‘Coming at anyone with an attitude of “I’m right, you’re wrong” assumes that they’re of rational mind. We must establish communication. Ascertain demands, concede nothing, reject nothing, just listen. Listen to what he has to say. Try understanding him instead of trying to dominate him. Look for common ground. Find commonality. And if it feels like you’re buying time, well… that’s because you are. But it’s the key to making the perp feel heard.’ Mindhunter Episode 1, Season 1.
One of the opening scenes from the TV show, Mindhunter was very interesting from the perspective of dealing with people. And for me, how it relates to the coach player relationship. The dynamic between players and management is ever evolving. What was once a teacher/pupil type relationship, has now evolved into a much more balanced relationship, you may even call it a partnership. A partnership that both groups have a vested interest in.
Some mentors still cling to the way it was for them as players, not knowing any other way. “Didn’t it work for us the year we won the county” and such phrases used to make negate any progressive discussion. It was a one-way flow of information from top to bottom. Power was held by the man at the top and if someone didn’t like it “they know where the door is”. It was borne from a time, where leadership was misunderstood by those who were given the role.
Players today are very different from players 20 years ago. With the advent of social media and the greater ease to access information, players now are more educated in their sports than ever before. Players now know more about the sport than a lot of mentors. Twitter, YouTube, Podcasts, Blogs etc are all freely available from all over the world on a range of topics and those interested in up skilling their own knowledge, can now do so on their own time. They are studying video, looking for stats, identifying current trends, speaking to friends from other clubs/counties, looking for ways to enhance their performance and subsequently the performance of their team. They feel that they are entitled to a say on how things should be done, They are right! For groups to prosper, everyone must be pulling in the same direction, with the goal of getting to a certain point together.
Today’s players expect more from coaches. They are not happy to do drills for the sake of doing drills. They want to know why they are doing it and how does it benefit them. Is there not a way this exercise could be altered to challenge me more? How does this apply to a match? Why are we doing this? They want to ensure there is a purpose to what they are doing. If they are going training twice a week collectively and another 2 times on their own, they want to make sure it is worth their while.
You, as a coach must engage with them. Ask for feedback. Review matches. Reflect on you coaching sessions. Seek out their opinions. Ask for advice. Initiate discussion. Adapt and improve. “Just because it works, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved”.
Players are part of A team but are they really part of THE team. If they are intrinsically motivated to improve as an individual, for the team, only then will they have 100% buy in to the process. When players see their efforts matched by everyone else involved, then they are satisfied. Time is a precious commodity these days and if someone feels their time is being wasted, then they will be quick enough to use it elsewhere.