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5 Ways to Build Credibility as a New Head Coach

All new coaches have to earn respect from their team. We have some tips to help you get there.

After years of studying and preparation, you've finally landed that head-coaching job you've been seeking—congratulations! But now comes the tricky part: how do you establish credibility with the athletes who are looking to you for guidance? The young people you've been tasked with overseeing are a complex and diverse bunch. There are certain leadership qualities that they’ll respond to. 

Here are five suggestions for building that rapport with your team from the moment you take the job.

Practice Proactive Communication

Don't wait for your athletes to come to you. It's on you to establish the proper tone from the start, which means emphasizing the positive over the negative, and being proactive by seeking out your captains and their teammates and asking them about their needs. Your players are much more likely get on board if you speak to them in a clear and straightforward manner and let them know what you expect up front. Make it clear with your athletes that you’re their partner, not a dictator.

Be Sure to Listen

It's easy to talk about what you want. It's not always as easy to listen to what your athletes might need, and to display a level of caring that breaks through right away. Your team should feel like you'd do anything for them, and in turn, they'll be willing to do anything for you. You're going to have a lot on your plate in those first days, but it's crucial to focus on the needs of the people you've been hired to lead. 

A huge part of being a leader is empathizing with your team. This will not only help build trust during their time under your tutelage, but also establish relationships that will extend well beyond their athletic careers.

Be Consistent

If you come in and immediately show favoritism toward your better athletes, the rest of the team is going to notice. Putting misbehaving players in your "doghouse" rather than dealing with the issue in a firm and decisive matter will gain attention, too. Your athletes want to know what they can expect, and that doesn't necessarily mean you have to be their best friend all the time. Don't play mind games with them and you'll make your job much easier in the long run.

Build Confidence

Inspire your athletes from the beginning by being proactive. Give them the tools to believe in themselves, and let them know that you appreciate and value their efforts. Their confidence can be fragile, but even when you're criticizing them, you're simply trying to make them better. Don't embarrass athletes publicly, and point out when they do good things.

Trust Your Knowledge

We all experience some self doubt at some point, but you've earned this opportunity because you've studied this sport and you know it thoroughly. The people who hired your trust in your knowledge. You stay up to date on any advances in the sport, and you're constantly on the lookout for new ideas. If something isn't working, be willing to shift gears. 

Let your team know that you're flexible, and you're willing to accept their feedback. But also let them know that you have the ability to make them improve, and that they'll be far better at their sport by the time they graduate than they are on this day when you're first meeting them.

Now that you have buy-in from your team, learn about the four building blocks of establishing a rock-solid culture for your program.