Just about every player you talk to in the recruiting process will tell you the same thing. They want to play for someone who is going to be upfront and honest with them. The parents always say the same thing – even if you tell them something they might not want to hear, they appreciate the honesty. In disagreements I’ve had with players over my career, almost all of them say the same thing – I appreciate you being honest with me. When players graduate and we have exit meetings, it comes up again – thank you for always being honest with me. I always appreciated knowing where I stood.
So why is it so hard, so often, for coaches to deal in the truth?
Talk to a player who didn’t have a good experience with a coach and usually you will hear the opposite. He wasn’t honest with me. He told me what I wanted to hear. We didn’t feel like we could trust him. Why, as a coach or a leader in any field, would you ever put yourself in that situation?
The truth is hard sometimes. I get that. The truth requires a thought process, it requires sincere evaluation, and it requires decision-making. And sometimes those decisions are tough, I get that. You might get it wrong. You might change your mind. So sometimes it’s easy in your head to keep your options open. So you remain uncommitted. You don’t make declarative statements as a coach because you aren’t sure if things will change. This shows your players insecurity and indecisiveness, and makes it hard to deal in the truth. Because when you are indecisive you always have an out, and if you are constantly changing your mind you will lose your players trust.
“It’s more important to be decisive than to be right.” – Brad Faxon on putting.
I love this quote from Brad Faxon, one of the great putters ever who won 8 PGA Tour events. He said he’d rather take a committed stroke on the wrong line, than have the right line and be unsure about the stroke.
I say this to my team all the time on the defensive end. It’s more important to be decisive than to be right. If you are going to commit to help, you have to fully commit. There is no in-between. Once you go, you go, because everyone else has to rotate based on the decision you made. I’d rather have you be wrong than uncommitted.
I say it to myself a lot as a coach. It doesn’t mean that every decision you make is black and white. But it means that you are prepared to make a choice, and you are strong enough to stand behind that choice. That way your kids know what to expect, and they can fully commit. This allows you to deal in reality – this is what we are doing, and this is why we are doing it.
The hard part is if you are wrong, you have to be strong enough to admit it. You know what guys, I screwed up. Here was the plan, this is why we did it, but it didn’t work out. So we are going to work to do better the next time. And my sense is that’s why a lot of leaders don’t deal in the truth all of the time. They keep things in a grey area, so that they don’t really have to admit they were wrong. By being indecisive, you always have an out. You can always pivot, and say “that’s why I wanted to do it this way.”
It sounds simple and obvious, but clearly it isn’t. There are a lot of leaders who don’t deal in the truth. Whether it’s unhappy players or disgruntled employees, it’s pretty common to hear complaints who feel like the boss or the head coach wasn’t honest with them.
Deal in the truth. Be prepared and decisive, and your players will respect you. If you are wrong, tell them you screwed up and you’ll do better. But make sure everything you do and talk about is based in the truth. If not you’ll lose your players, and it’ll be hard to get them back.