In order to lead your team, you must know as much as possible about them. In order to learn about them, you must gather information. Use those around you to assist in the process. Working hard to gather information is a must, but using those you have tasked to help and allowing them to have input into your organization is also key.
My personal goal is to have “experts” in many different areas surrounding me and giving me as much information as they have. I then become the “funnel” and decide what we will need to use and keep and also what we will give to other areas in the organization.
Other ways to gather information on your team would be:
- Take a survey at the beginning of the season.
- Have athletes compete in several “non-sport” related team activities and see how they interact with each other.
- Meet with players and families during the offseason.
Learn How Each Person in Your Organization Processes and Learns Best
Personality tests are a simple way to gather information from those in your program. While a coach could spend hours looking over the results, they can also be used to see how players learn best or how they will interact with teammates. These can be a quick way to learn about those in your organization. These can be quick and accessed for free.
Once a coach has the information, it will help with many of the issues that can arise during a season. Knowing that player “X” has issues learning or is naturally a certain way, will explain some of the issues that may arise. We use the phrase: “It explains it, but does not excuse it.”
While we want our players and coaches to know that we each have struggles, we will not allow that to become an excuse to break the rules of the team or to operate in a way that would hurt our team. Coaches need to adapt to help players, but never cater to lack of discipline or give preferential treatment to players. While not all are created equal, and we must work with our players, we must be sure not to cause a split among the team.
Understand How Much Information to Give Each Group
Not to state the obvious, but people are different. As the leader we must understand who wants or needs more information to do their job correctly. I had a very difficult time early in my career with those who were less passionate than I was about football. I took it personal that they were not as interested in learning every nuance of the game. I had gone to school and dreamed of this career choice, but they did not. Many of my players, or even assistant coaches, had other aspirations and that did not make them lazy or unmotivated, it just meant they had different goals and dreams for their lives. Once I reached this understanding, I recognized that many of them did not care to know the “why” on every issue like I did. Learning this I have realized to give them the amount of information they need to do a great job, but not overload them with details they do not find as interesting as I do.
Another issue I have run into when I give information overload is paralysis by analysis. Often a person can have too much on their plate to be able to handle a large amount of information. As a leader, I try to limit who I communicate with on “if-then” parts of our plan. The last thing I want to do is overwhelm people. This also extends from players to assistant coaches. It will cause you to decide what is the most important issue, the next most and so on.
“Shrink” the World for Your Players and Assistant Coaches
Going back to the funnel concept, remember as a leader your job is to make those you are serving be able to do their job at the highest level. That often means to give very simple rules and make what could be a very complex or abstract job easier. I’ve always felt my goal was to make my players be able to process smaller doses of information very fast before we would advance them to the next level.
This also applies to assistant coaches and others in your program. Know what each is capable of before you give out information. Not each assistant coach has the same goals. Find those wishing to move up in the coaching world and give them more opportunities. Those that are happy in their position are taught what they need to know, and while I offer to teach them more, I do not require to learn as much.