Building relationships is crucial in any job, but they are extremely important in the realm of coaching. Without true relationships between a coach/player, coach/AD, coach/media, or coach/administration, there will not be any trust. Relationships are built on the foundation of trust and that trust can only be built by loving and being committed to serve others.
I am learning on a daily basis how to become a better leader and how to enhance my relationships with the people I surround myself with. I like to believe that one of my strengths as a coach is my ability to genuinely love others and make them feel comfortable talking to me. I'm a quiet person by nature, but God has given me the unique ability to relate to people and gain their trust. I look forward to the opportunities I am given to impact others simply by showing an interest in something they love.
Although many relationships are developed through servant-leadership and a display of love towards someone, most relationships are maintained through tough love. In my experience as a coach I have had to work with people in ways which they do not like. College athletes, especially basketball players, do not typically like being told that they are wrong. Many coaches will deal with an issue like this in one of two ways. 1) They will lash out at the player by yelling and insisting that they are right, or 2) They will give in to the player and let him do what he wants, even though the coach knows it will not make him a better person. In my opinion, both of those options are unwise. If we truly desire to build relationships with our players we must love them first. We need to tell them things that they don't want to hear and love them enough to show them how they can make themselves a better player and person.
There are three simple acts that we must contribute to if we truly want to build successful relationships. The three are:
1. BE AVAILABLE
As a coach this could simply be having an open door policy for a player to come into your office and talk about life. It could also be something such as offering a helping hand anytime they may need it. Reach out to others and offer your talent/knowledge to make them better. However, availability is something that we need to make an effort at. We can't always expect people to come to us when we are available. We need to go place ourselves in the world of others more often. (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:24; Ephesians 4:12)
2. BE WILLING TO LISTEN MORE
Sometimes as coaches we feel that we need to talk, talk, talk. There are times when the best thing for our team is to just listen to our players. I'm not talking about "pretending to listen" while you're actually just "waiting to talk". There is a difference between the two! Make eye contact. Truly connect. Listen for tips to run a play better. Ask them to give insight on team functions and core values. Asking questions and listening to your players is such a powerful way to build trust and ultimately build lasting relationships. (James 1:19; Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 18:13)
3. BE GENEROUS
Do something for someone without expecting anything in return. Coaches and athletes alike tend to be very stubborn and selfish people! It is human nature to look out for yourself when really we should be looking to do something for another person. It's not natural for us to want to serve others, but it is necessary to make an effort if we want to establish genuine relationships. Seek out opportunities to serve and make someone else's life better. (Acts 20:35; Matthew 6:21; 1 Corinthians 9:14)