4 Ways for Coaches to Earn Player Trust 

Advice from oth­er coach­es on how to build a strong bond with your team.

4 Ways for Coaches to Earn Player Trust 

Advice from oth­er coach­es on how to build a strong bond with your team.

Every coach knows that in order for teams to reach their full poten­tial, they need buy-in from every­one on the staff and roster.

Depending on your lev­el of expe­ri­ence and the sit­u­a­tion you’re deal­ing with, earn­ing play­er trust can be dif­fi­cult. Here are four tips to help you build rap­port with your players.

Create a Culture of Consistency

The most suc­cess­ful coach­es and pro­grams always use one word when dis­cussing what makes their pro­gram what it is: cul­ture. That cul­ture isn’t built overnight, and it isn’t easy to cre­ate. You must remain con­sis­tent with your play­ers and with the goals you have estab­lished for your pro­gram. Instill in your play­ers the core philoso­phies that will guide the sea­son and stick to these guide­lines even when times are tough. 

I think it’s about stay­ing the course and trust­ing in the process,” said Steve Specht, head foot­ball coach at Xavier High School. We always talk about fol­low­ing the blue­print. It’s just such a fine line between win­ning and los­ing, and you have to get kids to believ­ing and fol­low­ing the blue­print. They have to trust the process and every­thing we’re try­ing to accom­plish.

If some­one isn’t a fit cul­tur­al­ly, but is a tal­ent­ed play­er, you have to fol­low what you’ve set as the stan­dards for your pro­gram. Bending for one play­er jeop­ar­dizes every­thing you’ve built.

Treat Your Players as Valuable Contributors

Ask your play­ers for their opin­ions. Try to teach them the why behind your phi­los­o­phy, and, most impor­tant­ly, treat them like real people. 

Listening and adapt­ing are essen­tial to mak­ing every­one feel like they are stake­hold­ers in the team’s suc­cess. Establishing a role for each play­er on the team will help them feel important.

We try to put the kids in the best posi­tion, and we try to make sure every kid has got a role, what­ev­er that may be,” Josh Niblett, head coach at Niblett High School (Ala.), said. They’ve got to have a role so they don’t get lost in the pro­gram. That’s what you don’t want. You don’t want a kid’s career to be over and he still doesn’t under­stand what his role is as a foot­ball play­er. We want you to leave under­stand­ing that you have val­ue, that you added val­ue to our pro­gram. That’s our job as coach­es and I take that personally.”

It’s as sim­ple as ask­ing, Are you see­ing any­thing I’m not see­ing?” Simple ges­tures like that can build con­fi­dence in your play­ers, and open avenues of trust that weren’t there before. Listening and adapt­ing are essen­tial to mak­ing every­one feel like they are stake­hold­ers in the team’s success.

Communicate Clearly

In order for your play­ers to ful­ly trust in your philoso­phies, they need to under­stand your mes­sage. This seems obvi­ous, but unfor­tu­nate­ly it’s a part of the job that many coach­es over­look. Ensure your play­ers under­stand their role and respon­si­bil­i­ties by speak­ing to them one on one and then rein­force these ideas dur­ing larg­er group sessions.

It’s all com­mu­ni­ca­tion. If you have good com­mu­ni­ca­tion, they’re going to talk to you at times where they think you’re going too far or if they want to be pushed,” said Jason Negro, head foot­ball coach at St. John Bosco High School. Kids want to be dri­ven, espe­cial­ly the kids we have at our school. They want to be great. So we’re going to con­stant­ly push and try to pull more out of them. 

And you have to com­mu­ni­cate with your staff, because those are the guys that are in the indi­vid­ual play­er meet­ings. Their kids talk to them a lit­tle more, and they need to report back to me and say, Hey coach, I think we need to take a day off,’ or, I think we need to kick them in the butt a lit­tle more today.’ If every­body feels there’s an open line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, that’s where you have a lot of pos­i­tive things.”

Always lay out the pur­pose of a drill, set, scout­ing report or stretch. If play­ers know why they’re work­ing on some­thing, or where it’s lead­ing to, they will see the val­ue in it and give it their best. 

You have to be real­ly clin­i­cal with the theme you’re try­ing to show when­ev­er you’re using video,” said Aaron Calvin, Performance Analyst for the Nike Academy. Because with too much noise, the boys just get con­fused, and they leave more con­fused than when they came into the ses­sion. So it’s real­ly impor­tant that you just [hone in] on one theme.”

Be Accountable

When a team los­es, it is nev­er one person’s fault. Your play­ers may feel like their mis­takes stood out the most and your fel­low coach­es may think their posi­tion group is to blame, but it’s impor­tant to remind them win­ning and los­ing is a team effort.

It’s okay to dis­cuss missed assign­ments and errors in exe­cu­tion in the lock­er room or in a film ses­sion the next day, but there is no ben­e­fit to scape­goat­ing any­one in pub­lic or behind closed doors. As a head coach, it’s impor­tant to let every­one know that the team is a fam­i­ly that doesn’t lay blame on any one member.

The same is true when things go well. It’s okay to give praise to some­one for a great per­for­mance, but don’t for­get the rest of the team. Giving praise to all mem­bers of the team will give them the con­fi­dence that they are not only a val­ued mem­ber of the team, but also that you rec­og­nize the time and effort they are putting in.

Creating this men­tal­i­ty can do won­ders for bring­ing every­one togeth­er. It teach­es your play­ers that you trust them not to make the same mis­take twice — and hav­ing this tone from the top is invaluable.

It’s impor­tant to remind them win­ning and los­ing is a team effort.

I’ve nev­er coached a team that won at the end that didn’t have great lead­er­ship, where those guys didn’t hold each oth­er account­able,” said Gabe Infante, head foot­ball coach at St. Joe’s Prep. Those guys weren’t play­ing for me. They weren’t play­ing for their school. They were play­ing for each oth­er. Coaches miss that sometimes.”

Have you had suc­cess in earn­ing play­er trust? Let oth­er coach­es know what’s worked for you by drop­ping your advice in the Forum.