Make no mistake about it… I had to look that word up too. But I find reading a new word a day helps in the development of my vocabulary (duh). You will see what I did there in a moment…
In last month’s blog, we did a quick dive into depth charts of rosters and the difference between recognizing potential talent and simply picking obvious talent.
This month, I wanted to continue along those lines and discuss something that happens whether you chose door number one or door number two (recognizing potential or picking obvious). No matter which you chose, you now have another duty… will you manage the player or develop the player? This is usually based off the first decision you made. Although, I believe all players still have room to develop.
“All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.” – Calvin Coolidge
As with many of my blogs, this topic developed out of a conversation. I was speaking with a semi pro player I have come to know over the past year. We were discussing our opinions on what a “paintball coach” really is or should be. I, personally, believe it is the role of the coach to create an environment where the players can be just that… a player. The coach needs to remove all external factors to make sure the player’s focus is on getting better and performing well. In other words, create an environment where they can be their best. If I keep bringing issues to the players, if I bring drama, I am putting roadblocks in their progress. Why? Because I am distracting from the number one goal of being a coach… helping and guiding the players so they perform at their peak. The coach needs to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each player, and leverage them against the layout. Then, during a match, leverage those same strengths and weaknesses against the opponent within the parameters of the layout.
If you can recognize how a player responds or rather how they learn, then you can “coach” them more effectively. One size fits all works with some teams but most teams are pretty diverse. You have to know how to approach each player individually and know what motivates them. So let’s focus on DEVELOPING a player.
In my experience, there are three things that cause teams to fall short or adversely affect their performance:
1. Not clearly communicating expectations
2. Ineffective/infrequent/inappropriate feedback
3. Lack of accountability
So if the above is bad it makes sense that the following would be better:
1. Clearly established expectations
2. Continually coaching (environment of always learning)
3. Creating accountability
“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.” – Bruce Lee
These are the 3 most important steps in developing a player, as well. From this base line, all goodness will spring… which means you need to establish a good base line. Without a good base line, all badness will spring and now you’re in a pickle.
How do we effectively manage expectations? I believe when you establish an expectation and/or a goal with a player (and the team for that matter) there needs to be the understanding that they currently have the capability of achieving it but that it is challenging enough to push them.
As a coach, you and the player or team, should understand that these expectations should have a “cadence”, and recognize which are priorities. Develop a consensus on that and you should be off to the races.
I have found that teams perform better and learn quicker when the players are responsible for both individual AND team goals. In other words, the focus of the individual player should be to improve something about themselves that leads to the overall strength of the team. If the betterment of the individual doesn’t increase team capability, we’re wasting time.
Another 3 pack for you to consider. Coaching should have a minimum of 3 components. And this shouldn’t just apply to paintball but all aspects of life. The three “F’s”:
Always engage. Always look for ways to improve. Now this doesn’t mean rag a player over and over every point and every drill. You have to find the balance. When you see an opportunity to create an improvement, say something. If they ASK you, respond. You should WANT the engagement. Most players WANT to get better. And this doesn’t have to just be the coach. Players can make players better. Steel sharpens steel.
No matter how frequently you engage, if there isn’t a purpose behind the engagement, if there isn’t a focus on what is or was the issue, then you are simply creating static. This can lead to a nagging relationship or a stressed player who is afraid to be engaged. They will usually shut down. Make sure there is a point.
Finally, be fair with criticism and praise. If you compliment a player on an accomplishment make sure others are receiving similar positive reinforcement. Same with criticism. If someone’s doing something wrong, call it out but not just when THAT person does it. When ANYONE does it.
“The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.” – Lao Tzu
This one is easy. Recognize success, celebrate it, but do NOT ever ignore failure. Identify it and embrace it with the understanding it must be fixed or improved. Or over strengthen a strength. If you create a positive environment, the players will usually hold THEMSELVES accountable recognizing things they need to work on. THAT is a great thing unless that’s all they are doing and they become Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh (okay, some of you just went… “What??”. Google him.)
Be careful though. Measuring performance can be subjective, especially in paintball players. Set individual goals, develop some metrics, and observe. Base it on the data you have and can read/see.
All three of those components can be summed up in the following analogy – The report card!
Remember when you used to bring your report card home to your parents? (Do they still do that or does the new generation not get held accountable? Perhaps grades are a micro-aggression… I don’t know these days…I digress) Let’s say you bring home 3 A’s, 2 B’s, and a C. Where does the conversation with your parents start? Usually around that C, yes? If not, maybe it starts with the A’s and then the C? Either way, they both should be discussed.
I will leave you with this. Ask yourself these three (there’s that number again) questions in conjunction with everything stated above:
1. What’s the goal?
2. What does success in reaching that goal look like?
3. Always align a player’s goals with those of the team’s needs.
Remember, you can create your own truth when you don’t hear the truth…
Be water my friends