CultureCoordinator Blog

Take stroll down memory lane with me and picture a coach in your life that you would have ran through the proverbial brick wall for. Why did you love that coach so much? How did he or she make you feel?

If I was sitting across a table from you listening to your answers to those questions I would hear some amazing stories about men and women who truly made a difference in your lives. Your stories would differ and have their own fascinating and unique twists and turns but one theme would stand out: Trust.

I can say with 100% certainty that the coaches you would tell me about would be coaches you trusted deeply. The #1 reason you were willing to do whatever they asked you to do was because they had built up a tremendous amount of trust.

That’s why building trust is step #1 in the Culture Coordinator System for installing your culture. You know from your own experience and the research tells us that people won’t follow you until they trust you.

In this era of social distancing building trust with your incoming athletes and their families can be a huge challenge. Hopefully, you’ve built lots of trust with your returning athletes already and this time of year is a good time to focus on incoming freshmen or transfers. Here are some ways I strive to build trust in my program along with some ideas for how to do these things while social distancing.

Share a meal and a conversation

Every spring I am very intentional about eating lunch with our 8th grade boys. I keep this simple and try not to overthink it by just sitting down at a lunch table with a group of boys and chatting with them. We talk about what they are eating, who tends to bring the best snacks, what they did yesterday, etc. The key is that we never talk about football. If they think for one second that I only care about them because they might be a football player next year I’ve probably already lost them and true trust may never be established.

We are all under different guidelines right now in terms of social distancing from our school administrators and local authorities so talking with your incoming freshmen in this way might be hard to simulate. Zoom would be challenging, but if you had some questions ready and kept the groups small you could probably get a fair amount of back and forth. Some of you may now be in a position where you could potentially gather in small groups and talk face to face while practicing social distancing. Perhaps this could be done on the practice field or at a park near school. Regardless of what you’re allowed to do, something is better than nothing right?

In home visits

Every spring I try to visit each family of incoming freshmen in their home. Families are typically eager to do this and it’s usually a great opportunity to show them I love and care about each of them. I ask all sorts of questions and answer any questions they may have for me. Again, I don’t bring up football. The conversation inevitably becomes about football, but I let them take it there.

Once again, in light of the pandemic we find ourselves in, I think Zoom could be a good alternative for this. Even better would be actually going to your player’s house and hanging out on their patio or in the yard while practicing social distancing. I think many of you could get permission to do this at this time.

Open your home to your athletes

A third way I strive to build trust with my incoming freshmen and transfers is to have them over to our house as a group or in small groups. If I’m inviting myself into their homes than I should be willing to invite them into my home, right? In the past these have been schedule to last about an hour and my agenda is to “hang out”, pray with them, and let them know I am really excited about them being a part of the program. Again, it’s mission critical that they understand I love and care about them as people and that I know their value extends far beyond their role as a player in our program.

Why building trust must come first

If you try to cast vision and rally everyone around a common cause before you have built trust your athletes can start to think, “Coach only cares about the guys who can help us win” or something to that affect. In fact, I think casting vision before I built trust was the #1 mistake I made in my first year as a head coach. The result, I was accused of not caring about everyone equally regardless of their ability to contribute. We had a handful of young men not return to the team the following year and our roster hit rock bottom in terms of numbers. Three years later our roster has nearly DOUBLED and I think a huge factor in that is that I have focused on building trust more than ever before.

What are some ideas you have for building trust before we cast vision? Put your ideas in the comment section below.

Click here to join our email subscription so you never miss posts like this one.

Join the movement of coaches committed to creating cultures that build unity, develop people, and wins games.

Join the Movement!