As the weather warms up and athletes start to come home for summer break, I can’t help but smile when I hear about all the stories and events from campus the previous year. How exciting their first year at college was, the freedom of being away from their parents or how they look forward to come back home and really set the bar for the next season. While many of my colleagues in strength and conditioning are enjoying some rightfully earned time off or attending clinics and conferences these next few weeks, I am preparing for the GRIND. The subtle light breaking through my window, the never-ending saturation of sweat and constant smell of Simple Green reminds me that the show is about to begin.
But beyond the search for “bigger numbers and faster times”, what do our athletes really need this pre-season?
While we’ll do everything in our power to physically prepare our athletes for their return to campus, much of our time is spent at the beginning of the summer healing wounds of self-doubt and lack of confidence, often the result of fellow coaches and teammates failing to remember the power of their words. Some of our athletes will come home defeated, struggling to accept that fact that the coaches they met on their recruiting visit aren’t the coaches (personality wise) that they are playing for now. They’ll sit in our office, frustrated due to lack of acknowledgment, injury or the false promise of playing time. It’s up to us to change their outlook, help them through this difficult time and to continue to move forward towards self-satisfaction and peace.
It’s during this time, before or after training, we begin to explore what it is that makes them so unhappy. They begin to tell us of the text messages and the 6am punishment workouts; the verbal abuse and the head games; the ever reaching but always coming up short desire to please their coaches.
Did you ever have a coach that no matter what you did, nothing seemed to work? Maybe you got off on the wrong foot or just didn’t perform up to THEIR standards at one point?
Unfortunately, this happens a lot more than we think. First year college athlete transfer rates on the rise. Practices are being videoed and then exploited on the media and team meetings are being secretly recorded. Something has gone wrong! College athletes are no longer trusting the methods and motivational tactics that their coaches are using. Not all of these athletes are right, but unfortunately, a lot are.
Many of these coaches are referred to as what Coach Ehrmann calls “transactional coaches.” They are often associated with the “what can you do for me mindset” and display a laundry list of negative and poison producing behaviors around their athletes. These coaches are the ones who seem just interested in the end result of their team’s efforts on the scoreboard or the sweet bowl bonus at the end of the year. They get their team to “buy-in”, make them give everything they’ve got, only to take the next job as soon as it’s available.
They’re the ones who put their personal needs first and the needs of their team second. They’re looking for the quick fix, the easy way out, the “do just enough” mentality. Transactional coaches use the power of their platform to validate their personal needs for status and identity.
Are transactional coaches bad people? I don’t think so. Coaching can bring out the best in a person or the worst, and sometimes, both at the same time. As a coach, we are expected to do everything it takes to win. We are expected to get results. Unfortunately, the results and the “wins” are measured on the playing field, and not in life. Take a minute and look at yourself.
Is coaching bringing out the best or worst in you? Are you following the vicious cycle of ream, recover and repeat?
Below are different coaching personalities to watch out for as you analyze your coaching style. Are you any of these? Do you exhibit some of these traits from time to time?
The Dictator: My Way or the Highway
You don’t like it? TOO BAD.
- The Dictator allows no bend or slack in his/her ruling. There are no maybe’s, possibly’s or what if’s when it comes to communication. If you don’t like it, too bad. Go somewhere else. Talk to someone who really cares…
- The Dictator fails to individualize and empathize situations based off the person. They treat everyone equally, not fairly.
- The athlete is never right. It’s always his/her fault.
The Bully: I Dare You
Try me. Go ahead. Pull that again and watch what happens…
- The Bully instills fear and doubt into his/her athletes by assuming dominance in every aspect of coaching. Physical and mental abuse may be noted.
- Shouting, cursing and the occasional “you disgust me” or “you will never play here” can be heard once in awhile.
- The Bully manipulates minds. He/she comes across as caring at first only to slice and dice your confidence when the opportunity presents itself.
The Narcissist: It’s About Me, Not Them
I was responsible for that championship. I kept the team healthy. I am really the MVP…
- The Narcissist craves the center stage. He/she takes every opportunity to put a new highlight video on the Internet; brag about his/her program to the media and gloat about how nice the facility is, to everyone.
- The Narcissist uses personal matters that athletes confided in them to exploit and get what they want.
- The Narcissist is so preoccupied by thy self that he/she is blind to what is really going on.
The Saint: I’ll Fix That
Nobody else cares. Someone has to do it.
- The Saint feels he/she must save the world throughout the role of coaching. Everyone can be changed for the better. There are no lost souls.
- The Saint excessively empathizes with players, making sure no matter what happens, the players like them (Player’s Coach).
- The Saint often rescues players from tough situations instead of teaching them how to solve problems on their own.
The Misfit: I’m Supposed to Be Here
Just call me Coach.
- The Misfit needs to be a part of a team. He/she feels lost without belonging to something, even if it’s something they know nothing about.
- The Misfit acts out when challenged by players due to embarrassment and lack of knowledge.
- The Misfit painfully tries to satisfy a personal desire to be liked and respected by others
Unfortunately, we cannot always attribute one personality of coaching to only one coach. More appropriately, we are faced with battling a variety of different coaching styles that seem to peek their ugly heads through challenging times. And I’ll be the first one to tell you that I have had every single one of these coaching styles pop up over my career, some more than others.
When I started coaching as a graduate assistant, I felt I needed to prove my dominance and prove to my teams that I meant business and there were no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. I threw kids out of the weight room, gave cold shoulders and ignored pleas for extra help (Dictator).
When I had to fill in for my boss and took over team sessions occasionally, I acted out my “alpha-male”. I threatened, I lied, and I tried to be someone I wasn’t (Bully).
When a player of mine received extensive post-season accolades or accepted an offer to play at a prestigious institution, I looked to validate that I was responsible for that and it couldn’t of been done without me (Narcissist).
When I became a head coach for a program that struggled to build a culture of winning, I immediately felt a compassion for the players and wanted to make sure they liked me. I figured, “if they liked me, why wouldn’t they respect me?” (Saint).
When I entered what some may call the highest echelon of coaching, I made myself believe that I needed to be there and tried desperately to fit in, only to cause strain on my personal health (Misfit).
Looking back, I realized that I wasn’t just acting out various personalities; I was modeling the very same behaviors of those who impacted me along my own development as a coach. Every situation I thought of, I could point to a specific colleague, a coach, a “role model” and trace back my roots to why I was acting the way I was. Who would’ve thought an alcoholic little league coach or former lifting partner could have such an effect on my coaching style and demeanor today?
As Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich says, “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” As a new parent, I’ve certainly taken a new view on what, when, how and who things are said around. We have no idea what the people we care about most will pick up and plant for later.
In my next post, I’ll explore the positive platform of transformational, not transactional coaching, and its role in developing and empowering the athletes of today to shape and mold the coaches of tomorrow.