Motivating Players through Empowerment

Chris Ballard penned an article titled “The Hoops Whisperer” in the October 26, 2009 Sports Illustrated about basketball trainer Idan Ravin. In it, Ballard writes:

“Failure to understand a player’s psyche is a flaw Ravin sees in the disciplinarian style of some coaches. Rather than empowering a player, they strip him of his authority. ‘At the end of the workout, I’ll give players the option to run,’ explains Ravin. ‘I’ll say, I think you’ve got more in you, but it’s your choice.’ They’ll always run if you present the option in a fair way. And then when they’re done, I’ll say, I’m impressed with you. I think you have half a tank of gas left. I think it’d be great if you did another one. And they’ll say, ‘Really?’ And they’ll do it. Players want to be part of the process.”

Now, Ravin works with NBA players, and coaching children differs. However, young players will often surprise you. Last week, with 15 minutes left in practice, I asked the team what they thought they needed to practice. Two girls said, “Running. We get too tired in the drills.”

Players run much harder when they choose the extra conditioning than if they view it as punishment.

The best coaches really understand their players and their psyches. Ballard’s article portrays Ravin’s ability to read and understand his players even though he has no significant playing experience. The ability to read and understand players is often more important than one’s knowledge or experience.

The old axiom is true: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Empowering players and showing concern for players beyond their ability to help the coach win games shows the players that you care.

By Brian McCormick
Founder, 180 Shooter

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