With the season getting underway, one of the most fascinating topics of conversation seems to revolve around the idea of "player roles". Having been around the game for a long time, I have never seen a player that has ever exaggerated what their coach wants them to do...
I think it is pretty understandable that players are more likely to talk about the role that they want to have, rather than the role that they are likely to have. Although I'm sure it has happened, I don't typically hear players bragging in a group of their peers about the fact that the only way they are going to get on the floor is if someone gets into foul trouble.
Having coached, I do understand the difficult situations that go into explaining player roles, but I do believe that those conversations can be some of the most valuable things you do each year.
I had a conversation with one of my mentors a few months ago and we were talking about leadership qualities. He said something that stuck with me.
"I care more about being honest than I care about your feelings."
He followed up that statement by saying that it wasn't that he didn't care about how others felt, he just valued being honest more. When I think about that comment, I think about the many awkward situations where I chose a player's feelings over being honest with them.
As a coach, I don't think it takes very long before you are put in a situation where you have to chose being honest or giving a safer, much more passive answer. For me, I often times wanted to blame the lack of understanding on the player. I couldn't understand how an "obvious" role player didn't understand their role.
But when I thought about it...did I ever really explain to them what we needed them to do? Or did I simply hope that they would figure it out because I wanted to avoid an awkward conversation?
When you think about it...if we truly care about these players, why wouldn't we want to be honest with them? We spend so much time trying to game plan and prepare our team or program for success, and yet we seem to avoid slightly-awkward, but simple conversations.
When you break it down like that, it doesn't make a whole lotta sense.
My goal today would be to encourage you to build strong(er) relationships with your players. When players understand that you care, they are much more likely to listen. They might not agree with you, but that's okay. As long as the conversation gets started.
And when you build those relationships, wanting to be honest with them less of an option and more of a necessity.