There are different levels of trust and buy-in. Most of your players will say they trust you, and they are being honest. They trust you are telling them the truth. They trust you when you tell them what time practice is. In general they believe what you say. But do they trust you when you ask them to do something that is really hard? Do they trust you to lay it all on the line every day, even if they don’t see an immediate reward? That type of trust or buy-in is harder to achieve.
Total buy-in takes a lot of time. It involves relentlessly communicating a clear and direct message, as well as trying to show them the reward. Even if you don’t have a lot of success to point towards, you have to get them to believe in what your program is going to do for them. You are selling them on a belief, on success that they haven’t seen yet. That is not an easy task.
Your players may trust you, but that doesn’t mean they are totally bought in. They have to be willing to do the tough things that go into winning, not simply because you are telling them to but because they really believe it will help them win. If they are just doing what they’re told but don’t see the value in it, you won’t get the same effort. There is an edge your team will compete with when they are totally bought in, and it’s hard to know it until you see it. But it’s an important difference, when you can tell they are competing for each other, competing for something bigger than just doing what they are told.
If you find yourself repeating a lot of the same things over and over in different practices, your guys probably aren’t completely bought in. When your team struggles in effort situations – beating screens, transition defense, going to the offensive glass – they might just be missing that edge that comes with complete buy-in. When you feel like they are picking up the teaching points you are making but they are a half-step behind, they probably aren’t completely trusting of what you do. You can drive yourself crazy trying to find different ways to teach and get the message across, but the truth is they don’t completely trust the message.
Trust and buy-in takes a lot of time and builds slowly. Being honest and direct with your players at all times is crucial, and making sure they know exactly what’s expected of them is essential. Finding different ways to show them the rewards of their efforts will really help, but that can be difficult if your program hasn’t had a lot of success. Showing them a genuine side off the court will have an impact as well.
If one of your players screws up and you make your whole team run, are they mad at you for making them run? Or are they mad at him for making them lose? Think about that. The best teams are bought in at a high level, and you can see it when you watch them. It’s a long-term project, and one that takes daily effort. When your team is mad at their teammate, and not mad at you, for making them run, you are starting to achieve the right level of buy-in.