Three Ways Coaches Influence

Influence is the power and the ability to personally affect others’ actions, decisions, opinions or thinking.  Coaches influence their student-athletes every single day.  In coaching parents trust that the decisions we coaches make are for the best interests of the student-athlete solely.

Ultimately, influence allows you to get things done and achieve desired outcomes.  Influence is a powerful teaching tool.  Influence is our ability to mentor, guide and mold the student-athletes in our charge.

If abused, this is a terrible breach of trust and not what we want in our profession.  Not what we want for our children from the people we entrust to their care and development.

At one level, influence is about compliance — getting someone to do what you want him or her to do (or at least not to undermine it). But genuine commitment from other people is often required for you to accomplish key goals and tasks.

Another key way of phrasing this for players is to understand and acquire what it is we are compelling them to do.  A compliant player is simply doing something through obligation.  There is no genuine commitment.  The coaching staff “makes” them do it through fear factor.  It works, but it’s not deep enough for real influence to occur.

A better approach is the help players move to being “compelled” members of the team, program, and organization.  They buy in, they get it and it is part of who they are and what they want to do – not what they have to do.  The “have to do players” are never “all in.”  They are what I call “Sometime Players.”  You need your players to be “Every time Players.”  Some time players are in when it works for them and times are good.  As soon as your team faces adversity – they are the first to kill you in the locker room, the first to not work hard in practice and the ones that are part of the problem not part of the solution.  Every time players are totally in.  The play every play, every drill, each and every segment of a practice, drill or game to their best of their ability.  They apply this approach to everything on and off the court.

Early in your career, or in assistant roles, influence is about working effectively with people over whom you have no authority. It requires the ability to present logical and compelling arguments and engaging in give-and-take, and doing so in a cooperative and professional manner.  In head coaching roles or athletic administration roles, influence is focused more on steering long-range objectives, inspiration and motivation.

The CCL has found that influencing tactics fall into one of three categories: logical, emotional or cooperative. We call this influencing with head, heart and hands.

  1. Logical appeals

Tap into a student-athlete’s rational and intellectual positions.  Your coaching staff presents the argument for what is the best choice of action that most benefits the team, while still benefiting the student-athlete.

  1. Emotional appeals

Connect your coaches’ message, goal or plan of action to the individual goals and values of the student-athlete.  The idea that promotes the student-athlete’s feelings of well-being, service and/or sense of being part of the group are the one’s that student-athletes feel most connected to and want to be part of.

  1. Cooperative appeals

Get your players involved!  Collaboration is huge.  We have discussed the covenant and “what will you do together?” before.  Bring the ideas of every member of the program together, appropriately and in the right forum.  Not empowering a revolution or giving student-athletes the freedom to rule the roost, but enabling them to take ownership in the process.  You will find out quickly who already supports you, if you and your coaches have the credibility you need and whom you have to influence still. Working together to accomplish a mutually important goal extends a hand to others in the organization and is an extremely effective way of influencing.

To maximize your coaching influence, you’ll want to become skilled in all three styles of influencing. Decide which tactics will reap the most support for a specific task or strategy and employ one or more approaches. To understand which tactics might work best, consider the following:

Assess the situation.

Why are you involved in coaching? Understand and make it understood that you all need each other’s support in order for anyone to attain success? What outcomes are you trying to achieve by influencing each member of the team? Be clear about whom you need to influence and what you want to accomplish.

Know your audience.

Identify and understand your student-athletes. Each will have special concerns and issues, plus his or her own agenda, perspectives and priorities. Knowing your student-athletes requires an honest investment of time, open lines of communication and the building of trust.  Various teams and players will require different approaches for influencing. Tailor your influencing strategy for the particular person, considering individual personalities, goals and objectives, as well as each player’s roles and responsibilities within the team.

Review your ability.

What tactics do you use most often? Which seem to be most effective? What new tactics could you try in this situation? Draw on others for advice or coaching, too. Use your inner circle.  For example, if you always focus on the logical appeals, have a coach (in or outside your program) who is a strong collaborator help you think through your collaboration tactics and arguments.

Brainstorm your approach.

What tactics would work best? Which logical appeals will be most effective? How could you make an emotional or cooperative appeal? What specifically could you say and do to use each type of tactic? Anticipate possible responses and prepare your reply. What counterarguments could you use? What additional influence tactics might be helpful?

At first, you might want to try out new influence tactics in low-risk situations, practicing these skills one-on-one, in the off-season or at times when the outcome results are less likely to be negatively impacted.  As you become more versatile, you’ll gain new confidence in your ability to influence teams and larger groups and to persuade others in higher-stakes, higher-pressure situations.

Also consider changing tactics right away if you have a pressing issue that has stalled due to lack of buy-in or support. Would a more logical, emotional or collaborative approach make a difference? If so, go ahead and try out a new angle — you might be more influential that you realized.  Often, coaches are some of the most influential people in a student-athlete’s life and are remember (good or bad) for years to come.

adapted from:

Three Ways to Influence
via Center for Creative Leadership


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