Do You Have To Like Your Players?

BASKETBALL – Player/Coach Relationships

NA-BU283_LVILLE_G_20121228185619A recent article by Ben Cohen in the Wall Street Journal, Louisville’s Strategy: Hug It Out, piqued my curiosity as the Cardinals have ascended in the 2012-2013 men’s basketball polls.  I have no strong opinions about Rick Pitino and his team.  I’ve read , I felt bad for his Kentucky team when they lost on Christian Laettner’s memorable buzzer beater, and I’ve respected the way his teams play, but I also have the impression that he can be tough on his players.  However, Pitino appears to have made a change, at least in the case of Russ Smith.  As one reads the article, there’s a message for each of us – as coaches and as people living in a world filled with an assortment of people who act differently from us, believe things differently, were raised differently or just have different personalities.

Do you have to like your players to coach them?  Probably not, and it sure can be difficult if you think they have to change all of who they are to meet your like-ability standard.  Do you have to change their personalities, learned belief systems, or core values to be able to coach them? Certainly not, but let me recommend a great thought – how about “loving” your players? That would be love not defined as a feeling, but love as an action.  Recently, my coaching has been impacted by the work of Joe Ehrmann.  In fact, I’ll refer to his ideas a lot!   As I try to transform my coaching as Rick Pitino has, here’s some quick reminders from Ehrmann that I try to keep in mind:

Four C’s of Loving Your Players

Choose – you have to decide to show players you care about them as people.

Communicate – for communication to work, you have to listen more than you talk.  That’s a hard one for coaches!

Connect – take the time to truly know your players, what they think, and what’s important to them.

Create – determine expectations, goals, and boundaries to help each player grow in your sport and as a person.

LIFE – Loving People on the Job

What about on the job or in the office?  We often spend time on the job with people who are different from us, have different views, or simply rub us the wrong way.  A great go-to source for ideas on leadership and the work world, as well as for working with teams, is John Maxwell, who mentioned on his website that someone once said, “90% of the art of living consists in getting along with people you cannot understand.”  Search John’s materials for fantastic ideas on this subject.  If nothing else, apply the 4 C’s of loving your players to other relationships as well!

FAITH – Why Should We Love?

To begin with, we are commanded throughout scripture to love other people and to learn to get along, even with people who act differently, behave differently, or believe differently than we do.  Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome (Rom. 12:18):

18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

and to the Ephesians (Eph 4:2):

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

And again to the Romans (Rom 14:1-4) he wrote:

14 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

God loves and accepts each of us – whether we have great faith or little, whether we keep all of His commands or stumble, whether we are confused or understand.  It’s my call as a coach, as a worker, as a person to do all I can to help show that love to everyone I encounter.  With God’s help, each of us can learn to love – even the difficult people!


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