The Power of Outside Affirmation, Can We Serve In This Way?

Over the past year, I have found my coaching heavily influenced by Joe Ehrmann‘s book Inside-Out Coaching:  How Sports Can Transform Lives, Todd Gongwer‘s book Leading for God’s Sake:  A Parable For Finding The Heart Of Leadership, and Jay Bilas‘s book Toughness:  Developing True Strength On And Off The Court.  Each of these books challenge the reader to think about WHY they are doing anything.

As coaches, we have to think about having a WHY that transcends wins and losses.  There is not a singular correct WHY, but coaches need to think about the reasons WHY they coach.  Are these reasons for coaching transformational, or transactional (Joe Ehrmann’s work)?  Is your coaching transforming and improving lives in a positive way, or only creating interactions interested in wins and the player doing what he/she is told?

I have recently defined my WHY as:  “To develop positive character through my platform by teaching the fundamentals that will translate to future endeavors”.

As I was watching this video from the Cleveland FCA on Leading For God’s Sake, I started thinking about my WHY and how the so-called “little things” are so crucial to success.  If I can assume the majority of coaches are using their platform to positively develop people, can coaches serve each other by providing outside affirmation to their players?  I think all coaches realize from time to time, our players may begin to “tune us out”.  As coaches, I think most people do not recognize the little things, the dirty work, the tough plays that lead to team success beyond the highlights of the shooter, the pitcher, the home run hitter, the touchdown scorer, the QB sacker.

What power would there be if an opposing coach came up to one of your players as said, “You are the best screener we play against, you do a great job getting your shooters open”.  “You always take the toughest offensive player and battle him for every point”.  “You play unbelievably great help defense, you drawing three charges in that last game changed the momentum to your team”.  “I heard you are in the top three academically of your class, you are the epitome of a student-athlete”.  TALK ABOUT AFFIRMING THE RIGHT THINGS!  This would only help and encourage players to continue to develop and enhance these little-recognized strengths.  We would truly be serving the sport and young people by doing this.  As coaches, we need all players to feel valued in their roles and in their strengths.

In developing these coaching partnerships, I envision the following process:  ask permission of your fellow coach; pull athlete aside in warmups for affirmation; ask fellow coach to do the same.   If we could serve each other as coaches in this way, think about the power of transferring this to everyday life….we are quick to complain, but do we go above and beyond to thank the people that serve us?  This could be the beginning of a whole revolution….professing our gratitude and respect, that’s my dream anyway.  We all know people who already serve others with the compliments, and we all know those people who are quick to complain as well.

There are some questions to this process, and I don’t know if I have the answers.  These include:

-we are competing to win, can we risk building up a player before a game?

-are we affirming the right things?  Should both coaches be present for this affirmation?

Tough choice….am I hurting my team’s chances of winning by boosting another team’s confidence?  Can I trust the other coach to affirm my player, or do I need to be present?   I have witnessed and read stories about this happening already, but usually only the stars receive it.  Again, I believe the guidelines could be laid out and permission given before the warmups begin.

I cannot wait to get back coaching on the sidelines to do this someday, I hope others think about this proposal and consider it.

I would love to hear your thoughts.  Have a great Monday!

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