Perhaps the most consistently powerful approach you can take as a leader is to model the behavior. You send a powerful message with what you do every day, and if you are talking about something and not doing it, the message is just as powerful. Your team needs to see the behavior you expect out of them in you (and your coaching staff) every day. What you do is so loud, they can’ hear what you say.
Coaches love to talk about body language. They hate to see any negative body language, usually saying it’s a sign of weakness. I’ve never been a big fan of the concern over body language, one of the main reasons is most coaches don’t model the behavior they expect when it comes to body language. Take one look at the sidelines during most college basketball games and you’ll see coaches making facial expressions, raising their arms, giving the “palms up” look and generally stomping up and down like someone who didn’t get their way. How can you talk to your guys about body language if you are acting that way? Try filming just yourself on the sideline one day at a game or a practice. If you don’t see the type of body language you say you want out of your players, don’t expect to see it from them.
Focus is a word that coaches use all of the time. We want our teams locked in and ready to go for practice every day. If that’s the case, you better show them you are focused every day. You have an organized practice plan that is ready to go. Your message is prepared, clear and concise. You don’t get distracted by anything – any visitors who are watching practice, talking with your staff during drills, a cell phone or whatever it may be. If focus is required of everyone in the gym, it needs to be required of you first. If you are distracted throughout practice, don’t expect your players to lock in.
We all want our teams to play with composure, but do we coach that way? Are we composed on the sideline, despite what happens, good or bad? I think it’s crucial for your team to keep their poise in big spots to be successful. But the only way they are going to do it is if you do the same. If the emotion and intensity of a game gets to you and effects your process, expect the same out of your players. We all wonder at certain times how some players “lose their mind” out on the court. You might get the answer by looking in the mirror.
I always felt as a head coach that anytime I started to get into it with the officials, I’d feel my team slipping away from me. If I started to lose my composure, my players would do the same. I’d often have to catch myself, regain my composure, and get back with my team. I don’t think “Don’t worry about the officials, that’s my job!” approach really works. It’s just a cop out. If you want your team to play with composure, they need to see a composed coach.
So often we get upset with our players for the way they communicate, or a lack of communication. Not only is it important to tell them how to communicate, but you have to show it to them as well. If you are going to attack someone verbally for making a mistake, they’ll likely communicate the same way. They may not come back at you like that out of respect for the fact that you are the head coach, but notice their communication with one another. If it’s too aggressive or not very clear, take a look at how you communicate with them. It’s likely your communication style is having an impact.
“Do as I say, not as I do,” does not work in any effective leadership model. Being the head coach is not a pass to poor behavior. If you are going to demand it out of your team, they have to see you demand it out of yourself first.
Body language. Focus. Composure. Communication.