One of my favorite throw back movies is “Death Becomes Her.” With Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep and Bruce Willis. In the movie, Meryl Streep is trying to recapture her youth and she takes a potion that makes her immortal and restores her body to it’s youthful state. After paying a handsome sum for the potion, and then drinking it, the woman who gave it to her looks at her and says.. “and now a warning.”
Meryl Streep’s character looks at her incredulous and says, “and NOW a warning???”
That’s how I felt as I was learning what connecting with my athletes would be like, and just how much of a responsibility that actually is. The lessons never end, and every season I face and find my way through all sorts of new pit falls and milestones.
It’s spreading. The reality, is that coaches are learning that connected coaching works. It creates a better atmosphere, retains athletes, drives them to higher performance, and is just a better leadership style. There are many places now to read about it, go hear a speaker on it, witness it with professional and all levels of sports teams. So, I hope you’ve grabbed on, because you’ll never regret it. And if you have….
NOW a warning.
If you connect with your athletes, you have taken down walls. Those walls keep players from creating connections, but they also serve as protection. Should you decide to help your team eliminate those walls, you can’t go back to old school, negativity driven, humiliation tactics just because you’re frustrated or having a rough day-week-month. Even if it feels justified. Because the damage you can do after building that trust by reverting is far too great. That insult in the moment of emotion will burn 10 times more from a trusted coach than from one that’s been tuned out and has no connected value.
Positivity and belief driven coaching is not a quick fix. Please don’t ask for your athletes to trust you, to open up to their teammates and to you, to get their loyalty or to try to drive performance for an important game, or because you wanted to try something new. This is a long-term transformation, not a team building activity.
When you connect, your words carry even more weight. That means you can motivate significantly more, you can ask for more, you can drive them to greater heights. But you have to bring your belief in that athlete daily, choose your words, choose your actions, and live this way of coaching through all of your interactions and decisions, no matter how small, becuase you can destroy faster too.
If you find your athletes walls are going back up, make sure you haven’t started reverting back to old ways of motivation. If you’re leading out of frustration, fear of losing, or the need to prove your leadership is valid then you’re not leading with love. Protect the connections you have built, they are priceless, but they are not indestructable.