As I began to grow as a coach and analyse the messages I was sending to my players, a lightbulb started to flicker as I thought about development and giving direction. I can give what I think is a great parallel as to why directing players from the sidelines is a bad idea. A while back I went to see The Kickback, one of my favourite bands who had just released a new album. During one of the shows someone shouted for them to play one of the new songs on the album. They responded by saying that the song wasn’t yet ready for a live performance, but thanked the person for supporting their new music. Why would a song they have played on an album not be ready for a live performance? I am sure that with even minimal effort I could have learned the song between the time I first heard it and the time of the concert, how can they not be able to play it?
The reason is because they have high standards of performance, and it wasn’t ready because what happens in the canned environment of a studio or practice isn’t the same as what happens in a live performance. This one of the reasons why instructing from the sidelines is detrimental to development and performance improvement. Imagine if the band were up there, they have rehearsed their song countless times but they are still not happy with it for live performance and someone starts yelling what chords to play. You think the band don’t know the chord progressions? They know what to do.
The same is true of our players when we put them on the field. We have taught them through repetition and sharing a vision of what we want to see and why. As a soccer coach, we spend hours going over drills and different tactics on the practice field. When the player hits the field they know what to do, why they are doing it, and how to execute it. Does it always go right? Of course not, but we should be able to see improvement and even if we don’t see what we are looking for, how much does yelling help anything?
There is always going to be a gap between what we want to achieve and the standard we are currently at. If there isn’t, and we think we have made it, we have missed it somewhere. No matter what the goal is, there is always another goal ahead and the reality is that our yelling and directing will only take us so far. There comes a time when we have to encourage players to make mistakes, to improve, to learn, and discover their own growth. If they keep winning because they follow instructions, eventually they will believe they are the ones getting results when the reality is they haven’t even begun to develop.
Here are the three takeaways for today:
1 – There is a difference between knowing how to do something, and being able to do it at a high level of performance.
2 – There is a difference between telling a player what to do, and coaching them to discover better ways of achieving the things that need to be done.
3 – Goals will continue to evolve, grow, take shape, redefine and move. Telling our players what to do and when doesn’t teach them how to achieve their goals, it directs them how to achieve ours.
We have choices when we develop people, whether it is kids, soccer players, team members, employees, or anyone. We can give them the goals and the tools and guide their process or we can tell them how to complete the job. One of these is development and growth, the other is obedience to a system.