Giving Them Ownership

by Ryan Krzykowski

Setting expectations — it’s a hugely important component of leading a high-quality program.  What are the various responsibilities of each stakeholder?  What is expected of coaches, of athletes, of their families?  I would guess those are questions that a high percentage of coaches give thought to and make an effort to discuss with their staff, athletes and athletes’ families.  But what about this question — who establishes those expectations in the first place?

Last month at a Coaching Life Group meeting one Head Coach shared about his team’s offseason training.  Not the lifting and running (those are really important too), but the team building and character building exercises the young men are going through together.  In particular, I was intrigued by the task he assigned them to create program expectations for coaches, players and parents.  After giving them a little guidance and some general examples, he turned them loose to create.  Understanding that their finished product might still need some sharpening and retooling, he ended up being absolutely thrilled with the lists the team put together.  One example I remember, “parents should avoid complaining about the coaches to their sons.”  It’s one thing when a coach says that at a parent meeting — one could make the argument it sounds kind of self-serving, even though many would agree it’s actually a solid idea.  But when it comes straight from the players, parents are forced to consider it differently, maybe even taking a moment for some reflection and introspection.

Hopefully it’s obvious that a team needs to be in the right place in order to take on a task like this — creating program expectations is probably not something you’d want a group of 8-year olds working on independent of adult guidance.  But even there, a conversation with a team or group of players, asking them questions about what they like about the team and what they might like to change about playing the sport if they could, can offer adults valuable insight as to how we can best serve the young athletes in our lives.  Giving them a voice, giving them an appropriate level of ownership in these processes, sends a clear message that we take them seriously and care about meeting their needs above our own.

Let’s Coach With Purpose.