I had a lot of ideas for what I wanted my very first post to be on this new site. The problem is that current events can influence my thoughts too much. For example, as I am typing this post there is a huge media (traditional and social) storm brewing because of a pro football players post game interview. It could easily write a post of sportsmanship or the value of teamwork. Then I brought myself back to where this all started. Growing the coaches mind. So while I am sure that I will add current events in to my post, it was import I set the tone right. So what is my first topic? Honesty. Out of every skillset a coach brings, this has to be the first one.
I am not talking about resume or experience honesty. I am talking about the honesty of your plan. The plan is for the team, the program and the future. There are very few things harder than starting a program. It doesn’t matter if we are talking a high school program, juniors club, or a new college program. You have to figure out how in the world you will get the players you need to make the season at least respectable. Too many times coaches will over promise players to get them in the door. This is where they get stuck. I am sure we have all done it. Told a player they were going to be there starter or main person, only to have another player develop faster than expected or even have a new player show up that is better. You are now stuck.
I would start every parent meeting the same at the beginning of the high school season “Hello. My name is Dan Mickle and I am the head coach. I will do my best around your son, but I have to admit sometimes I swear. I apologize now should it happen, but please know it is because I am passionate about this sport and coaching it”. I know that it is not the best thing to say, but it was honest. Usually I would make it through the whole season without an issue, but there were times I would let some words drop that I wished I could have stopped. I am not saying that being honest will always protect you or make things perfect. It is just a lot easier to start on common ground with people and build a good relationship from the start. Don’t be afraid to tell a player that there are others in the running for the spot. You may loose a recruit, but more than likely you will have players who work hard for your because they know they have an equal chance with you.
The biggest part of the game you need to be honest at is player communications. Sometimes coaches work so hard to not be negative with a player that the desired result is never accomplished and it is an endless cycle. I am not saying you have to be a jerk to the player, but you have to be honest. If they are not producing, they need to know that. The player needs to know where they are weak, so they can work on it. Here are three ways a sample conversation with a setter can go:
“You are a great setter. You are doing fine, we just have to work things out. Don’t worry about it. We will get things clicking and winning in no time.”
This method sounds nice, but it will not motivate the player to get better. In the long run it may cause issues with other players. If the setter is not doing their job, the hitters will get frustrated, and so on.
“Listen, this is going no where. You can’t event get the ball to the pin. It is garbage coming out of your hands and your footwork is miserable”.
I hope that this example is obvious to everyone as to why it is bad. You can still be honest without being so blunt or even rude. I have been there. There were times I got frustrated with a player and said something along these lines. You know what the end result was? Nothing new. Now the player was upset and figured nothing they did would work.
“Hey, look. We need to fix your footwork to get you a little more power to the pins. It isn’t where we need it, but with some work it can be. Lets try to get this all figured out”.
The statement is honest but not brutal. It shows that you truly care about the development of the player and also the end result you are looking for. Again, be honest with the player and you will get the results you are looking for most of the time. At the very least, the player will know where they stand and why their job may be in jeopardy.
Be honest with your players, parents, staff, and superiors and your coaching career will be less stressful, that is as honest as I can be.