‘Sure Coach, I’ll buy-in to __________ as long as…’
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“Yeah coach, of course I will buy-in to:
YOUR COACHING PHILOSOPHY AS LONG AS…
Everyone is treated fairly and gets to play.
It gives us the best chance to win in my opinion.
You always have the right answers and know everything about the sport.
It’s not too demanding and doesn’t take the fun out of the sport.
YOUR GAMEPLAN AS LONG AS..
I get my fair-share of touches on offense.
It works right away and we are ahead early on.
I am told why this is the best strategy to help us win.
Everybody on the team does their part as well.
THIS TEAM AS LONG AS…
My teammates work as hard as I do.
I can trust you as the head coach, the assistant coaches and my teammates.
We are at least winning some games and I am given feedback about my play.
THIS ROLE I’VE BEEN GIVEN AS LONG AS…
I think it best utilizes my strengths as a player.
The role is what I think is best for the team.
I can be promised a more impactful role in the future.
THIS PLAY-CALL AS LONG AS…
I am asked what I think we should run on offense out there sometimes.
I have an important role in the play.
Eventually a play is called for me later on.”
Many athletes have lost touch with the fact that buy-in to the coach/coaching philosophy, the team, their role on the team, the gameplan or the play-call is a choice, a willingness. Buying-in as a player is choosing to accept what has been decided without ego or judgement and to use your skills, talents and what you’ve been recruited or made the team for to do whatever it takes to try to make it work.
As a player, one should not judge or criticize a plan that one has not tried all you can to make work (ethically and legally of course!). With this counter-intuitive thinking, the idea of buying-in becomes less about your coach being perfect and more about you as an athlete trusting your talents and skills to be able to make any plan work. That shift in thinking is a big deal!
I was that athlete for awhile in my career that would constantly think if THAT play-call was the best for that situation and if THAT gameplan would give us the best chance to win. I would sometimes offer my opinion about why this drill isn’t as good as this other drill and think that if we played THIS way we could have more success.
And that’s where I went wrong…
Where I thought I was adding value to the team by pondering the play-call, thinking deeply about the gameplan and offering my viewpoint about a drill or coaching strategy — was actually taking away more value than I could ever imagine in the form of mental/emotional waste.
See, my coach had already put in countless hours (sometimes years) on YouTube researching drills, speaking with other expert coaches (in his network), learning/reading strategies from NBA and NCAA head coaches (via Google), testing out different offenses/defenses in real-life (experience from 10+ years of coaching). He had been diligent with researching and had many expert opinions weighing in on his decisions for our team. This research is something you sign up for as a Head Coach of a program — you’re responsibility to the athletes you work with.
How many hours had I put in to this research…? Slim-to-none.
But how many hours had I put in to playing/executing/practicing…? Countless.
This moment of realization was like an epiphany!
Until this point, I hadn’t realized that my actions and effort to make the coach’s decisions work added so much more value to the team than my opinions on why the decisions wouldn’t work or why they may be bad ideas.
Where my coach added the most value to our team by designing plays, scouting and studying other team’s weaknesses and creating a gameplan to maximize our strengths — I could add the most value, as a player, by willingly buying-in and doing all I could to make the plan work.
This isn’t about becoming a ‘slave’ to your coach and aimlessly doing whatever they say. It is about getting good data to evaluate if his/her coaching actually brings about results.
Prior to willingly buying-in to the coach’s decisions I actually could never know if I was the one sabotaging a perfect plan for our team. Until then, I could never know if me choosing to buy-in was the missing piece to the success and happiness of the entire team.
Athletes must be willing to accept that buy-in is a skill, it is the ability to say ‘yes’ to the gameplan, play or coaching decision and use all of your skills and experience to make it work — knowing that you can overcome any obstacles or hiccups that come up while carrying out the plan. Buy-in is actually a choice made by each individual athlete and not something that a coach needs to get from his players by being able to create perfect circumstances.
Moving forward, my athletes, always stop and self-reflect on whether you are bought-in. Recognize the tremendous amount of mental/emotional waste it creates to your team by not being willing to say ‘yes’ and go out and make that plan work. Conserve any of your energy that would be wasted in trying to stop the action with your opinion about the decision and direct that energy full-force into making it work and executing.
This shift in mindset is not simply a recommendation, it is the way it has to be, but only if you want to bring back valid data for a coach to work with moving forward to make adjustments.
So if you find yourself consistently resisting, questioning decisions or offering your opinion regarding your coaches ideas take a moment to see if you have given a wholehearted attempt to execute first. Lack of buy-in by any member of a team leads to faulty data for coaches to use.
If you are one that is carrying the above ‘AS LONG AS’ list when it comes to buying-in to your sport try saying ‘yes’ tomorrow —start jumping in early and often to try to make each decision made by your coach work. Trust your game and skills to navigate any obstacles as you execute what you’re asked to execute.
This small shift in mindset will be your next big step in ditching the drama as an athlete and eliminating the mental/emotional waste that is keeping many individuals from being invaluable pieces of the puzzle on their teams.
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I read (at the moment): Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
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