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
- Persuasion, an important tool for a coach, is “convincing someone to take positive action“
- There are four main steps to effective persuasion
- Step #1 Is Getting Someone’s Attention
- Step #2 Is Sparking Interest
- 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)…
- Article: A Coaches Guide To Client/Athlete Persuasion – Kevin Carr
- Book: The Humanistic Sport Experience: Visions And Realities – Ben Lombardo
- Book: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert B. Cialdini
- Book: The Commitment Continuum System
- Article: 7 Steps To Move Someone Up The Commitment Continuum – Jeff Janssen
- Article: Getting Through To Kids – Michael Josephson
- Article: Empathy Maps: A Complete Guide To Crawling Inside Your Customer’s Head – Damien Farnworth
- Book: Business Model Generation – Dave Gray
- Slideshare: Culture Mapping Space And Place – Dave Gray
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 email@example.com, or view is other advice for college coaches at coachingsportstoday.com