In reading the classic leadership book The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posner, I came across this gem:
If leaders wish to get the best from others, they must:
- search for or create opportunities for people to outdo themselves
- find opportunities for people to solve problems, make discoveries, explore new ground, reach difficult goals or figure out how to deal with some external threat
- make work responsibilities fun
Though this book is directed toward business professionals, we can certainly glean wisdom that applies to coaching.
Creating opportunities for people to outdo themselves speaks to consistently putting your players in positions where they can succeed. Align their responsibilities both on and off the court with their skill set and even their temperament. Keep those skill sets in mind when creating offensive or defensive schemes.
This isn’t to say that athletes can’t work on areas of weakness, but if you want them to outdo themselves give them ample opportunities to operate out of their natural gifts and strengths.
The second point reflects the human need for challenge. Even those of us who struggle with fear have that place deep down inside that wonders if we have what it takes. If you want the best from your players, inspire them to reach for higher goals. Ask for their input as to how they would counter an opponent’s defense. Teach them skills to face and overcome adversity.
Lastly, keep it fun! When your athletes started in their sport, they did it because it was fun. Reigniting that enjoyment will keep them motivated. What games can you insert in practice (especially later in the season when routines become stale)? What goofy team traditions do you practice (the Lady Lions have a birthday remix song that the birthday girl has to dance to)?