“You’re the coach, you want to control it. Coaching is not controlling, its guiding. Change is not going to happen by me saying you have to this or you have to do that. It’s like steering a cruise ship, its going to take you a while to get there, but it takes everybody’s participation to get the ship pointed in the right direction. What I try to do, is continue to communicate our vision, and then generally nudge guys along.”
When I came across this quote by Steve Kerr, I was struck by the simplicity and brilliance of his words and thought it was a message worth sharing. He has been in the spotlight lately because his Golden State Warriors are off to a league best 36-6 start. Here are few brief ideas I took away from his words…
Coaches Empower Through Action and Non-Action
Somewhat counterintuitively, coaches believe the majority of their influence rests solely on what they say and how they behave towards their players. What Kerr is saying here, is that when we think about coaching as guiding, then our approach gives us the freedom to influence our team through non-action and the absence of words. What you decide not to say and what you decide not to do can be just as powerful as your words and actions. Many coaches focus on empowering or motivating their players by yelling or coercing their players by their words and actions, but Kerr flips this idea on its head and gives us a new way consider empowering players.
Coaching is a Chess Game
Words like, “nudge” and “participation” and “guide” stand in contrast to the way many coaches communicate with their players. Coaches can be tricked into believing that the louder and more forceful they are in making their point the better their players will respond. The best coaches seem to understand that ‘getting the ship pointed in the right direction’ takes an infinite series of minor adjustments over a long period of time. A Coach that embraces the role as a grand chess master maintains perspective in the short term and invests in relationships with his players for the long term.
Whenever Kerr is interviewed about his team he always reiterates the fact that he has great players who are teachable and willing to learn. Although I’m sure this is true, there is another side to the equation. Kerr treats his players with respect and trust; and in return they give him their attention, willingness to learn, and collective buy-in. Kerr lets go of some of his control and his return on investment returns tenfold. As with many things in life, often the more tightly we try to control it, the more difficult it becomes to see the type of results we are hoping for. Learn from Kerr’s wisdom. Letting go pays off in the long run, would you be willing to relinquish your grip on the reigns to build trust and credibility with your players?
We hope this insight from Steve Kerr resonated with you as strongly as it did with us.