When we meet people we “judge” them automatically. In seconds we get a gut feeling of who they are as a person and if we want that person around us. In these immediate seconds this person may not have said much or given us any formation as to who they are, but still we come up with a gut instinct.
This instinct comes from the way that person made us FEEL. It’s in their tone of voice and their body language. Studies have shown that we don’t even need to understand the words someone is saying to make a correct judgement on someone. It’s been done in studies where participants only see a subject speaking for 3 seconds with no sound and people can accurately pick up characteristics of that person. It’s about how they made them feel! It’s called thin slicing; it’s something we do naturally as humans to make quick instinctive decisions.
As coaches, or even teammates, it’s imperative that we make the athletes around us feel good. You can unlock someone’s potential if you make them feel empowered. It’s kind of like a comedy movie. In comedy the main character sometimes has to be mean in order to be funny. They have to do things that people won’t like, but then they need the audience to come back to them after it’s done. The audience still has to like him, root for him, and side with him. This is what made Tom Hanks the perfect actor for Apollo 13; the director of the film was quoted saying “When Tom (Hanks) came in and read, I felt like I could live inside of him, I could just relate to him”. He knew the audience would feel the same way; they would always want him to come out on top. This would allow him to push the boundaries and do daring things and still have the heart of the audience at the end of the movie.
Coaches need this too, you have to be able to push your athletes and give them tough love at times, but you also need them to come back to you. You need them to stay, and in order to do this you have to make them feel good.
Coaches, make it known to your athletes that you value them as people, not just as athletes who contribute to a successful season. Show that you truly care for them by getting to know who they are as people, not just athletes. Athletes are constantly striving for a coaches’ approval, knowing that the coach likes them as a person relieves immense amounts of pressure which will help the athlete to perform better on the field. If they know they have your support in who they are as a person they will “run through walls for you”. You can push them to their limits and help them to reach their potential. They will realize that the challenges you present are in their best interest. Athletes need coaches who listen, are genuine, inviting, and supportive; off the field as well as on the field.
“People will forget what you say, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. – Maya Angelou. This statement couldn’t be closer to the truth, it’s been almost 7 years since I stepped on the field with him as my coach and I can still remember exactly what it felt like to have someone who truly believed in me. Coaches need to believe in their players as people, get to know who they are, and support them despite their performance on the field.
– Inspired by the book “Blink” – Malcolm Gladwell