An essential part of coaching is building relationships. We, as coaches, spend a lot of time diagramming plays and developing new drills, but we don’t spend enough time trying to figure out how to better foster relationships with our players. The greatest compliment a coach can receive is “his/her players will run through a brick wall for him/her.” The question is: how do coaches develop strong enough relationships with their players that drive such a spirit?
1. Show them that you care.
Always remind your players that you care about them. You must show them that you understand their condition, that you always have their best interests in mind, and that they can trust you. Understand that developing relationships with your players transcends basketball. You must show interest in their lives off the court – ask them about their day, their families, or how their classes are going. If your players feel that you are invested in them as people, they will buy into you as a coach. Don’t just tell your players that you care, show them!
2. Be their friend, not their “buddy.”
Make sure that your players feel that you are approachable. Have fun with them, and at times joke around to show your lighter side. Develop a relationship with your players so that they feel that they can confide in you during times of crisis or so that they feel compelled to share with you when something good happens in their lives. Even with all of this, remember that you are not their “buddy.” There needs to be a figurative line in place that maintains the distinction between player and coach. If you become their “buddy,” you will lose their respect as a coach and authoritative figure.
3. Give them ownership.
It’s very important to give your players ownership in your team and your program. You and your staff will make all of the major decisions and will have the final say, but it is important to get as much player input as possible. You can create a sense of ownership by trying the following:
• Ask them to decide on a team shoe or other gear.
• Get their opinion on the summer tournaments your program is in.
• Find out what the “pulse” of the team is at various points throughout the year. Ask them how they feel about their team.
• Have your players construct some team rules.
• Have players fill out a program and/or team questionnaire.
• Ask players to share their “scouting report” of another team or player if they know pertinent information about your opponent.
• There are a wide variety of options that you can use. Be creative!
• If your players feel like they have stock in your program, the success of your team becomes more important to them.
4. Remember that it’s about them.
Don’t lose sight of your purpose as a coach. If you got into coaching to make money or gain professional notoriety, then you are in it for all of the wrong reasons. Your primary purpose as a coach is to help your players develop positively as players and as young men and women. It should be about THEM. If you make it as such, players won’t have to be reminded too often that you have their best interests in mind.
5. We and us, not me and I.
You must try to talk in the form of “we” and “us” and try to avoid always referencing “me” and “I.” It’s OUR team, OUR loss, OUR big win. WE need to get better. OUR man scored. WE need to take better shots. If you speak in terms of “we” and “us,” it will help bring everyone together to reach common goals.
6. Reinforce good habits and actions.
Don’t always comment on the negative. Make sure you always reinforce the positive. This can be very difficult to do at times, but make sure you make an attempt. Coaches who are too negative often times will “lose” their players.
Relationship building can be very difficult to accomplish successfully. It takes up a lot of time and effort and requires much patience. Sometimes the process won’t always go the way you think it should or want it to. Even with all of the work and struggle that it may be, you must always attempt to develop positive relationships with your players. Without the foundation of positive relationships with your athletes, even the best of coaching will fall on deaf ears.
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