Coaching is all about how you respond and make adjustments. At least that’s what I was taught and heard as a young coach. That being said, it is worth mentioning that some individuals will try to influence you concerning lineups, eligibility, playing time, awards, making concessions, and even offering rewards. I can assure you these are not mentioned at most coaches training sessions or courses. So my questions are, What will you do? How will you respond? Who will you turn to? What adjustments, if any, will you make?
I feel certain my first sentence led you to game adjustments and how to respond to pressure in a game, but that pressure will be at its greatest when faced with the topics I’ve mentioned and your internal struggle to deal with them.
Those topics aren’t brought up by criminals or shady characters, they usually come from everyday people such as an old family friend, a parent, a player, a childhood classmate, a respected business man or woman, a teacher, an administrator or an influential booster or banker. In most cases they have no idea the position it puts you in with respect to your career and the team. So, how will you respond?
Let’s explore one question which may help us find the answer. Are you an honest coach? What exactly does that mean? Most would say it’s about doing the right thing, but others might say what if doing the right thing impacts the player or team in a negative way, should I do it and hurt the player? While some might think, who will ever know, or everyone is doing it so it must be okay. What exactly does honesty mean to you? Would your players say you’re an honest coach?
Honesty brings about many emotions as well as many responsibilities. Being honest is easier in situations when the answer is clear. However, the situation may pull you in a direction you shouldn’t go when you know better. That may come from being obsessed with a big game, winning, championships and personal achievements.
I know we’d all agree when we aren’t totally honest we’re the first to know and it eats at us at night when we try to sleep or during the day when we ask ourselves over and over, “Why did I do or say that?” I will say when that happens there is hope. It’s when we feel no remorse or don’t believe we did anything wrong that we and others who trust us should be worried. At that point we need help and are buried in a blur of what is right and what is wrong.
Let’s look at some common questions and statements, that when presented, will give you the chance to display your honesty or lack thereof?
1. Will my child be a starter on the team?
2. Why isn’t my child playing?
3. Can’t you let him/her play even though they didn’t pass that class?
4. All I did was miss the game bus. Why can’t I play?
5. My monetary contributions are contingent on my son playing.
6. Make sure my daughter is on that all-tournament team, she’s worked hard all year.
7. (From the Principal) I’m getting pressure from Mr. Wilson. Make sure Bobby plays.
8. My family lives in the other district. Can my son play at your school though?
9. Coach, why am I not in the starting lineup?
10. Coach, Sara has been acting up in my class. Can you help me?
Many of our questions are fairly simple and only require that you explain your expectations and hold the player accountable. But wait, if it was that easy anyone could be the coach. Revisit some of our questions with the player involved being your best, it’s the state or conference final and the accountability is sitting out the next game. Now would you be totally honest and do what’s necessary?
Some would bail out and make them sit the first game next season, but what if he or she is a senior? Others might ask the team to vote knowing what that answer will be. Teammates are never going to make a teammate sit out and shouldn’t have to. You have to make that decision.
The questions we’ve mentioned all require an answer. Why not go ahead and be totally honest when first asked. Dancing around the answer in terms of, “Well if she works hard and improves her skill she has a great chance to start,” when you know it isn’t true, only gives parents hope and will come back to haunt you because all they heard was she was going to start. The same applies for playing time.
With respect to behavior in class and riding the game bus, those should be included in your expectations with specific accountability. It is important to let teachers and parents know so they aren’t surprised or caught off guard.
Playing out of district or parents putting pressure on your Principal for their child to play is out of your hands. Refer parents who live in another district to your Athletic Director, no need to get involved. While it may be difficult I’d let your principal know where you stood with respect to playing time. For him or her to influence any decision you make is unprofessional and I wouldn’t let it go on for any period of time. Should it persist I’d ask for a meeting with the Superintendent.
Being honest can be tough, but it won’t keep you awake at night or make you beat yourself up with what you said. Certainly doesn’t mean it’s easy, but when you go the other direction it tarnishes your reputation and ability to positively impact those who count on you every day.
I would also say that honesty may not be taught in some of your players homes, so be that example and teacher of a value that will serve them well as they build a family of their own.
Go ahead, do the right thing and be honest. You’ll feel better.
I wish you the best in your career in all you do.
CEO Wiser Sports Leadership, Podcast