While sometimes, you have to give your athletes directives, conversations are better than sermons more often than not. And this comes from someone who is in love with the sound of their own voice – I could talk for hours about the things I love.
Take this as a warning to those coaches who believe their positions imbue them with absolute control of their athletes. They don’t. And this is a warning about how damaging the misperception of your power is to the coach-athlete relationship.
“I tried to discover, in the rumor of forests and waves, words that other men could not hear, and I pricked up my ears to listen to the revelation of their harmony.”― Gustave Flaubert, November
When you deny others the chance to provide their feedback, especially from a position of authority, they don’t respect you; they don’t think they have a choice but to listen to what you say.
Listening to others, particularly those you care about, doesn’t mean you have to implement their suggestions in your plans. You seldom have to change your strategy after a conversation if you know how to tell other people why your strategy is the best option at that point.
And before you come at me with that “I’m the coach, they have to listen to me” nonsense, understand that you owe it to your athletes to respect their complexities and to yourself to express yours adequately.
Join the conversation
I say that conversations are often better than sermons because respectful discussions have less tension. Open dialogue allows everyone to feel that their emotions and concerns matter. And whether you see it now or not, your athletes’ concerns matter more than yours.
Of course, as the coach, you need to manage these conversations to avoid wasting training time, but it is irresponsible to negate them entirely.
I’ll end this rant with this: if you cannot handle a short but involved talk with your athletes, you lack emotional intelligence and likely shouldn’t be in a coaching position.
Thank you for reading.