One of the most valuable lessons I learned from Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” is the Principle of the Emotional Bank Account. Covey teaches that in all relationships there is an emotional bank account that we can either make deposits or withdrawals by our words and our actions. Each communication we have with someone is going to lead to one or the other and it is up to us to make sure we are leaving withdrawals.
This is a philosophy that has served me well, not just with players but with other coaches, boosters, alumni, media and members of the athletic department. As a coach, I am very demanding on players — I am not the most patient coach in regard to teaching the game. The ability to build up emotional bank accounts with student-athletes is very important. Even in being demanding, you can make deposits by being positive in your approach.
One of the most important things I’ve learned from Coach Don Meyer is that is not what I say to the player that counts, it is what they heard. And that in itself is a great clue to a coaches approach. On those moments when I am demanding of a player, I want to make sure that the player knows that the fact that I am demanding something of her is compliment to what I think she can do. I must believe in her abilities if I am pushing her to take it to another level. Probably the most important part of this is the follow up conversation. Anytime I have had to really get after a student-athlete in practice, I want to make sure that I have a follow up conversation with her. In the heat of the moment, either a game or a practice, I don’t want the player to be confused and what I meant by what I said.
“It’s not what you say that counts…it’s what they heard.”
I may grab a the player after the game or practice and go over the message again — in a more calmly fashion. I may write her a note, send her an email or text her to make sure that she understands. I may do it in front of the team after the game or before the next practice.
An example: Player A is not working hard in the post for us on the offensive end. She’s standing, not posting and sealing and generally clogging up the lane for us. In the heat of the game during a timeout I might be a little harsh with her and tell her she needs to start working harder on the offensive end because it is hurting our offense. I might tell she needs to start getting a better piece of the paint and holding her seal a little longer. And I might finish with, “you’ve got about two minutes elevate your game or we will need to give someone else a shot.”
Maybe after the game in the locker room, in front of the team, I’ll want to compliment her for “picking it up.” But more importantly, explain why. I might say something like:
“Wow! You really made a difference in our offense when you went to work down low. Even when you didn’t touch the ball your movement occupied the help and got us some great looks for your teammates. I’m not sure you realize how important you are to our success when you play like that or extended periods of time.”
I might follow that up the next day with specific video clips. What’s important is that I just can’t criticize the player for her lack of effort or execution. I must tell her why it’s important to her and her teammates. I must make sure that I compliment her when she does perform well. And the video is a visual reinforcement — another form of making a deposit into her emotional bank account.
It is also important to know that some players need more deposits than others but note that all players need deposits at some time. I used to think that there were some players that were special, understood and therefore didn’t need deposits at all — untrue. All players need to the positive reinforcement.