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How to Win

The Hardest Part of Coaching

“Honesty is the best policy,” George Washington once wrote.

Too bad he can’t be in the gym when it’s time to make cuts. Sometimes coaches must be brutally honest with those whom they lead, and no one I know likes this part of the business.

Whether you have to cut players, send them to the minor leagues, or confront them about the level of their effort, you must challenge yourself to say what is really on your mind.

Otherwise, you’re not helping anyone: the person, the team or yourself.

Herb Brooks, who led the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team to an epic victory over the Soviet Union 32 years ago today, had no problem being direct. Steve Jobs crossed the line in what he said to others. I wouldn’t recommend their blunt approach to anyone. Honest and direct work best.

Anson Dorrance, coach of the legendary University of North Carolina women’s soccer team, says that coaches too often grow tired of confronting players about the level of their effort.

“The biggest consequence to telling a lie is, it leads you to telling another one,” Gary King.

Two tips for being honest with others:

First, make it about their good, not about yours.

Second, make it about their behavior, not about them.

Someone once said that the true test of a coach is not what a player thinks of you today, but what the player thinks of you 20 years from now.
If you are honest with your players, things should go well 20 years from now.

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TotalGamePlan offers Winner’s Workshops for schools, sports teams and businesses. The emphasis is on motivation, skill-building and teamwork. To bring a Winner’s Workshop to your group, just email coachtully@totalgameplan.com or call (973) 800-5836. To order a copy of “Ten Things Great Coaches Know,” click here.


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