“When people in authority want the rest of us to behave, it matters–first and foremost–how they behave.” – Malcolm Gladwell
Have you ever seen or heard of that team where the coach has lost its players? The sports media likes to term this losing the locker room.
In high school, this is evidenced, in part, by kids standing around during practice doing nothing, kids screwing around in the dugout during games, and kids just doing their own thing with no regard for the team.
Coaches sit around asking why these kids are so bad and why they refuse to care. The kids lack heart, focus, and commitment in the eyes of the outside observer and the coach.
I would posit that the majority of the time this happens the coach is actually the one responsible for the behavior, not the player. The coach has failed to engage the players effectively and as a result, the attention of the players has waned.
Gladwell, in his book, David and Goliath, defined this as the principle of legitimacy, which manifests itself in three ways. First, these kids need to feel like they have a voice. We have to let our kids be free to share ideas and speak up, but more importantly, we have to use some of those ideas and listen to them. Second, there must be consistency and predictability in our coaching. With that, kids must know that rules are the same day after day, for the most part. As coaches, we are not doing anyone any favors by letting one thing slide today then cracking down on it tomorrow. Lastly, our coaching must be fair. We cannot let one player get away with something that another player gets disciplined for.
Too often, this is not the case. We coddle certain players over others because they are better. We take days off where we just let anything go, then get really aggravated and start yelling the next day for the same things. Then, we feel that our egos are being challenged each time that a kid challenges us or wants to ask why. We rule with an iron fist and demand players do it our way without being willing to let them explain it their side of the story.
Coaches, we must be the ones setting the example. We must engage our players and earn their respect before we can ever expect them to be engaged in what we are doing. When we get mad and frustrated externally, we are opening the door for our players to do the same.
If we want our players to act with class, not complain about poor calls, and commit to working hard and doing extra work, we must model that for them in our actions. Not just some of the time, but all the time.
Kids are looking for legitimacy, and the minute that they sniff us out, we will lose them. Legitimize yourself by caring for them, making them feel like they matter, and respecting them.
Remember that it all starts with us. Lead by example. Lead by listening. Lead with consistency. Lead with fairness.
Be the type of person you want your players to be. Engage your players in everything you do as often as you can. Respect them and be there for them.
You will be amazed after doing this just how much these kids will start to be there for you.
Bring your best today!