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Your Call to Action Gets Things DoneMonday, August 13th, 2018

by Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today

[This is part four in the series on effective persuasion for sport coaches. Click here for the other articles.]

Here’s a fact—whenever your athlete leaves a meeting, a practice, or a huddle without knowing EXACTLY what to do…you’ve missed a chance at success.

And you may never get that opportunity for success again.

You need to nail the effective persuasion part

Coaches persuade.

Our job is to convince people to take positive action.

Persuasion is our bread & butter and the best coaches are masters of it.

Unfortunately, persuasion does not come easy for many. That’s the bad news.

The good news—with practice you can become very effective at persuasion.

Persuasion, the act of convincing someone to take positive action is a series of steps. Over the past weeks, we’ve been working on the first three steps of effective persuasion, which are:

  1. Step 1. Grab Attention
  2. Step 2. Spark Interest
  3. Step 3. Fascinate

Now it’s time for the final step…

Your call-to-action

This last step is no secret to the marketing world.

They are experts at using a call-to-action:

“So you don’t forget, call before midnight!”

“Operators are standing by, so call now!”

“Stop smelling bad, buy Stink Away today!”

We can learn a lot from from the marketing world. And we should, because coaches are marketers, and an effective call-to-action can make or break you.

What makes an effective call-to-action?

A call-to-action is asking (or telling) someone to take action. Athletes hear them all the time:

You’re primary receiver, so run a post pattern.

The bus leaves early, be here at 6:30 am.

Get your physicals to the trainer by end of the day, tomorrow.

Each of those are simple.

Each are specific.

And each leaves little doubt in the mind of the person what action he should take.

Being specific and keeping it simple are at the core of a good call-to-action.

There are a few other important things you should keep in mind:

A good call-to-action aligns with the person’s values. “I know you want to win this game, so doing this drill now will help you score in tonight’s game.

A sense of urgency improves the odds the person will follow through. “The deadline for your physical form is tomorrow. No form and you cannot be on the team.

An examples of the action helps. “See the exercise Jane just did? You need to do the exact same thing.

Timing of your call-to-action is critical

When do you think is the perfect time to ask someone to take action?

It depends on the person (or team), and the situation.

Usually, after you complete the first three steps of persuasion is the best time to issue a call-to-action. If you ask before then, your chances of success dwindle.

And don’t hesitate.

Strike while the fire of fascination is burning bright.

Wait too long, and the person will have moved on to the next call in in her life (friends, studies, work, social media, etc.)

You will know if your timing was right, if the action happened.

If it didn’t, then next time adjust your timing.

The medium matters

Be mindful of the method of communication you use.

The medium you use matters.

Personally, I find my calls-to-action work best when issued in person.

Yet, there are times when calls come through email (summer letters), or phone calls (distant recruits), or letters (fundraising).

A good rule of thumb—the closer to a personal connection you make when you issue your call, the greater the chance of success.

Also, be selective with your choice of words. Here are three ways of asking for the same action:

  • Do as I say—pick up that barbell now!
  • Lifting weights are critical to your success. Ready to lift?
  • I notice you are not lifting correctly. Would you like to discuss it?

They elicit a very different emotional response in the person. When you issue your call, what exactly do you want the response to be?

Your choice of wording will determine how positive the response is.

Where can you go with this?

Let me ask you,

  • Would you like to be a better coach? Then, click here.
  • Simple, short tips can make your coaching more effective. Please listen to a few.
  • Stuck? Then try this.

Each of those are my calls-to-actions.

Did any of them work on you? Did you click any of the links?

Take a moment and think through why you did click, or why you did not.

Here’s the bottom line of the entire series

Persuasion is the life blood of coaching. Effective persuasion is how you will get those around you to take positive action…the positive action they need to take.

Like all good tools, effective persuasion won’t do you any good if it lingers in the bottom of your toolbox.

Take it out, practice with it, and use it.

The better you are at effective persuasion, the better coach you will be!

Here’s What I Want You To Do…Monday, July 30th, 2018

by Mike Davenport

I would rather try to persuade a man to go along, because once I have persuaded him, he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone.
– Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States

You’re reading this, which means the title did exactly what I hoped it would do—it sparked your interest. And that’s exactly what effective sports coaches have to do—they have spark people’s interest.

Sparking interest is critical to persuading athletes

Persuading someone to take positive action is at the core of what coaches do. And it’s one of the hardest processes for a coach to master.

Honestly, barking orders at an athlete and expecting positive action is unrealistic—especially today. And it never really worked.

Instead, once you’ve grabbed an athlete’s attention, you have to spark their interest to get the action you want.

It’s a pivotal step. Here’s an example:

Jake had been playing left tackle all season. He’s done a good job, stayed healthy, and worked his way into a starting position. Now, due to injuries, you need Jake to switch to right tackle. He won’t start immediately, which will be tough for him, but he will once he has learned the position.

You’ve asked Jake to stop by your office, to discuss the switch. That is Step #1 in the persuasion process—you’ve got his attention. (BTW, if you ever ask an athlete to stop by your office without telling them why, rest assured, you WILL have her attention.)

After you spark interest you need to…

The outcome of the meeting with Jake is critical:

  • for you
  • for the team
  • for Jake

Unfortunately, often coaches tell an athlete what to do and then assume that’s the end of story. But that was sooo yesterday. Today it’s different. Today it takes MORE to persuade.

Simply, it comes down to value.

If Jake doesn’t find value in taking the action, he won’t be committed to the task. Which means he might take action, but even if he does it might not be positive action.

That could be the opposite of what you want, and for poor Jake, making the change is going to be challenging enough, but tougher still if his interest is not sparked and there is not value in it for him.

Sport leadership expert Jeff Janssen has constructed a commitment continuum which lends perspective. The greater the value for the team member, or in our case Jake, the further to the right on the scale he will be.

 

What does the athlete value?

Focusing on Jake, how could you determine what he values?

Well, maybe his dream is to be the best left tackle in the conference. Or possibly he is the type of special athlete who dreams of sacrificing personal gain for the team’s best interest. If it’s the former, then the switch will fail. But if it is the latter, then things are looking much brighter.

How do you tell what the person on the other end of the conversation values? One way is to use an Empathy Map. Created by Dave Gray, at Xplane, Empathy Maps are a tool to get into the mind of another person. They help you:

see what they see
hear what they hear
feel what they feel

And with that knowledge you have a better understanding of what is of value to the other person. As Aaron Orendorff says,

it’s about entering the conversation that is already going on in a person’s heart

Time for a quick review

  1. Persuasion, an important tool for a coach, is “convincing someone to take positive action
  2. There are four main steps to effective persuasion
  3. Step #1 Is Getting Someone’s Attention
  4. Step #2 Is Sparking Interest
  5. There are other ways to figure it out, but an Empathy Map is an excellent way to grasp what someone might value

As a coach, you’ll need the skill to persuade.

The more effective you are at that skill, the better coach you’ll be.

And as I started the conversation, Here’s what I want you to do (and you need to do)…

Learn More:

Mike Davenport is a veteran college coach, author and instructor. He is also one of our key National Recruiting Coordinators at Tudor Collegiate Strategies, helping coaches maximize their recruiting process. You can email him at mike@dantudor.com, or view is other advice for college coaches at coachingsportstoday.com

Front Porch Thinking for College CoachesMonday, July 9th, 2018

by Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today

Years ago, the president of my college came to speak at an Athletic Department staff meeting.

A very sharp fellow and well spoken, he was wise about the ways of athletics in the college realm. (He had been one of the main administrators in the University of Maryland system during the Len Bias tragedy.)

He sprung an analogy on us that’s stuck with me to this day, and has prompted me to think differently about the job of a coach.

He referred to college sport teams as the “Front Porch” of an institution. And he suggested we think in those terms.

Your team as a front porch

He meant that the front porch sets the tone for the visitor for what they will find inside:

  • Messy porch—messy house
  • Welcoming front porch—welcoming house
  • Tidy, clean front porch—probably the same inside

Front-porch thinking helped me visualize how others outside an institution saw my school and what I did as a coach. Like who? Who might see, or use, your team as a front porch to a school? Well how about:

  • Recruits
  • Donors
  • Dignitaries
  • Community members
  • Journalists
  • Board members
  • Alums

How is your front porch viewed?

Here’s a simple exercise: What does your front porch look like to others?

Fire up your favorite search engine and look up your team. What results return? Dig down in your search, and read not only the content of the results, but also the context. If the results mentions your team in an article about high crime rates, well, maybe, just maybe, your porch is a tad dirty.

You might be surprised how people see your front porch, and what it tells them about what is inside.

Why You Need a College Coach Support SystemSaturday, June 30th, 2018

by Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today

No coach is an island, and if you think you are…you’re doomed…

I’d been at the party for what seemed like a lifetime.

It was one of THOSE parties.

Y’know the ones, where your buddy invites you, you don’t want to go, yet you really need to go. So you go.

I went. And I stood. In the corner. By myself

And in 45 minutes only one person talked to me. He wanted me to move so he could grab a beer in the fridge. I did and then he didn’t offer me one.

Sigh.

But I didn’t care about the beer, not really. It was the isolation of coaching I felt. Saw. Tasted.

Half the party was coaches from the University I was just hired at. The other half were, well … civilians.

The coaches only hung out with coaches. They didn’t really interact with the others. In fact, they treated the non-coaches as aliens.

I asked my buddy why. His response, “Yeah, why would we talk to them?”

And that right there is a major downfall for many a coach.

Get Off Your Stupid Island

Why would you restrict yourself to only coaches in your life? Why stick yourself on a deserted island?

Is it because coaches are smarter, richer, better looking than others?  Doubtful.

Restricting yourself to only people like yourself is called social grouping, and  is something that all people do, not just coaches. And it happens because of things like:

  • convenience
  • speaking the same language
  • “They KNOW what I am going through”

Those reasons are exactly why you should NOT isolate yourself to coaches only.

If you do, you’ll be missing out on a rock-solid method to extend your coaching longevity, improve your legacy, and enjoy coaching to a much greater degree.

You Need Non-Coaches In Your Life

Why?

There’s a significant pile of research that indicates a diverse and vibrant (two awesome words) supportive social network is critical if you work in a human services profession, and coaching sports is a human services profession.

A supportive social network (which I’m going to tweak the name to coach support system) can do many good things for you, including helping you stay healthier and saner.

How?

I can quickly come up with four ways.

A) A place to vent. It’s great to be able to express to others the crap happening in your coaching world. Misery DOES love company. That’s why bartenders and hairdressers stay in business, and get tipped. (You tip them, right?) And venting can be a great way to let the steam out of the pressure cooker before it goes nuclear.

B) Finding balance. Knowing that the guy you are talking with, who is a mechanic, has problems with his customers that sounds just like the issues you have with your athletes and parents may, on face value, sound worthless. Dig a little deeper. His customers want the same thing your athletes, or parents, or boss(ess) want. Bang for their buck. (Hey, even if you are a volunteer coach, money is passing hands somewhere. Count on it. COUNT ON IT.) It’s how the World works. Knowing that could give you balance. It helps me, knowing my sport World is not the only crazy World out there.

c) Ah…a solution. How said mechanic (above) solves his customer problems might give you ideas of how to take care of your said athlete/boss/parent problem. Listen to his solution. (Word of caution — if he espouses using his blow torch to solve problems, ignore that part.) Can you adapt his solution to your problem?

D) Be distracted. A quick way to forget about your two-point loss, even for 60 seconds is when your friend tells you how she made an error that cost her law firm partners $3 million. Or how she made her partners $6 million.

Stop Being “Too Busy” And Build Your Coach Support System

Three quick things you can do to de-islandize yourself:

1) Find freaks. Look around you for those who are different, weird, zipping around you at the speed of thought. In other word FREAKS. Freaks (I am a proud card carrying member of this group) see the World, hear, think, listen, differently. Tom Peters suggests taking a freak to lunch each week. Why not? Watch the movie “The Internship” for your answer. Spoiler alert, the biggest FREAK saves the day for the two heroes.

2) Connect with your friends who are not in coaching. Find one or two you relate to, and GO relate to them. Get off your coaching butt and do it. Try one friend a week. A one minute phone call is a great way to start. Build a core of buddies. And cultivate it. And grow it. And lean on it when the time is appropriate.

3) Track your social interactions. Send yourself an email, right now, with how many social interactions with non-coaches you had today. Keep the email, and next Monday find the email and respond to yourself with how many interactions you had that day. Do for one month. If you don’t see an improvement you are NOT trying hard enough, or you are a hopeless case. I don’t believe you are hopeless, so try harder.

Pixels And Your Face

Yeah, there’s this thing called Facebook. And texting, email and YouTube. But they, combined, don’t work nearly as well as having your beautiful coaching-face in front of a real human being.

There’s a lot of research that supports that, but forget the research—it just plain common sense.

Too busy to create your coach support system—get off Facebook for 15 minutes.

Too tired? Go to bed 15 minutes earlier, turn off the TV, or don’t watch it at all.

Too grumpy? That’s exactly WHY you need a coach support system.

Hey, here’s the kicker … if you coach, you are in the PEOPLE BUSINESS. So, put other people in your life to make yours better (and maybe improve their life while you are at it).

You are worth this, so are they.

PS: Hey, how about sharing this post with a fellow coach who might need it? It could be a good starting place to help a peer (or yourself) get that coach support system up and running.

The Price We Pay as a Coach: Is It Too Much?Monday, June 25th, 2018

by Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today

I’ve always been intrigue by the things we do when we coach. And also by the wealth of things a coach is NOT doing when coaching. For example,
when in the act of coaching, the coach is:

  • NOT spending time with the family
  • NOT working out
  • NOT doing the laundry, checking the car oil, doing other household chores
  • NOT doing the other job. NOT throwing the ball for the dog. NOT petting the cat

“Sure, I am busy. I’m focusing. I’m working.”

Yep, you busy coaching. But the sneaky thing about coaching, is that coaches often pay a little heavier price for what they have chosen to do.

The Simple Buckets of Life

Let’s go simple. Imagine you have buckets in your life…

As soon as you wake up you start dipping stuff from a bucket.

  • You make breakfast, you take from your food bucket.
  • Put gas in the car, draw from the money bucket.
  • Stop for two donuts, dip from the health bucket.

I like the bucket concept because it helps explain the price we pay to coach.

When you draw from a bucket, and there is something to put back into the bucket to balance what you took out — then things are good. The withdrawal (what you took out) is balanced by a deposit (what was put back in). You take $30 out of the money bucket for gas, and on payday you put money back into the bucket.

Here’s where it often doesn’t work for coaches.

The price we pay to coach

In days-gone-by they were big buckets that an organization might have for a coach to draw from. You bought a new whistle (a money-bucket withdrawal) and it was balanced when you were reimbursed from the team’s budget (a deposit). You had an extended road trip (a family-bucket withdrawal) and then you had a few days off to recover (a deposit).

So often today, because of budget cuts, limited resources, overloaded schedules, coaches often have to use their own personal buckets. The price we pay to coach comes into play when we dip out of a bucket and there is nothing to put back in.

You drive 30 minutes to practice each day and there is NO budget to get reimbursed for mileage. The price you pay, in this case, is the cost of gas and the miles on your car.

Or you are up till 3am watching films, running practice at 7am, with 3 hours sleep, no breakfast, slurpping caffeine. You are pouring out of the health and family buckets. Can’t you just see them drying up?

Coaches are often expense-blind

Often we coaches get so engaged/stoked/mesmerized by coaching that we become expense-blind.

We get sucked in by the excitement, the giving back, the helping of those that need help that we ignore our buckets going dry. You can see that in so many coaches today.

Overweight. High-stressed. Sick, rundown, struggling. Being abused by crowds—yelled at, cursed at, physically attacked. Lonely. Moody.

They’ve paid a price to coach a sport, sometimes a heavy, very hefty price.

And then they crash when their bucket dries up.

Can you pay the price without the crash?

What can you do? If you want to stay in coaching any length of time, and I’ve written about professional sustainability before, you need to figure out your bucket-withdrawals you are paying to coach and if they are being offset by an bucket-deposits. (And I’m not just talking money here, Coach.)

That small bit of information is very powerful. It can separate you from your peers, empower your coaching, make you a much more pleasant person to be around.

Most importantly, knowing if your buckets are balanced can improve your longevity as a coach.

Here’s a plan that might help:

Step 1. Record your coaching bucket-withdrawals

Record, in any format that works for you, all of your bucket-withdrawals. Take your time, get it correct—dig deep.

Then write down your bucket-deposits—what resources you can use to put back into those buckets.

Step 2. Dig Deep

If you’re struggling to identify your withdraws just sit quietly for a few moments and flash back to things that generated stress in your coaching life. For instance, on the way home from practice were you stressed because you were missing time with your own kids?

That’s and expense. Put it down.

Dig. Dig. Dig.

Step 3. Balancing things

Look at your withdrawals. Are they balanced by deposits? If they are — great. You Coach, are doing a good job! Pat on the back for you.

But if things aren’t balanced then there is trouble looming ahead. In that case, I have two questions for you:

1) Can you increase your deposits? If not, why not? Seriously, why not? For instance, if you are missing time with your own kids is there a way for them to come with you during a practice? Just a thought.

2) Can you reduce your withdrawals? I did this a few years ago…we used to practice from 6am to 8:30am every morning. When I realized the price I was paying to do that (crushing my family) we moved practice to 4:o0 to 6:30 pm. Things became much better.

A word of caution, though, if you identify an issue, as I did with practice times, and try to make a change, be ready for resistance. When I introduced our change to practice times there was resistance to make that change, but no one could really tell me exactly why we should not change.

So you know, “That’s the way we have always done things’” is no reason to keep doing things that way. In fact, it is probably a good reason  NOT to keep things the same.

Conclusion

You pay a price to do anything. The price we pay to coach our sport sometimes can be very significant and can take a heavy toll.

When a bucket runs dry a coach can suffer.

Be thoughtful of what’s happening with your buckets and you might be able to improve your coaching experience, be a better coach, and keep coaching longer.

Want more advice and direction when it comes to thriving in your college coaching career? Visit Coaching Sports Today for more great advice on how to build a great life as a college coach.

Dad’s Cry, TooMonday, June 18th, 2018

by Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today

I cried for 20 minutes today.   

I’m a stoic-type guy. I’m used to compartmentalizing and burying my emotions. But not today. Today was different.

It was checkin-day.

I dropped my oldest off at college—to start his freshman year.

And there’s a lot of misery in the World right now, so depositing my kid at a good college to get a good education is supposed to be a happy event. I get that.

But here’s the thing, I’ll miss him. Really miss him.

Here’s the bigger thing—the important thing—the thing YOU should know as a college coach—I’m NOT the only Dad who cries.

There are others—lots.

Dads And Crying

We go to the car while mom gets the dorm-room ready. We cry in the parking lot.

“It’s allergy season,” I heard one guy say today.”

Another, wiping his face, broadcasted, “Got stupid sunscreen in my eyes, again.” And that guy had been a Marine.

Me? I told one guy my eyes were bloodshot from drinking. I haven’t had a drink in 30 years.

So, why should you as a coach care?

Because the person who recruited weeping-Dad’s child (male or female) might be missing an opportunity to shine.

What if a you wandered around the parking lot with a box of tissues? Dispensing as needed. Patting a few dads on the back. I can think of worse duties.

And if checkin-day has come and gone? Give the recruit 10 postcards, and make sure he mails one each day to his Dad. Jeez, I haven’t gotten a postcard in years, and never one from him. That’d be cool.

Y’know, if a text rolled in right now, and one of my son’s new coaches said, “Hey Dad, no worries, we’ll take good care of him,” that would be nice.

Better yet, if the coach called and said, “Hey Dad, I know you’re tight with your son. Thanks for trusting me, I will make sure he keeps you updated, emailing/texting/whatever-social-you-like-connecting each day,” that would rock my world.

Or set up a Dad’s section on your team’s website. Dads will like that, even if it is something silly.

If any of those happened I would be blasting all my friends, “Those coaches got it together, your son should go there.”

Some people say college is a time for parents to let go, cut those strings. Wander around the parking lot on checkin-day, and see how well that message goes with the Dads.

And bring tissues, they will get used.

(Oh yeah … This also applies to high school, middle school, and pee wee sports. Trust me, I’ve been there too. It does.)

Want more coaching wisdom from a longtime coach and advisor? Visit his website, Coaching Sports Today, for career building advice and winning coach philosophies that will enrich your college coaching career.

Are You Good Enough to Coach Your Sport?Monday, June 11th, 2018

by Dr. Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today

We coaches may look composed and tough on the outside, but on the inside we often have the same fears and worries that typical folks have.

I know from my own experiences, and a survey I did of recently hired coaches, that one of those worries is, “Am I good enough to coach my sport?”

I call this one of the “3 am wake-up worries” that coaches suffer. (You can probably guess where that name came from.)

So are you? Are you good enough to coach your sport?

Let’s find out.

Balancing act

A critical step to finding out if, in fact, you are good enough to coach your sport is to balance two items. Those are (a) the talents-skills you possess, and (b) the coaching outcomes your program/organization/school requires of you.

You see, if we set up a simple little teeter-totter like this one . . .

with the two items on either end, we can get an understanding if we are good enough. So, if your talent-skills basket outweighs your outcomes basket, then there’s a solid chance you are good enough. On the other hand, if your outcomes basket is heavier, chances are you aren’t good enough.

Harsh, harsh, harsh, but probably true.

Let’s drill down further…

What talent-skills do you have?

I’m going to recommend two steps. First, grab a piece of paper or a computer page and list your talents and skills. Sounds simple, and it’s a good place to start.

Yet as social psychologist David Dunning writes “people overestimate themselves.” And we certainly do.

It’s called illusory superiority, and it’s human nature—meaning everyone does it Coach, not just us. It’s just something we have to deal with, and the next step can help.

Now, take your list and let’s get feedback.

Give your list to someone. Not just anyone, but a person who

  1. knows you
  2. knows coaching
  3. who you can trust to give you honest feedback

Does she/he agree with what you’ve written? Now have that person ask you questions such as:

  • Are you a good communicator?
  • Do you have basic, intermediate, or advanced knowledge of your sport?
  • Do you know the sport’s rules?
  • Can you recruit?

As you respond to the questions watch his/her eyes.

If he asks you, “Are you good with people?” And you respond, “I certainly am” and his eyes grow wide in amazement…well…you’re getting feedback that you probably aren’t as good with people as you think you are.

Take that list, and keep it safe.

What coaching outcomes are required of you?

Now the hard part…

After you’ve gone through your interrogation it’s time to determine what outcomes are expected of you.

I did this when I was applying for my head coach job at Washington College. I asked the Athletic Director point blank, “What outcomes does the school want from me?”

Nothing shocking came out of that conversation, but the answers were critical in me taking the job, and I’m sure the question helped them see me as a serious candidate who may be after more than just a coaching-gig.

So go to your immediate supervisor and ask the question. Don’t make assumptions here. Ask the question. You need to know the answer.

Compare

Distill the information you’ve just gathered.

  • Make two columns on a piece of paper/computer page with talents-skills on one side and outcomes on the other
  • Fill in what you know under each column
  • Analyze

Are you talent-skills lacking? Start a plan of self-improvement.

Are the outcomes required well below your talent-skills? Chances are you are going to get bored.

This is a simple exercise, but one that could be important to your coaching success, and your coaching longevity.

Give it a try.

Dr. Mike Davenport is a former college coach and current consultant who works with coaches to improve their recruiting, and their college coaching career. Visit his library of articles and advice at CoachingSportsToday.com, or email him at mike@dantudor.com.

6 Steps for Coaches Feeling Like They Want to QuitMonday, May 28th, 2018

by Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today

[This is an update to an article original published in 2014]

Coaching can be an emotional roller-coaster, full of surprising highs and terrifying lows.

When things go wrong and you hit one of the lows, especially the low-of-lows, a normal reaction can be “I give up.”

I’ve uttered those words more than once.

Yet here’s the thing, often the crush of the low-of-lows is only temporary. Just around the corner is a better day.

But the trick is getting around-the-cornerover-the-humpout-of-the-ditch, or whatever you call it when you fall down, pick yourself up, and move ahead.

Following are 5 actions I’ve used over the years (36 years and counting) to keep going as a coach. These are actions which have helped me get to that brighter-and-sunnier day.

#1. Remember why you coach sports

Let’s start with the most powerful step first.

Answer this question: Exactly why do you coach a sport? 

This one piece of information is immensely powerful. Knowing “why” can stop negative thoughts in their track and help re-energize low spirits.

A few years ago we had a terrible discipline problem. It turned out a majority of the team broke training rules and several athletes were asked to leave the team. It was a dark time. Knowing “why” I choose to coach (I coach to help people find their inner super powers) helped me find light in the darkness. I came back to that phrase often.

If you have not developed your why yet then check out the undisputed Master-of-Why, Simon Sinek. And here are a few thoughts I have on it.

#2. Take a brief escape from coaching

Short respites, ones less than a day, can give needed mental breaks during negative times. Even very short bursts can shore up flagging attitudes and have mental and physical benefits. Anything that engages you could work as a brief escape: movie, parade, shopping, exercise.

When I need a quick break, I juggle. Yeah, yeah, I admit it, I’m one of those guys.

I usually keep three juggling-balls in my pack and sneak away for a few minutes for a toss. I’m not very good and drop more than I keep afloat, but the juggling engages and distracts me.

Or I go find fun people to hang with. People I might not even know, but who are really enjoying themselves, like at a comedy movie, or street performer, or something silly.

I also suggest tuning out of the daily news. Today, the headlines are so divisive and extraordinary I found it a huge mental drain to read or watch the news. You might find benefit in taking a news break.

To determine what escape might work best, you need to know what type of coach you are. This might help.

#3 Stop the negative self talk

We can be our own worse critics. And it is not uncommon for us to lay on the negative self talk. Sometimes things aren’t as bad as they really are, on the outside. On the inside, things are looking really dark.

When my self-talk goes sour, and I want to give up, I look into a mirror and say a few of my negative thoughts out loud. I look myself in the eyes, and slowly say the thought.

I have found that within seconds I stop myself, and replace the negative comments with positive ones. Most of the time it works, this reflection trick, for me. But when it doesn’t, I…

#4. Lean on a social-support network.

There is overwhelming evidence that screams A HUGE FACTOR IN PROFESSIONAL SUSTAINABILITY is a social-support network. In other words, when things get tough the coach who has dependable friends and family will be around longer than the solo coach.

I have several buddies I can blast anytime with the “You won’t believe this …” Or “What would you do in this case …” messages. Their non-judgmental support is priceless. A dependable social-support network is life raft worth bringing on every journey.

[Warning, a social-support network is not the same as your socialmedia audience. The former are people you can count on, the latter usually just consumers.]

This might offer some insight, The Insane Loneliness Of Coaching Sports, and so might this.

#5. Create an exit map from coaching.

Sometimes wanting to give up is caused by feeling trapped. Believing you’re stuck in quick sand and there’s no way out. Fifth grade was like that for me.

I wanted to give up. I still remember those days of despair and dreading school every morning. It was the school counselor who really helped me get over the dread. She and I sat down one day and drew a map of the rest of my fifth grade year, ending with dismissal for summer vacation. I carried that map in my little notebook, pulling it out whenever I started to feel trapped and wanted to give up. It really helped.

An exit plan is one of those coaching secrets you rarely hear about but one that might make a huge difference. Here’s my detailed take on it: 3 Ways An Exit Plan Can Make You A Better Coach.

#6. Find perspective.

I know I promised 5 steps, but this one is so powerful I couldn’t leave it out. Watch this video for a quick tweak of perspective.

If you try any, or all, of these steps and things aren’t better, then the reality might be you should give up. Quit coaching. Take a hike. But that’s a drastic step that should be taken only after some clear and deep thinking.

Here’s one final resource I’ll recommend, before you take any drastic steps. Make sure you do the homework section. Or read this book: Why Good Coaches Quit: And How You Can Stay In The Game.

“One reason people who spend a lot of time thinking about and working on a problem or a craft seem to find breakthroughs more often than everyone else is that they’ve failed more often than everyone else”. -Seth Godin

Related Reading:

Four College Coaching Mistakes You Might Be Making – And, How to StopTuesday, May 22nd, 2018

by Mike Davenport, PhD, Coaching Sports Today

Every well intentioned, good, respectable coach makes coaching mistakes. It comes with the territory.

Following are four common coaching mistakes. Are you making them, and can you stop?

Coaching Mistake #1. You yell like your shoes are five sizes too small

Coaches should yell. They should scream.

And if their point is falling on deaf ears—they should yell LOUDER. Scream HARDER. Spray spit. Flail arms. That works really, really well. . . to drive an athlete away. To destroy trust. To crush an ego. To develop a rep you don’t want.

Athletes don’t respond to LOUD demeaning communication like the communicator hopes they will.

Ninety percent (or more) of athletes who are screamed at are motivated to do one thing and one thing only—make the screaming stop. Yelling and screaming won’t earn you respect. Throw in a few cuss words and you might lose a whole lot more than respect. Possibly the coaching gig.

Seriously.

There are some darn-good coaches who currently unemployed because they could not communicate in a positive, constructive manner. But that won’t be you. Right? How to stop? Try this or this.

Coaching Mistake #2. You have the wrong good-to-bad-critique ratio

At my desk, I was coloring a picture. My second-grade substitute-teacher had just given us an assignment. Crayons. Paper.

I was having a great day.

Until . . .The substitute walked up behind me, looked at my work. “This isn’t right,” she said. Then, for what seemed like a life-time, she criticized and corrected my drawing. Not-a-single-positive-comment in the whole lot.

I was crushed.

If I was in art school, chasing an MFA, I would have expected that criticism. Probably would have demanded it. But not as a second grade goofball with crayon in hand. Coaches, like my substitute, make this mistake all the time. Their positive-critique (You are doing this really well) to negative-critique (This part here, it needs to be improved) ratio is wrong for the age group they are coaching:

Here’s a scale I suggest you try on for size (This is my theory. May not fit your style or program.) How well are you doing? Try this…have someone record your comments in a practice.

  • Take a piece of paper
  • Divide it into two columns
  • One column is “positive.” The other “negative.”
  • The “recorder” follows you around and puts a hashmark into either column
  • Do a grand total after practice

Crazy you say! John Wooden did it. Why not you?

Coaching Mistake #3. You care more about winning than is appropriate

We were sooo late. About 10 minutes late.

I hated it.

When I go to a movie I love seeing the previews. It gets me in the mood for the movie. And I was going to miss the previews this night. I was frustrated as the traffic crept along. I turned to my wife, and groaned, “This is going to suck.” She smiled. “Ah, no worries,” she said. “We’ll just miss the previews. No biggie. Relax.”

I cared. She didn’t. And she was right (it really didn’t matter).

And that’s where this coaching mistake comes into play, when your focus on something is too intense for the situation. I have a theory about winning—yep, it is fun. But depending on the level of your coaching there is an appropriate importance to put on winning.

For example, an eight-year old soccer’s team priority should be athlete/team development and enjoyment. Not winning. While an Olympic effort has really one focus—winning.

Are you making the coaching mistake of caring more about winning than you should? (Or not caring as much as you should)?

Coaching Mistake #4. You don’t watch the watch 

Let me be blunt—coaches stink at telling time.

The boss at my gas-station expected us to be exactly on time and to leave exactly when the shift was over. During that window we were “his people” (he used to say) and outside of that time we were someone else’s people. We always pitied the fellow who was 2 minutes late, or tried to leave 1 minute early. But why do coaches think things are different for them?

Oh yeah, we expect people to be on time, yet I see coaches continually keep their athletes late. Five minutes, ten minutes, 30 minutes late. We encroach on other people’s time when we do that.

It’s screwing up. Get a watch. Use it. Because other people certainly do.

Who cares if we make these coaching mistakes?

Relationships are at the core of coaching a team. And when you make any of these four mistakes you can easily strain or damage a relationship:

  • No one likes being yelled at
  • To improve, the proper amount and type of feedback makes or breaks the learning
  • Inappropriate focus on winning can discourage (too much focus) or bore (too little focus)
  • People’s time is valuable, and if you waste it they will resent you

We screw up. It’s part of human nature. There are no perfect coaches. Just coaches who try hard, make mistakes, and learn from them.

For more insights on successful college coaching, subscribe to Mike’s free Coaching Sports Today newsletter here. Or, email him at mike@dantudor.com

How Can College Coaches Deal with Screaming, Disruptive Parents?Monday, April 9th, 2018

by Mike Davenport, Tudor Collegiate Strategies

I still hear the voice of my first screaming parent.

Even though she was bellowing to support the team, it was grating—like fingernails-down-the-chalkboard.

Yelling little tips to me (“Yo, Coach, call a time out!”). They were, well, her way of being helpful.

After the game I thanked her for her enthusiasm, and she blushed, “Well, I do get carried away sometimes.”

I left it at that, knowing her screaming wasn’t meant in a bad way.

However, there are disruptive parents who cross the line and go demeaning.

Negative. Their screams are hurtful. And disruptive.

Human voices elevate for one reason—to get heard.

A loud voice might be raising an alarm (“Ma, there’s a gator in the chicken coop again!”) or to make a point (“I said, ‘Clean up your room!’”).

But sometimes common sense abandons parents and they becoming screaming-crazy-people.

When you are confronted by a screamer-parent (a parent using his voice in a loud-and-negative manner) you need to ask this question, “Why is this person screaming (at me)?” If it is supporting, that’s one thing. However …

However …

Sports can bring out the best, and worst in parents…and a very small percentage of parents (my guess, about .02%) go nuts & negative.

 

It is a hazard in coaching—these screamer-parents—and if you haven’t dealt with it yet, you will.

So how DO you deal with a disruptive parent? A few suggestions…

A) Ignore ‘em

When a parent lets you know, in no uncertain terms, that you suck, a soap-dish could do better, and you should just leave town now, THE best action to take may be to ignore them.

Bullies pick on people to get a reaction, and if you react, you might be giving a screamer just want they want. Not acknowledging the insults and noise MIGHT help them fade away.

Yet if the screaming gets disruptive—starts affecting your job, or the athletes, or your sanity—ignoring might be the wrong action.

This is a very fine, and tough, line to see. Guidance from others, possibly a mentor, might be helpful. But be careful of doing this …

B) Don’t, I repeat, don’t lower yourself to the screamer’s level.

Responding in the heat of the moment is tempting. I know you’ve heard “two wrongs don’t make a right.” Well, a different version is “two screamers make a viral video.” I saw a coach fall into this trap.

  • Football game.
  • Coach harassed by a screaming parent.
  • Thirty minutes into it, he’d had enough.
  • He spun.
  • Walked to the stand.
  • Pointed at said parent.
  • Let him have it.

Understandable, but nevertheless a bad choice.

First, the phone whipped right out. Second, the entire crowd rose to the screamer’s defense. The football game turned from being about the kids playing football, to “how many bozos could fit on The Screaming Bus.”

Here’s what another coach tried …

C) Upping The Ante

A buddy was in his office, next to mine.

Both our doors were open.

His phone rang, he answered it and within 3 minutes the volume got LOUD. WICKED LOUD.

The last thing I heard before he slammed down the phone was, “I LIVE AT 18 MAIN STREET. COME BY AT 6 PM TONIGHT, AND BRING AN AMBULANCE CAUSE I’M GOING TO BEAT THE #$%@ OUT OF YOU.”

A screaming parent had got under his skin.

I get it.

You pour your heart-and-soul into something, trying to build a winning program. Or maybe just trying to get through a tough season, and then you start catching flack from THIS PERSON. It’s easy to lose your cool. But …

You can’t.

You are the one who stays cool. Calm. Collected.

You don’t get a screamer to backdown or stop by out-screaming him. It just doesn’t work.

But this might …

D) Tell on them

No one likes a tattletale. Yeah, forget that.

If the screaming is abusive, demeaning, destructive, and its during a game, tell an official.

Listen, they catch it worse than we coaches ever do, but every so often a sympathetic official might just do what this ref did. Refreshing.

If no resolution happens during a contest, when you get a chance, tell your boss.

No organizer or athletic director wants his coach/players to be abused. They might have a few cards they can play.

Speaking of cards to play, here’s a hand you may, or may not, want to play …

E) Use their kid as leverage

This one’s tricky, but I have seen it done.

The coach will pull the athlete, who is the son or daughter of the screamer-parent, into the office. And then Coach lays it on the line.

“If your parent doesn’t cool it, then you’re cut!”

Harsh? Yeah.

Does it work? Maybe.

Worth considering? I’d let your conscious decide that one.

And here’s another option a reasonable-and-prudent person wouldn’t consider.

However, we are talking about sports here so …

F) Go Nuclear

I don’t know of any coach who has done this but there is a certain devilish appeal to it.

First, resign your coaching spot—because you are sure to get fired for what you’re about to do.

Next go to screamer’s place of employment.

Then wait until he’s engrossed in his job. When he is, start screaming at him. Give him what he gave you.

A bank teller who spent Saturday afternoon screaming at you won’t get much joy from you coming to his window and returning the favor.

Again, you’ll have some heavy explaining to do, and I don’t recommend it, but …

That’s a wrap

Parents are special critters. And parents of athletes can super special.

Timid librarian-parents turn into face-painted crazies, while Olympic-level-athlete-parents turn into quiet, detached observers. You never know what you’re going to get, but that’s OK, because you’re a coach and you can handle anything.

Coach Mike Davenport is a respected thought leader in collegiate coaching. His career covers decades as a college coach, director of education for national coaching organizations, and now as a National Recruiting Coordinator for Tudor Collegiate Strategies. You can find his library of coaching ideas and advice here, and you can email him at dan@dantudor.com

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