Thursday, July 11, 2013

Four keys to building trust in your team

Someone on twitter (I apologize I cannot find the tweet now) asked me how do you build trust in a team. I said I'd have to think about it and get back to him, so here you go ....

1. Be consistent

This is most true for the coach. I feel bad that I can only teach at Gompers Middle School on Fridays but I try to be there EVERY Friday and if I cannot, I let everyone know in advance and arrange for a substitute.

If people can't trust you to show up for practice, what can they trust you to do?

2. Have clear standards

You might say having favorites is bad, but not necessarily. I know judo coaches who definitely favor the team members who win the most and they explain it by saying, "I like the players best who train the hardest. That's why they win." If getting more attention, funding, rank, whatever is based on how many practices you attend and how hard you practice at those, fine, but just make sure that applies to EVERYONE.

I know college coaches who favored players who were both good athletes and good (as in, at least not academic probation) students. They believed in the "student" part of student-athlete.

I don't believe that you need to treat every student or athlete the same, but I do believe that everyone needs to understand why certain people might be getting favored and they should have equal opportunity to be at the same level should they decide to practice more, study more or whatever your requirements may be.  In other words, you don't have to have equal results but you need to have equal opportunity. More than that, people need to understand what the opportunity is.

For example, at Gompers, if you make a grade below a C, you can't come to class any more and we don't care how good your judo is.

3. Don't talk trash about each other - ever

I don't care who you tell that you suspect Emil faked his injury to get out of fighting and almost certainly losing in the final or that Betty is having an affair with Jo. It WILL get back to your teammates/ fellow coaches. Just keep it to yourself. If you must tell someone buy a goldfish and tell him/ her (not really sure how you tell the gender of a goldfish).

4. Help your teammates train when it matters

When I was a member of LA Tenri Dojo "back in the day", we always had dozens of players going to the national championships who had a good shot at placing, and there were usually several of us on any U.S. team going to any tournament. One time, though, it just so happened that only the number one player was selected to go to a particular tournament and due to injuries, a bad day at the nationals and one thing and another, I was the only person who made the team to go overseas. I was a bit concerned about how I was going to train without the extra practices we usually had for the players gearing up for international tournaments. Then, my teammate, Steve Seck, arranged to have the dojo open extra days so I could train. About a half-dozen of my teammates who were around my size showed up regularly until I went off to Hongkong, where I won a gold medal.

I've seen far too many clubs where, if players aren't competing in a particular event, they don't bother to show up to practice. The message that sends is that if there isn't anything in it for me, I'm out.

So ... that's my advice on the four key points. Anyone else, feel free to jump in.

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