Coaching is a complex topic. Some people think about coaching as yelling at players (I mean giving constructive feedback to players), pushing them beyond their comfort zones, and giving inspirational speeches. These are all important aspects of coaching but they all focus on the on-court stuff.
If you ask most coaches why they coach, I bet you would discover a common theme built around relationships and impact. Ask any player and they will be able to name a coach that had an incredible impact on their life. This is the intrinsic joy of coaching.
But if coaches want to bring out the best in their players and make the greatest impact, they must develop skills that have nothing to do with coaching on the court. The player/coach relationship is built on connection. And that connection is strengthened when the coach helps the player discover the type of player (and person) they want to be, and constantly helps them make progress towards that goal. This type of connection requires coaching skills that have nothing to do with dribbling, shooting, or game strategy. I like to call these skills...off-the-court coaching.
Of the court coaching helps players increase their self-awareness, clarify goals and values, create development plans, and promotes accountability. Unfortunately, these skills are rarely taught or emphasized to players and coaches.
This becomes a major problem when players have to deal with the intense pressure and responsibility when balancing school and sports. They can easily become overwhelmed and disengaged. Rarely are players given the opportunity to clarify...what exactly do I want (as a person, player, leader)? And why?
So what can coaches do to ignite the development of players and help them make progress on their goals?
Below are 4 off-the-court coaching skills that you and leaders can implement and practice now!
Skill # 1: Coachability
Coachability is someone who is committed to their own development, hungry for feedback, and open to anything that may improve themselves. This skill allows us to become aware of our current abilities and make consistent adjustments to improve.
Coachability is an observable behavior and should look like…
- Remains calm and actively listens when receiving feedback
- Embraces and seeks feedback
- Assesses feedback and experiments with new ideas
- Constantly looks for opportunities to learn and grow from film sessions, classes, books, assignments, and coaching
- Aware of their strengths and weaknesses
- Quickly bounces back from failure and adversity
Trying to help a player that is not coachable can be a waste of time. So before we try to coach someone, let’s help them enhance their coachability by discovering their goals and interests. This can be accomplished with the 2nd coaching skill…conversation.
Skill # 2: Conversation
The conversation skill is made up of two parts...active listening and inquiry. Active listening is being fully present, non-judgmental, and requires us to quiet that voice in our head that wants to give advice before the other person is finished speaking. Simply listen.
Inquiry is the ability to ask questions to help someone explore a topic. Effective inquiry leads to increased motivation, helps the player clarify their “why”, and allows them to discover answers on their own…which enhances buy-in.
So what can you do to improve your inquiry skills? Get started by creating a list of power questions! Power questions can be used to help someone…
- become unstuck from their current situation
- create an action plan
- view a situation from different perspective
Coaching Tip: use open-ended questions versus closed-ended questions to illicit better responses. Close-ended questions generate one word replies (i.e. yes/no) and fail to help someone think and reflect. Open-ended questions (or power questions) require the person to reflect at a deep level and discover the what/why/how of difficult questions.
There are a few things that can reduce our impact during the conversation stage, they are…
- Sharing endless stories about your own experiences. It's not about you (the coach), it's about helping the other person
- Cutting off the person as they speak
- Judging the thoughts/opinions/feelings of the other person
- Asking questions without explaining the “why”
Active listening & deep inquiry can be a transformational experience for the listener and the speaker. Try to practice this skill for the next 3 days and notice how different your conversations are. Someone that is free to share their story/thoughts/opinions – without someone judging them – is much more inclined to accept feedback and coaching. This one skill is a game changer!
Skill # 3: Perspective
The 3rd skill is perspective. This skill will help players discover opportunities (or perspective) in any situation (good or bad).
This tool is extremely useful to empower people that feel overwhelmed, stuck, negative, and lack confidenence.
Coaches can help people discover a new perspective that opens the door to opportunities never seen before.
Changing someone's perspective is done through thoughtful questions. Below are a few examples:
- Do you have enough information to take action now?
- What would your best friend tell you to do in this situation? Why?
- What are you most worried about? What will you learn if things don't turn out how you want them to? What will you learn if you don't do anything?
- Do you have the ability to succeed? If not, what's one thing you must develop?
- Is there another option that would work?
Skill # 4: Progress
The 4th coaching skill is progress. Many people have a vision or goal they want to achieve, but fail to make progress. Lack of progress can be the result of a number of issues, so it’s the coach’s role to help the person discover strategies to overcome the obstacles. A plan without action is worthless. So part of the coach's role is to help players...
- Create a plan
- Commit to the plan
- Schedule weekly check-ins and provide a structured way to share their progress & obstacles
- Inspire action
Progress, even in small doses, is one of the most effective motivators.
To promote taking action, resist ineffective questions that promote broad answers like, “What are you going to do?”. Instead, help the person identify the specific next step they must take. If possible, break that one step down into smaller steps that seem so small and easy that it’s almost impossible for the person to resist taking action.
An effective coaching relationship involves 4 parts: coachability, conversation, perspective and progress. Try to implement these skills into your discussions with players this season and watch them make serious progress towards their individual and team goals.
Shoot us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit Flowtrainingdevelopment.com if you or your coaches would be interested in learning more about developing your off-the-court coaching skills.