Developing Individual Inspiration

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In my previous post, How You Really Win, I stated that some things that happen during a match that profoundly affect the outcome are outside the control of the coach.  The three specific things I mentioned were individual inspiration, team desire and luck.  I did however leave myself a little out in a footnote by suggesting that perhaps the coach could influence some of those.

Obviously luck is outside the influence of the coach.  Referees’ calls made and missed, out balls being touched or not touched, a net tape here, and net touch there.  These events are random.  They happen.  And no, you don’t get luckier, the harder the you work,  That is ridiculous.  Team desire is often influenced by the coach, but sometimes less than we imagine.  A well functioning team often fights hard, but not always, and dysfunctional teams can fight hard for reasons other than shared goals.

Individual inspiration however, is directly influenced by the coach.  Individual inspiration being (loosely) defined here as a play/s made by an individual that are exceptional, often out of the ordinary, and have the subsequent effect of inspiring the team to greater heights.

Here are a few ways that a coach can cultivate an environment in which there will be more inspirational plays.

Have less rules Most inspirational plays are unusual or rare (go to You Tube, or this blog for that matter, and search Earvin N’Gapeth).  If you have hard and fast rules for different game situations (eg free balls always to position 2, don’t risk on high ball attack etc) you close off most of the possibilities for players to find unique, surprisingly, inspirational solutions to game situations.  You also make the game boring for spectators.

Allow errors Minimising errors is only an effective strategy if you are playing a weaker team.  When playing a better team, which nearly every team must do at some point, the better team will almost always make more points.  If you take no risks in order to reduce errors, you also minimise your chances of making points.  While saving face in some way (arguably) you are actually just giving a good team more opportunities to score.

Encourage emotion Emotion is the classic double edged sword, it has positives and negatives.  Coaches spend a lot of time trying to minimise the negative effects of emotions or the effects of negative emotions.  This is important in coping with competition stress among other things.  Process, rather than outcome orientation is the classic example.  But when you dampen some emotions, you dampen all emotions including all the positive emotions that drive competition and provide inspiration.

Close your eyes  If you reduce the number of rules, allow errors and encourage emotions, you will experience some ugly and uncomfortable moments that will make you, the control freak that you are (we all know most coaches become coaches for exactly that reason) want to rage against the world.  In those moments, you have to close your eyes, pretend you didn’t see it and trust in the process (haha, I couldn’t resist).

A collection of 50 Coaching Tips can be found here.


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