Let’s face it, most seasons end in disappointment with a loss or some kind of unfinished business. The silver lining in all this is that disappointment can be a powerful motivator. But it can also be crushing.
Some teams grow, some crumble. Much of this has to do with an individual’s outlook and confidence; much of it has to do with the culture of the team and the coaches expectations.
This is the time of year to challenge your athletes to improve. The taste of failure can be the fuel that motivates them this Spring and Summer to be ready to wipe that taste away come Fall. OR, it can be the evidence they need that all their hard work just isn’t worth it.
Here are 3 things coaches can do to ensure their team is one that grows from adversity:
1. Let them decide their poison
There is no way to avoid pain. You either risk the pain of disappointment or the pain of regret. Many people pick the pain of regret simply by default because there isn’t such a tangible risk to it and it’s far less public. There are a LOT of people that live in fear and you no doubt have some of them on your team. I know it’s difficult to relate. It might even be really irritating. But remember, they might just need a little help making a decision.
It can be helpful for them to refocus by thinking about which they choose: The pain of regret or the pain of disappointment. The pain of regret is easy to ignore, the pain of disappointment is not. And although disappointment can be a sharper pain, it also comes with it the wonderful feeling of success, of pride, of accomplishment. Regret has no such silver lining. If they really want to give everything they have, agree to hold them accountable in that. But always try to let them come to that decision on their own.
2. Encourage them to focus on short term and long term goals
It’s important for athletes to have a long-term vision for their career but research has proven what most of us already know, we need short-term rewards. Weekly, monthly, even daily progress checks can be a huge motivator for athletes. They need to feel invested in their progress and get a regular feeling of accomplishment and achievement. Writing down goals, sharing progress reports, utilizing charts posted in the locker room can be huge for your athletes. Believe it or not, none of us have moved that far away cognitively from the ‘gold star for good behavior’ model. (even YOU!) If you are frustrated with this generation’s short-term attention span, their inability to deal with more than 140 characters, start using it to your advantage.
3. Use Peer Pressure wisely
Research into modern warfare has proven the fear of letting comrades down is a MORE powerful motivator than self-survival. Soldiers will worry more about defending their fellow soldiers than they will about dying.
If you can identify a few athletes on your team that work hard and can lead, give them some authority and let them hold their teammates accountable. It’s much easier for most of us to let down an authority figure (often with a ‘screw you’ mentality), than it is for us to let down a teammate, friend, peer. There is a stronger sense of shame attached to letting down the group and one that you can use to your advantage. Instead of a coach yelling, have a teammate speak- it just might be the kick in the butt that your players need.
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