Coaching Tips

This has been adapted from a blog called the Changing the Game Project and it is a valuable piece of advice for all coaches of any team at any stage. 

Here are three keys to improving performance, and building a champion culture:

Recognition: Every player on a team needs recognition. It is not about trophies for everyone and participation certificates. It is the absolute need for a coach to take the time to recognize the contribution of every player who comes to practice, gives his/her all, and fulfils a role. The coach needs to catch every player being good, and epitomizing core values. You see, the star players usually get plenty of recognition. They win regional MVP’s and club awards, and they get recognized by teammates, classmates and others. But what about the players who bat at 8 and don’t get to bowl? Without recognition, these players see themselves as anonymous. As *Lencioni says, “people who see themselves as invisible or generic cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing.” The same goes for every player on every team. No matter how much they love a sport, eventually they will grow to hate it if they do not get recognized for contributing something to the effort.

Relevance: Every player needs a role. Some can be top order batsmen, others can be bowlers. Some can be leaders, some can be supporters, some can be the smart guy, others the funny guy. But most importantly, every player must be something. Players without a role feel irrelevant. They feel like their hard work and effort don’t matter. A coach who does not work with his lesser skilled players and does not give them opportunities makes them feel irrelevant. A coach who never spends time talking to these players and compliments them for working hard, raising the level of practice, improving their fielding, something, anything, will lose that player. You must find something about every player and let them know how that contributes to the greater good, and that their work matters. If you believed at your job that no one would miss you if you were gone, chances are you would jump at the chance to do something else, and rarely go the extra mile. If your players feel the same way they will disengage too.

A way to measure their contribution: It’s easy to measure runs scored and wickets taken, catching and great fielding, partnerships, running between the wickets. It’s easy to measure a time in a 100 metre race or a 50 meter swimming race. But how do you measure things that are harder to measure? Let’s face it, a fielder in your cricket team might never have a measurable statistic beyond time on the field, and if a coach consistently touts the run scorers and wicket takers takers, that player can quickly start to believe that his/her contribution doesn’t matter. But at least he/she is playing!

You can have players measure dots bowled, or how many times the ball was hit in the air, and measure progress over a season. You can measure who shows up first or leaves last, and give recognition for that. You can also find tangible ways to measure your team core values. If your team values effort, you can give out effort points in practice. If you value positivity, you can measure how often a player makes a teammate smile, or gives an encouraging word to a player who is struggling. Every sport is different, but the more things you can measure, the more ways you can demonstrate how an athlete is not only progressing, but contributing to the greater good. We value the things we can measure, so find ways to measure how each and every athlete contributes, or doesn’t contribute, so you can measure progress. In the words of *Lencioni, “without tangible means of assessing success or failure, motivation eventually deteriorates as people see themselves as unable to control their own fate.”

If your team is struggling, before you look at your athletes, you need to look at yourself. If you don’t like what is happening, it’s not only up to your players to fix it. It’s up to you to fix it.

Do all your players feel valued? If not, fix it.

Do all your players have a role? If not, make them feel relevant.

Do you measure everyone’s contribution? If the answer is no, figure out a way how to.

*Patrick Lencioni is an American writer of books on business management, particularly in relation to team management.