The image of a coach that yells, curses, makes threats, overreacts and might even throw a ball or chair around is not hard for people to picture. Think Bobby Knight or former Rutgers coach Mike Rice, not to mention many AAU and volunteer parent coaches. But is that the best way to motivate, inspire, encourage, or lead your team? Pete Carroll, the 2014 Super Bowl-winning head coach of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, does not think so. With the Seahawks a play away from back to back Super Bowl Championships, one doesn’t have to look hard for articles that describe Carroll’s approach to coaching (http://bit.ly/1Cpb8tF or http://bit.ly/1usjACa). In these articles, you will see he has a number of strong beliefs about what makes a good coach, and the strongest among them might sound the simplest…being POSITIVE! Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman states, “I think with any player, nobody likes to be dogged. There’s some hard coaching with Pete, but here (Seattle) they do it in a way where nobody screams, nobody yells, everybody has a positive mindset.” Yes, players will make mistakes… what they need in order to improve on those errors is to be coached, corrected, nurtured, and instructed, not yelled at or made to feel poorly about themselves. With that in mind, below are a number of simple ways coaches can work in some positivity into their programs.
- Make it obvious that positivity is a prominent key of your program:
- Excuses: no thanks
- Negativity towards other players, coaches, or staff: unacceptable
- Treating EVERY DAY as if it is a championship-caliber opportunity to grow, develop, and improve – yes, please!
- Ask your players and staff “how are you doing?” each day and encourage them to answer honestly…not just with the standard (and often untruthful) “good” or “fine”. If someone responds that they are having a rough day, show more compassion for them that day and check up with them the following day.
- If a player makes a mistake that needs to be corrected and hearing the correction won’t benefit the other players, speak with the player 1-on-1 instead of in front of the team. As Sherman says, no one wants to be “dogged”…especially not publicly. It’s important that the error doesn’t go uncorrected, but the way in which the correction is made can make a big difference.
- Find ways to praise individuals for their play and in a variety of ways: team goal sheets, team huddles at the end of practice, bus rides on the road. Make sure to do this in front of the whole team, and in both games and in practice – the practice squad needs love too! Celebrate accomplishments as a larger group and work to make corrections in smaller groups (i.e. guard or post groups) or even individually.
- Encourage and praise hard work just as much as the final outcomes. A lot of hard work is likely to produce the end results that you and your team desire.
- Encourage open dialogue between the coaching staff and players. Players have a different perspective than coaches, and the coaches certainly have a different perspective and set of goals than the players. Share the knowledge openly for the benefit of everyone.
- Be sure to set a good example for your players; demonstrate positive body language, be enthusiastic daily, and constantly be a cheerleader for the success of others. It is often more important to be positive when things don’t go your way than when things are going well – no one wants their plane flight to be cancelled or for your team’s food to be bad, but your reaction to these less than ideal circumstances will have a chain reaction within your team. The way you handle those situations as a leader can go a long way towards making everyone else feel better and improve a team’s morale.
It’s important not to mistake Coach Carroll’s approach to coaching as soft, as he has been described as one of the most competitive coaches in the NFL (known to jump into goal line scrums with no pads). Losing Super Bowl XLIX will hurt him and the players on his team but you can bet he will turn that pain and emotion into a positive before next season.
Think Positive, Be Positive
Posnanski, J. (2013, September 13). PETE CARROLL’S POSITIVE, PROFOUND APPROACH TO FOOTBALL WORKING WONDERS IN SEATTLE. Retrieved January 25, 2015.