We all have needs, primal needs. and two of our greatest needs are to be appreciated and recognized. Knowing this is a crucial element in coaching.
Recently I met a highly talented golf coach, let’s call him Tom, out on the course where his team was practicing. Some of the guys were on the driving range, others where chipping and most of the team was on the putting green. As Tom and I finished our conversation he noticed three of those putters were sitting down. They had gotten bored with practice.
Coach Tom was not happy. His first reaction was to walk over and tell the players to get back to practice and quit messing around. This is the obvious and normal response most coaches would make.
Why this is not the best choice
By paying attention to the players who are not performing, they receive recognition. It may be negative recognition, yet it’s still recognition, while the players who are practicing are left out of your line of attention. It is the exact opposite of what you want to achieve.
A better option
Knowing that the primal human needs are to be appreciated and recognized, you can use this knowledge to your advantage and the benefit of the team as a whole. Walk over to the green and turn your back to the players sitting down. By doing so you’re completely ignoring them, shutting them out and telling them by your body language that they are being left out of your scope of recognition. What they’re doing doesn’t matter.
Then pay close attention to those who are practicing diligently. Praise them. Show them your appreciation. Give them recognition! Be very specific about what you say. Teach the entire team what you are looking for and how they can gain your attention by the words you carefully choose. What these players are doing matters. Talk loud enough to ensure the players sitting down can hear your exact words. Say things like, “Great job guys. Glad to see you’re taking practice serious. Joe, I saw that four footer. Way to focus!” You get the idea.
By praising and recognizing the players who are ‘doing it right,” you put your focus and energy where it really belongs. You have given the gift of your attention and recognition to those who actually deserve it.
Stay alert. When the ‘slackers’ start getting up and joining the group practicing watch for reasons to praise them. You are clearly sending the message of what is and is not acceptable. As a coach you have now taught both groups what it takes to be successful in your eyes.
Our human needs are always searching for ways to be met. As a coach, it pays in the win/loss record to understand how to meet your players’ needs and motivate them at the same time. Think about how and where else you can use this new knowledge. You’ll be amazed.