the fact that kids’ brains are not fully formed until their mid 20’s. And one big part of that functioning that is lacking until then is this concept:

Delayed gratification

No surprise right? The younger the kids are, the more they want instant gratification. Us adults are here to help them bridge that gap until their brain finally forms. So, what happens
is…in the moment of you asking them what they want to get out of playing on this team, they will tell you honestly. But let’s face it, a few weeks later during a boring practice, that moment is completely disconnected in their mind and it’s busy looking for some kind of instant gratification. Our job is to keep them connected to their own longer-term self-declared motivations and the best way to do that is to get them to write them down and you bring it back to them when needed. They can always update their motivation page too which gives them a sense of empowerment that contributes to them owning their confidence. Try this, you will be shocked at how many headaches you will avoid and how much more self-
motivated your players will become, especially in practice and training.

11) Model and teach leadership
When I went to my first “leadership” training, I went in with the impression that I was going to learn how to emulate great people I admired like Bill Gates, Martin Luther King jr. and Queen
Victoria (yep, look her up). I thought I was going to learn how to magically instill a power inside people that would make them want to give up everything and follow me to the ends of the earth to create amazing world discoveries and advances. (a bit of sarcasm intended here).

Boy was I wrong about what leadership meant and that’s where we started with the training.

So what does leadership mean in the context of coaching sports? Well, think about this… as a coach, you already are in a structured position with a group of people who are highly desiring to do whatever you say, so fantasies of what people think “leadership” means are a given in your position. They have volunteered to follow you already! So that’s not what we seek.

What I believe REAL, effective leadership can do for a coach is to evoke an emotional connection to a player that results in a player tapping into a reservoir of energy and determination that would otherwise go unused. Everyone has this “extra gear” as they say and you want that going for you with as many players as you can get it from, right?

How to get it?

Start by redefining what you think leadership is all about and it’s what I learned at my training:

True leadership is turning others into leaders.

This means having in mind your intention to groom everyone on your team to potentially become a leader themselves! With that intention coming from you in all of your communications, your leadership actions and choice of words should naturally follow. You won’t even have to try to remember any specifics like:
a. Be congruent with your teaching anything. Live what you teach.
b. Encourage people to pass on knowledge/assistance to others
c. Teach them to think for themselves in situations and remove barriers to doing that
d. Master your own emotions and show players how to do it. (Leaders don’t just scream at
people to get them to do things for them under penalty of harsh consequences.)
e. Help your players understand what makes people tick so they don’t make up self-destructive
stories and WANT to help/lead others.
f. Leaders inspire and encourage others…

Starting to get the picture here? Leadership is really about teaching others how to be leaders all the way down the organizational pyramid. Even your least-talented player will develop confidence from leading someone at something (even if it’s at home and not about sports) which then translates to overall confidence bleeding into improved sports performance. (bringing it back to your self-motivation to improve performance again!)

Craig Sigl is the Mental Toughness Trainer specializing in youth sports. Visit https://MentalToughnessTrainer.com/coach for FREE tips for coaches to teach mental toughness to their athletes.

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Don’t forget to have fun

You want to win, we get that. You want all the hard work you put in during practice to pay off. But remember, these are just kids you’re coaching and kids mostly want to have fun. So don’t take it too seriously today. Crack some jokes. Smile. Make up some nicknames for your players. Do whatever you can to help your players understand that it’s not life and death out there. And, ironically, when they relax they’ll probably play better.

Coach Communication Part Two

By Craig Sigl

Let me just re-establish in Part Two here of this series that improving your communication with your athletes is the one area where your efforts will not be a choice between creating a fun/learning experience and striving for better wins/performance. It improves both!

Unfortunately many coaches far underestimate and underuse the power they have at their disposal and I aim to change that with these 18 tips in whole series!

Before I go on, one thing I failed to mention in part 1 is the importance of REPETITION of these communication messages. And if you missed Part One of the series, you can read it here.

In simple terms, don’t think you can just say any of these things once or twice in a pre-practice meeting and the kids will get it and you’re done. You need to give them spaced repetition (just like physical skills) on all of these communication techniques you are learning here and you must be consistent in applying them to ALL players, all season long, to have the maximum effect you want.

So here we go:

5) Identify and use each individual’s most powerful motivation strategy. The corporate world learned the lesson long ago that individuals respond and become motivated from different methods and means.

Some athletes do better when you leave them alone. Some actually like being pushed hard. Still others do better when they get positive encouragement. Many need to constantly be assured that they can make mistakes and not be punished and do best in an environment where their fears are allayed.

Do NOT make the mistake of falling into communication ruts of: “Well, this is the way I always do it for my players and it seems to work just fine.”

It may be working fine for you but you are missing out on bringing out your player’s full potential, or worse, contributing to their performance blocks with your rigid style.

Like I mentioned in part 1 and it bears repeating here, coaches sometimes need to be sold on how this type of communication flexibility not only contributes to a better environment for everyone, it results in better performance and therefore, more wins.

How do you find their motivations and what works for them? Just ask!!!

It shocks me to find when I ask a room full of coaches how many of them actually just ask their players (and/or their parents) what is the best way to motivate them.

Now, their answers won’t be the full picture and you might need to suggest some options like I mentioned above, but you can then just try different things and give your player permission to come back to you later and tell you that motivation method did or didn’t work.

Over time coach, with this new intention, you will find that you pick up on their motivations without even asking and you will find that next level of effort you so want from your players.

6) Do NOT underestimate the authority and influencing power your players give you. Many many athletes have told me in private sessions how a particular coach has literally played a significant part in shaping their lives beyond sports.

Now, you probably know about this, to some degree but I am telling you to take it more seriously and be mindful more often of how you use it. Even if you are coaching little kids in a rec league, in any given game or practice, you can have MUCH more influence over a kid than even their parents or teachers.

To maximize this idea, take a moment, right now, and consciously decide on what you want to impart to these kids as their coach. What will your theme or centerpiece idea of your coaching be that you want to impact your players with for the rest of their lives?

If you don’t choose this, then your communication will be more haphazard and random and not only risk underperformance, but dampen YOUR enjoyment and passion for being a coach. Why not go for a total satisfaction for the experience of coaching that’s WAY beyond winning in this way?

Wouldn’t it be amazing if, for an example, you chose to make your central coaching theme to be: Courage…and then at the end of the season, a parent or two comes up to you and reflects that back to you because they witness a more courageous kid at home from your coaching?…and oops, sorry – don’t you think a team full of kids who are more courageous than when you first got them are much more likely to get more wins? But then, winning is just a byproduct….hope you won’t be mad at me when your teams win more.

😉

Craig Sigl’s work with youth athletes has been featured on NBC TV and ESPN. Get his freeebook: “The 10 Commandments For a Great Sports Parent” and also a free training and .mp3 guided visualization to help young athletes perform under pressure by visiting: http://MentalToughnessTrainer.com

Coach Communication – Part One

By Craig Sigl

Youth coaches have a difficult job and yet most are very passionate about their role which fuels them to take it on.

I want to address the big pink elephant in the room about youth coaching and that is the age-old balance between striving to win and developing players. Let’s face it, coaches want to win. Let’s accept that. Even coaches who preach that they have “fun” and “sportsmanship” and “life lessons” first STILL want to win, at heart, and we all know it.

I get it! I want my clients to win too and I celebrate right along with them when they succeed at achieving their goals. There is one area of coaching where you don’t have to make the choice between striving to win and developing players by putting your efforts into it and that is:

Coach to Player Communication

The ironic thing about coaches putting efforts into this area is that it definitely contributes to, and sometimes is the difference in, turning a team or player into a winner even if that’s not your main goal! I’ve got a 4-part series here on my best tips to help achieve both of those goals for you as a coach. Parents can learn just as much from this series.

1) Create the environment for your players to build their confidence.

I could write a book on confidence building but, the first and most efficient thing for a coach to do is to NOT do things to your players that hurts their confidence. You may be a passionate, loud coach who believes you have to be tough on your players but you also better be aware and read your player’s reactions to your yelling to see if you cross the line.

One of the most common things I have heard from athletes who come to with an issue is: Inconsistent confidence.

And so many times, a coach has been a big reason for the problem. If you aren’t sure about whether you cross the line in hurting your player’s confidence vs. giving good feedback, the best thing you can do is to consistently PRE-FRAME your style and how you give advice and coach. Like this:

“Team, listen, sometimes I yell at players. Sometimes I call players out and it might embarrass them. Sometimes I say things that even I am not proud of. It happens. I’m not perfect. But make no mistake…that even when I am doing those types of things, it does NOT mean that I don’t like you. It does NOT mean that I don’t think you are good enough to excel on this team. It does not mean anything but this:

I CARE so much about you succeeding here. Period. Nothing else and nothing less. So, please forgive me, in advance if I ever go over the line. DO NOT take it personally. It’s just me caring about and doing my best to make you successful. Got that!”

I would give that kind of speech often and you will have inoculated them for any confidence destruction from your actions. They will then build their confidence on the continuous improvements they make in skills and effort which you will praise regularly and everywhere.

2) Notice and call out team players and teamwork behaviors

There was a scene in the famous movie “Hoosiers” about a small-town school basketball team that went to the state championships. In that scene, early in the movie, the coach tells the players they must pass the ball 3 times before anyone takes a shot. One of his players violates this twice and makes both shots. The coach takes him out of the game. Fans and parents yell at the coach because they all want to win that game and that player seemed to have the hot hand. But the coach knew that teamwork was much more important that any single win in the long run.

You can see another example of this in the movie “Miracle” about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team which almost made me cry it was so good in how it showed this “teamwork” thing. Now, this is nothing new to coaches, right? You all know about this power. But many coaches don’t fully take advantage of it by calling it out on a regular basis, especially when they see it in their less-talented players. You need to put it on your radar to really look for players supporting each other in less than obvious ways (like right after a big score). Go all out to point out players who make unselfish assists in games AND practice. Notice who doesn’t ever complain when others do and tell them, individually how much you appreciate and notice that. Don’t fall into the trap of just giving the majority of your attention to your star players but certainly take the star player aside and tell them how much you appreciate how they built up or inspired a lesser player.

Truly, your team is only as good as the weakest links, and you know that deep down.

3) Consistent messages of open and honest communication with you.

You probably have a pre-season meeting with players and parents, great! You probably are good about post-game analyzing and recaps, even better! What you probably are not doing is giving your players the idea, through consistent messages, verbal AND non-verbal that you want them to come to you for your feedback on how they can improve.

Players are deathly afraid to talk to their coaches, even the friendly ones. Believe me, I’ve heard what they really think and won’t tell you or their parents. The more individual, personal, quick chats you have with each player on your team, the more they will get that message. Every person on earth wants to be recognized and acknowledged and kids need it even more since they base their entire identity on what others (especially adults) say to and about them.

Do not underestimate this and blow it off thinking: “I give my players lots of encouragement and advice.”

That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about going a level deeper into showing each player that you care about them as a person and an athlete. One key in doing this, is to get as specific as possible when giving feedback, good or bad. Don’t just tell a player they need to work on their shot. Don’t just tell them that they need to be more consistent. Don’t just tell them they need to be more aggressive. Get into details and specifics of what exactly they can do to improve their performance and HOW.

You don’t have to be warm and fuzzy about it. Do it with your own style, even if it’s a rough, tough style.

You know what I mean. Do it and reap the rewards of players who will do anything to please you.

Stay tuned for part 2 coming next

Craig Sigl’s work with youth athletes has been featured on NBC TV and ESPN. Get his free ebook: “The 10 Commandments For a Great Sports Parent” and also a free training and .mp3 guided visualization to help young athletes perform under pressure by visiting: http://MentalToughnessTrainer.com

Great feedback about coach appreciation

We received some great feedback from one of our clients regarding our article, Make Them Feel Appreciated. The President of a soccer club which has been a long-time client of ours had this to add:

With over 25 years of coaching many sports and administrating a soccer club, here is some current info we do plus some observations:

* All coaches get a coach shirt each season and every few years a coach wind-shirt or jacket with club logo patch and “Coach” above the patch.

* At the end of the fall season each team has a pizza party or other event where the coach usually gets a small token gift of appreciation.

* We offer preseason clinics and division directors are in constant communication with coaches throughout the season. I make the rounds throughout the spring and fall season watching practices and games and checking in with the coaches and always thank them for coaching.

* Once we have a person on board to coach, they usually stay until their kid is finished with rec soccer. Unfortunately this often results in the early loss of coaches when their child moves to travel soccer.

* The millennial generation is pretty much detached from involvement. I am doing winter indoor now for our rec kids and most parents are looking at their smart phones throughout the session. Most would rather write a check than do coaching. Some of these people have an attitude of entitlement, too. Fortunately I have a great group of high school players that train the kids so adults are not needed to actually coach the kids. While some of our divisions get enough coaches, we struggle in others; it varies from season to season.

Thanks for the great input. If you are a league administrator or parent or coach and have other suggestions, send them to us at info@coachdeck.com.

Make them Feel Appreciated

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

In any relationship – marriage, employee/employer, coach to player – we know the personal dynamic suffers if either party is made to feel unappreciated or neglected. So why do so many leagues virtually ignore their volunteer coaches, and then complain each season that it is difficult to get anyone to be a coach? Here are some tips to make your coaches feel appreciated.

All too often we, as league administrators, have so much to do that once we get people in place to coach our league’s teams we think, “That’s done. I can move on to the next job.” But meanwhile, unless we hear complaints, we don’t give another thought to these coaches who are out there working for free every week. What if we created a “Coach Appreciation Committee” that focused all season on making sure coaches had the support and encouragement they needed?

Communicate with them
What are some things we could do to show we care:? How about an easy one for starters: Periodically during the season send an email to your coaches. Ask them, “What can I do for you?” or “Is there any help you need?” Maybe they’ll tell you about an equipment issue they’ve just been putting up with. Perhaps there is a parent who shows up late each practice, forcing the coach to wait around. There could be many small things your coaches won’t bother mentioning, but that annoy them. Imagine if you could fix some of those issues to make their jobs easier. And, even if they don’t request any help, which will usually be the case, everyone likes to be asked.

Pick up the phone throughout the year and call them just to see how they’re doing. You’ll be surprised how much mileage you get with this simple touch. Plus, as a board member, you’ll gain invaluable feedback about the inner-workings of your league.

Communicate with parents
Send an email to all parents with a message such as: “Please be sure to help your coach at practice. If you can’t help at practice then please offer to help in some other way. Get involved with field prep or breakdown. Offer to bring snacks to games. Organize a post-season team party and coaches gift.” Encourage them to simply thank the coach after each game and practice. Get parents to realize that there is something they can contribute even if they aren’t directly involved with the team.

Thank them in person
League officials can swing by a game or practice every now and then and tell the coaches they did a great job and thank them. Point out something positive that was observed. Tell the parents in the stands that the coaches are doing a great job. This goes a long way when it comes from a third-party and a board member.

End of the year volunteer reception
Lots of leagues do this but if you don’t, you may want to consider it. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate soiree, just burgers and sodas at the park would do. But letting the coach and a guest have a nice meal, “on the league” will sure go a long way towards rewarding the season’s hard work and even soothing any frustration that may have accumulated.

Do you have other ideas? What are some things you do in your league to make your coaches feel special, (besides give them a CoachDeck, of course!). Send us your suggestions to info@coachdeck.com. We’d love to hear from you. Have a great 2017 season!

Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com

Three Things That May Hurt Your Kids’ Confidence

By Craig Sigl

If you truly want to give your kids a boost to success, the first thing you need to do is stop doing these three things that hurt your kids’ confidence so let’s get right to it with #1.

1. Giving your kid encouragement, praise and cheers ONLY when they do well out there.

Most of us adults have forgotten what it’s like to be a kid. If I didn’t see them for years now, I would have too. Here’s what you need to understand:

When the young performer does well, and you cheer and praise you are giving your approval of what they have just done.

When the kid does not do well, and looks over at the bench at you, and sees your disappointed face and body posture, the child gets the message of Disapproval.

As sports fans and audiences, we are conditioned to cheer when things go right and go “Awww” when they go wrong for our team. Now, this is totally fine when you’re watching your favorite pro sports team. Those players are not your children and they can take it. But not your kids. They subconsciously take it, literally, as a form of rejection, and there’s nothing worse for a kid than getting that from their parent.

What you need to do is be passionately positive even when nothing exciting is happening…but especially when the child has a poor performance of any kind. You do not want your child coming away from a game, meet or match with the idea that your approval is dependent on their performance.

You may just be showing your disappointment in empathy for them but that’s not how they are taking it. This is a huge confidence killer.

2. Telling your kid how they could have done better on the car ride home.

Or otherwise giving unsolicited advice at any time right after a poor performance or a loss. Most often, the best thing you can do as a sports parent, is nothing.

If you ever watch little kids play in the sandbox together and one of them upsets the other, there’s crying and finger pointing for a few minutes and then after a short time, the kids are right back in the sandbox playing again like nothing happened.

Kids have a much greater natural ability to let go of difficult events faster than us adults. We learn how to hold on to things as we get older because we have all this complex thinking that requires full mental resolution on things.

Kids don’t have that yet and can develop resiliency through difficult events, if allowed to. That’s what we should want for them for their participation in sports, life skills like resilience.

To do that, Kids often need the space and freedom to express, if they want to, and then process the difficulty in their own way. Let them. If a kid is holding on to the loss or poor performance and it’s effects for more than a day, then you can jump in and ask if he or she would like to talk or would like some help with their game to improve on the problem.

But, stop jumping in and saving your kid or teaching them how to do it right next time at the worst time, right after the event. That’s what we have coaches for. Resilience is the foundation for confidence.

3. Stop Delivering typical sports cliches and trite sayings that mean nothing to a kid like:

“You just have to believe in yourself”
“When you’re out there, you have to be focused”
“Stop overthinking”
“Just go out there and have fun”

This is my personal pet peeve having worked in this area for so long, and youth coaches are the worst offenders. Think about this, can you explain to a kid HOW to believe in themselves? Can you give them the steps to “Stop overthinking?” Or how about that vague command to “Get focused or get your head in the game?.”

They don’t know what any of that means, let alone HOW to do what you are telling them. And so what happens? You create confusion, uncertainty, worry that they “Aren’t doing it right” and will ultimately disappoint the adults giving them the advice.

So, instead of the kid just playing in the present moment with their body, which they do naturally and don’t have to be told HOW to do, by the way, we teach them with these silly cliche’s to get in their head and their useless fear-based thoughts.

Also, you might think that telling them to “Just go out there and have fun” is good advice and it CAN be…but, it is a risky move and here’s why:

The whole culture of youth sports is organized around winning and how well the kids perform. There’s no question about that.

Coaches, parents in the stands cheering good play and being disappointed in poor play like I already mentioned…and other messages constantly coming at them like:
Did you win?
How did you do?
Did you start today?
Did you score?
How many points? etc.

If that isn’t enough, Kids base their identity on whether or not they get playing time, make the team, get to the next level and even their friendships are centered around this. These messages are constant and everywhere…

and then you go and tell them to “Just go out there and have fun.” They hear that and at best, they forget it after 2 minutes and slip back into the whole performance-centered mentality they’ve been overwhelmed with. And at worst, subconsciously destroy their confidence in advice from you because of the mixed messages.

The irony of of it all is that the parent or coach is giving the advice with the hopes that it helps their performance when in actuality, it hurts it.

Craig Sigl’s work with youth athletes has been featured on NBC TV and ESPN. Get his free ebook: “The 10 Commandments For a Great Sports Parent” and also a free training and .mp3 guided visualization to help young athletes perform under pressure by visiting www.mentaltoughnesstrainer.com