There’s no doubting that today’s athlete is different from those of the past. The emergence of highlights, social media, cell phones and club teams have all shaped the way players view the game and judge their personal performance.
A huge responsibility for coaches is connecting with their athletes. The more a player trusts a coach, the more likely he is to buy in and play hard. Garnering that trust can be the difference between establishing a rock-solid culture and inconsistent game-to-game results.
So how does one relate to the modern athlete? We have some tips that should help foster trust and faith between you and your players.
Pump Them Up
The days of publicly admonishing an athlete or punishing shoddy performance with a series of wind sprints are mostly over. This isn’t to say those practices are useless - they can still have their time and place. But over the long haul, you’re going to make better connections by hyping your players than tearing them down.
Instead of ripping into a player, especially in a public setting, boost their confidence by highlighting the things they do well. Call out positive performances in front of the team. Not only will the athlete get a momentary morale boost, but he or she will also trust you more moving forward.
Video sessions are an ideal time to showcase things players are doing well. Create playlists of top plays that you can show in team sessions or share out with the team.
Social media is a great way to share recognition of your athlete’s exploits with the masses. Calling out scholarship offers, big games and all-state recognition helps give your players the love they seek.
Congrats @Lwigginton5 on being selected as a member of USA Today's All American team!
— Steve Smith (@OHACoachSmith) March 28, 2017
Michael Feinberg getting it done! https://t.co/70X7ZEvETp
— Tyrone Nichols (@Nicholsbball) May 28, 2017
One-On-One Video Time
There is no better way to develop a relationship with your players and learn what makes them tick than spending individual time with them. This is easier said than done - your schedule is busy enough as it is, and between school, athletics, social life and work, your athletes’ schedules are pretty crowded too.
But even sneaking in 10-15 minutes each week with each athlete after practice or during an open period can make a big difference. You have a chance to show them that you are concerned about their individual development and are legitimately invested in their future.
A one-on-one video session provides a perfect teaching setting. You can make a playlist of good moments to compliment the player while also showing some plays that could use some improvement.
Follow Them on Social Media
There may be no better way today to learn what matters to their players than their social media accounts. Players put their lives on public display for the world to see, posting about the things that they find most interesting.
This is literally a free peek into your athletes’ minds. You can gauge the mood and attitude of the team by what the players are posting about. Michael Huffman, the head football coach at Bellevue West High School, spends the first half hour of every day monitoring his players’ recent actions. This discipline helped him lock onto one of his team’s greatest motivations in a way he hadn’t noticed before.
Relating to individuals less than half their age will always be a challenge for coaches, and the ever-changing media and technology landscape has made today’s athlete a much different person from those 10 years ago.
But you can use that technology to your advantage! Through the use of video and social media, you can connect with your team in ways that simply weren’t possible before, helping the entire group grow as a unit.