When I was a kid, I can honestly say I had no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up. I mean clueless. In school I would make up something different every time an assignment projecting our careers came up. Now it’s not that I hadn’t given it any thought, because I did. A lot. My future was just something I wasn’t ready to decide on, until a few years ago. One thing I always knew was my pops was the coolest dude in the world. And he was a basketball coach. I was fortunate enough to watch him coach and train hundreds of athletes over the years and one thing has remained consistent. He coaches each of his players differently. When I say “coach” I’m referring to the style which he communicated that seemingly changed with each player. Even varying between my sister and myself. A year into my coaching career, modeling my communication style after his has been key in building trusting relationships with players.
While every coach will tell you “there is no I in team,” almost just as many forget that there is an “I” in individual. And that’s what teams are made up of, individual players who think and respond differently to coaching styles. I knew when I was younger that if I were ever to coach, I would make a serious effort to reach each player on an individual level. I firmly believe that players are far more prone to buy into team philosophies when a coach has established connections with each of them. Sure as a coach there certainly is some egoism involved and I feel the need for my players to listen as I speak, as does every other coach. However that does not trump the need and responsibility as a coach to develop players and put them in positions to succeed on and off the field.
By getting to know your players as you train and develop them you open up a pathway for two-way communication. Communication in which I have found players are more likely to tell you what exactly makes them compete. So you don’t spend half your seasons practices disciplining your players for not playing up to the level you expect from them. I’ve found this to be especially true in coaching the game of basketball. No two players have the same motivations and therefore cannot be expected to respond to the same style of coaching.
If the ultimate goal of coaching is to better players, then getting to know your players before you grow them will aid the process. At the end of the day sports are becoming more and more intelligent as are the athletes participating in them. As coaches it is our job to provide the best atmospheres for players to grow!