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Athlete, Coach

Guiding Positive Leadership Skills and Rebuilding Approaches to 'Buy-In' Mentality

I'm a high school girls varsity coach for a small town. I've got a fairly young team with a few upperclassmen. Do you have any resources for coaching and guiding positive leadership skills and rebuilding approaches to "buy-in" mentality? 

Response by PCA Trainer Amber Gravely

I think it’s safe to say that when you coach at a high school level there are a few common reasons that students may sign-up for a team sport.  First, they may be fulfilling a requirement to play a team sport in order to receive credit, especially at a lower grade level. There is the pure external and social aspect of going out for a team because your friends are on it. Last, and certainly not least, there may be internally driven motivation and students with a deep passion to advance to the next level in college and beyond. Meeting with each player individually, and asking “why” they are playing, and setting individual and team goals will help you understand the team dynamics and meet your players where they are at as you begin the season. There are also several tools in the PCA toolkit to help you, I will highlight a few below:  

As a double-goal coach, this scenario offers a perfect opportunity to teach life lessons while striving to win using our ELM Tree of Mastery.   In order to foster a “buy-in” mentality, you can begin by focusing on the controllable, or what we at PCA call coaching with a mastery orientation.  As you speak with your student-athletes you can work on definitions that are not based on the scoreboard but focus on the controllable effort they put into practices and the game, rather than the results of their record or statistics.  By doing this you help them learn and gain motivation on how they have improved individually and as a team versus comparing themselves to others. Approaching the season with a growth mindset that their grade level and experience will naturally present some challenges at a varsity level, but that what you as a coach are asking for is that they give it their best will help them have the confidence to try hard enough to fail.  Fostering an environment where mistakes are ok, especially as you are rebuilding, will help remove the teenage barriers of fear of embarrassment and self-doubt.

The need for social and emotional support is a huge part of fostering a positive team environment in high school sports. This is why focusing on effort goals versus outcome goals will truly help the young ladies on your team. As a coach, you can really model leadership by focusing on filling their E-tank.  The small things like being aware of your non-verbal reactions to mistakes or listening when a player comes to you with a question or concern will truly make an impact.  The goal of getting to the magic ratio of 5-1 tank fillers versus tank drainers is one you can bring your coaching staff and team leaders on board with to help you achieve.  Make sure not to patronize, but rather to give specific, detailed praise that is constructive as opposed to critical. Coming together as a huddle before and after practices and games is a great habit to start with to ensure the opportunity to fuel up the E-tanks.

Guiding positive leadership skills will begin with a mastery approach, filling your player’s e-tanks and ultimately reinforcing both of these principles by Honoring the Game.   By using these double-goal PCA tools and more, you will elevate the game and positive team experience in this rebuilding year.

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