February can be a particularly cruel month for basketball coaches. There may even be thoughts of, “When is this season going to end?” While discussing the season – coaches may lament “We are young.” Or “We just don’t have the leadership.” Or “Kids have changed!”
One helpful reminder is: It’s never too late to create a better story. Coaches wear many hats though perhaps the most important one is – chief storyteller. With social media, outsized expectations, and unhealthy parental involvement – I believe there has never been a more difficult time to coach. Knowing this – it’s crucial coaches control their team’s narrative and clearly communicate their intended story. Young coaches, especially, be mindful of the stories you are sharing. One thing you can count on – if you’re NOT telling your team’s story – someone else will.
Seasons – like a story – are rich with characters, conflicts, and suspense. According to author Don Miller, what makes a compelling story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. The bigger the conflict, the better the story! In today’s age – stories are told in many ways – though mostly nonverbal. Some research points that less than 10% of how we communicate is with the actual words we speak.
It is a fruitful exercise to reflect, asking, “What’s my team’s story? Is it compelling? How am I sharing it? What compelling stories am I telling about my players? Is my team’s story told mostly through the press, social media, or simply by answering the question, “Hey, how’s the season going?”
Social media and intentional verbal responses are two effective communication vehicles coaches can leverage. Coach Mike McAndrews @CM_hoopsCoach, coach Steve Norgrove @SCcougarnation, and coach Brian Sopata @bmsopata are examples of coaches telling great stories via social media. From an administrative level, athletic director Brian Gordon @BgordonBrian is a master at showcasing his programs. Furthermore, coach George Ward is a pro at verbal communication – often advocating for his players to be recognized.
At the collegiate level, Oakland Women’s Basketball Coach, Jeff Tungate @CoachTungate – more than his social media- is a “rising tide” coach, who lifts all in his program. Upon watching a practice or a brief conversation one sees a servant leader who empowers his staff, believes in his players, stays connected with alumni, and has an undeniable commitment to Oakland University. Everything Coach Tungate communicates “tells a story” of strong culture and gratitude.
Players deserve to be part of a great story – a story that they will never forget. I have been working on my story, too. I believe there has never been more dysfunction, anxiety, and stress in the world of sports, what I do is help teams provide clarity, create an Elite Journey game plan, and live a better story.
Remember – it’s never too late to create a better story for you or your team. I am looking forward to connecting with more coaches, seeing more games, and learning from all the great coaches who are living great stories. May you all win a lot of games in March!!!