As coaches, we need to realize that our kids each respond differently to different interactions. I understand that some coaches believe in positive or negative interactions to get a charge out of their kids. Motivation, and even developing a good relationship with any of our players, goes much further than that.
I’ve been doing some reflecting and I came across a book called the Five Love languages. I haven’t read the entire book, but I think there is some application. Now, this may seem corny to some, but I think it has some merit for us as coaches.
The Five Love Languages
The five love languages, according to the book (written for both spouses and someone’s children), are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
Now, obviously, some of these are easier said than others in a coaching setting.
Physical touch may seem inappropriate at first glance, but a high five or a fist bump could be more than enough, and it’s obviously something that both parties would agree to in order to execute (both coach and player), making it okay.
Acts of service and gifts may seem hard too, especially given “bounty gate” in regards to gifts. However, I’m a strong believer that a hand written note can be a gift, or a text message if you’d prefer that (Hudl can help you with making that easy). Breaking down film of practice and giving the analysis to the kid one on one may work too.
An act of service might include working on a highlight film. Maybe it’s helping a kid with getting the gear setup properly. Going out of your way to show them a specific technique for a minute or two after practice can be seen as an act of service as well. Defending a kid who is being picked on (by either a coach or a player), even if it’s funny (a good way to ease up a destabilizing situation) can go a long way.
Finally, some of the five love languages may seem easy. For instance, words of affirmation and quality time may be two of the harder languages. You need to be careful with your words if you want to develop a relationship with the kids. It’s easy to say great job (and not enough of us do that). However, these kids may be hurt worse if you correct them, even in a good tone. Be careful when you know kids respond to words the most.
In addition, quality time is tough because we lead our own lives outside of football, and so do the kids. Also, being alone with a kid is seen by many as inappropriate (for good reason especially given terrible tragedies that have come up recently), even if you are breaking down film. Try texting them, or talking to them one on one as you go back to the building after practice.
Now, you may laugh at this post, but I believe that each kid is unique, as is our relationship with each of our athletes. It’s hard to figure some of this out (plenty of spouses never figure it out). However, I encourage you to keep a note-card if you’re struggling to remember, and mark the things you do. Keep track of how you’re developing that relationship with your players. The note-card system can be really helpful if you have a large program, where you have lots of coaches over each year of the program. They can share there notes and make sure that every relationship can be maximized.
Conclusions on the 5 Love Languages
Finally, you may say that you shouldn’t “love” your players and that’s what the book is for. Regardless of what you call it, most of us want to have a strong relationship the players we coach. That’s what this is about. So maybe these languages don’t work for you, but hopefully that get you thinking about new ways to develop the relationship with your players.
For others, the five love languages may work well. Don’t stop there. Try to find other things that can build and enhance the trust between yourself and the players. They’ll only continue to work harder as a result, and both sides will get more out of football.