Player Empowerment - Let Go Smartly
Are you the motivational driving force behind your team? Are you consistently holding your team accountable? Are you the answer to all your questions?
Is it possible you could not be allowing anyone else to fill those holes?
I often recall, when I was coaching, the immense effort I would put into my coaching. I would be the one bringing the energy and intensity. I would be the one bringing the motivation. I would be the one working behind the scenes to come up with ideas and plans. I would be the one sharing knowledge and possibly adding the most to the team culture, because I knew it was all vital to the success of the team. But, come game day, I could not put on my costume and join the team in the pool. Neither could I stop the game every time I was unhappy with the way we were doing things. I came down to the conclusion that I might have been one of the HARDEST WORKING coaches but I was far off being one of the SMARTEST coaches. I was leaving no space for any of my players to add to the team environment... whether it be knowledge, intensity, motivation, team culture or leadership.
Anne Smith wrote an article pointing out 5 ways to empower athletes; Point 4 stood out to me as it is often a difficult quality to achieve as a coach due to time restraints, competitiveness or pride. She says, "Make it safe for your athletes to take risks and learn new things. When you do this, your players will have more fun, improve and develop more tools to win. You create a safe environment for your players to take risks and learn new (skills) by complimenting (and encouraging) them when they try something new, focusing on the attempt and not the outcome as well as taking the pressure off of them."
I believe it is important to develop independent athletes within a team environment. Each athlete will have a certain personality that can benefit the team environment in a specific way. Not every player will be able to empower the team with intensity and energy. Some players might be good at bringing game stats on a Monday as others will be good at organizing team building excursions. It is vital as a coach to understand each personality and empower them with pride in their speciality. Allow everyone to add to the team's success.
We often read many articles of the correct way to coach, yet all these qualities, exercises and habits take time to form. That is why I want to leave you with the last point that I believe is overlooked in the rush and competitiveness of the season. Set and work towards long term goals. If you are trying to change an environment, player habits and the direction of the team, do not expect and try get there in one season. Through doing so, you will take short cuts and prioritize the habits that achieve success in the short term, which, if you look through history, is not sustainable and often unhealthy habits. Give yourself time and stick to what you believe in, even if it takes a while. Nobody is dropped on top of the mountain by luck, it takes a lot of climbing to get there.
That being said, this is my opinion and I welcome any and all responses to challenge the way we think as coaches.