Friday, September 26, 2014

Coaching and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Always learning.

Some coaches think their only job and concern is the sport they coach.  They're wrong.  Soccer is the last component of the job.

Is you show up with balls and cones, deliver a session then forget about your group until the next session,  any success or enjoyment will be short lived.

I've always known that, but, for some reason, I am finding myself learning new things as our Niagara College Knights soccer season progresses.

Knowing your player has been a big message for coaches the last ten years.   We've been dealing with the usual items that would involve players at the college age.  Let's put ourselves in LTPD mode and review the "Soccer for Life" development stage and what we know about this age group in this situation:
  • Potential social issues being new to college life and heavy into a sport before school even begins
  • For some, away from home for first time
  • Living away from parents, not always eating or sleeping as they should
  • Potential relationship issues
  • Potential family issues back home causing distractions
  • Potential financial issues
  • Pressures of academics for those in tougher courses
  • Commitment to club teams that are still in progress
  • Unable to manage time with academics and athletics.  Not realizing their title is "Student-Athlete" and not "Athlete"
At this age it's very easy to become insecure, especially if you were a very central part of your youth team and arrive to a program where everybody was a big wheel on their club team. It doesn't take much to feel
disconnected or disenfranchised, especially if the team wins and you aren't dressed or don't get on the field.  The players may think we don't think about that, but we talk about it all the time.

These all come into play, all the time.  And you can't be heartless about them or you will fail.
"Are they emotionally, mentally, socially and physically equipped and prepared to do what they do best in front of their peers?"
Now let's talk about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and how they apply to coaching.

Physiological Needs

This is something we think about all the time, especially for the out of town players.  Last year we were playing a top team and giving them big problems.  Our one striker shut down all at once, asked to come off and admitted he had not eaten anything since breakfast because he was busy at school.  He was an out of town student and this was a 7pm game.  We started bringing some extra food on bus trips and checked in with them before home games.  Anything to do with soccer? no.  Anything to do with coaching a college program?  Yes.

What about their living situation?  Can they sleep properly?  Is it clean?  Secure? Warm?

Other issues include getting the out of town players to doctors, dentists, physio, etc.

Let's review the needs and how they build on one another.

Safety and Security

I will be old fashioned enough to say I worry about our female players and make sure everybody has a ride back to where they are going.  But physical safety is not the only type of safety.  Players need to feel safe enough to approach us about anything and know they will not be dismissed.  Some can attest that in certain situations the college has mobilized all of it's resources in helping a student get through a rough spot.

One player told me last week that they were afraid of making a mistake for fear of not dressing.  THAT was a big learning moment for me.  Even though we haven't done that to anybody, the fact that she said it means we have to do better at ensuring they know that.

Can somebody feel safe and secure if their Physical Needs aren't met?  Try to tell somebody who is hungry and tired that everything will be alright and see how your are received.

Love and Belonging

Does every player feel part of the team?  They all get clothing, pictures taken, access to the same services, invited to parties, etc.  But is that enough?

Do we point them out at good moments in front of their peers?  Do we acknowledge their frustrations and treat #20 the same as #1?  We reflect on this often and we work hard to never forget, but in the thick of the action forgetting can be easy.

Do we address language barriers that might be more prevelant on soccer than other sports?

Is anybody being minimized or bullied?  That will affect their sense of belonging AND their security.

From the day I started coaching until the day I die, I will maintain and preach that coaching is about love.

Can somebody feel loved and feel like they belong somewhere if they aren't Safe and Secure?  Think abut stories people tell about somebody with emotional "baggage" who will not let anybody get close to them.

Self Esteem

Does your player have the confidence to walk on the field and play?  Have they achieved anything recently to build confidence and keep them moving forward? Even at training.

Are they confident enough to stay true to themselves and be a member of our team?  Are they confident enough to step forward and show "this is what I can do and I want to use it to help the squad."

Can a player feel confident if they don't feel like they Belong?

Self Actualization

Will a player truly reach their individual potential and that of a member of a collective if the previous four needs have not been met?

Are they emotionally, mentally, socially and physically equipped and prepared to do what they do best in front of their peers?  Are they prepared to make a mistake in front of their peers and know they have the support to try it again?  if not, will you ever see their best?

To try and mitigate the effects of some of the facets of a student's life, the college equips our programs (and the entire college environment) with the tools necessary to carry out the mission.

  • Two weeks ago all student-athletes were in a two hour session reviewing many of the schools services and offering advice on time management, studying, note taking etc.  (They were fed so they didn't have to worry about dinner that night.)  
  • They are all given meal allowances to eat on the road.  
  • Breakfast program Tuesdays and Thursdays
  • Athletics and Recreation are proactive when we see ANY sign of a student-athlete slipping in their academics.   
  • Our director has made inroads with all departments at Niagara College.  When the student half of the student-athlete needs something, phone calls get returned quickly.  
  • The doors of the Director and Co-ordinator are open at all times for student-athletes to sit down if they need something.
  • By funding and presenting individual training opportunities, the student-athletes know that the school wants them to succeed, as an individual.
  • The list is long
If you want to think about the scoreboard, think about this ... you cannot possibly get 100% out of your student-athlete (in school or sports) if anything in their life if pecking away at them in the back ground.

Let's take this down to a youth team.

A parent just rushed home from work, threw their 13-year-old son in the car with no dinner, yelled at them the entire drive to 6pm training and told them they will get something to eat afterwards.  Are you going to have their full attention and/or efforts tonight?  Are they fed? Are they happy? Feel good about themselves?

A girl on your team has a few extra pounds and you poke at her for being last in the running all the time.  Does she feel secure?  Loved?  Belonging to the group?  How is she going to play tonight?

You give a kid one chance to do something right, then yank them off the field.  How is their self esteem?  Do they feel loved?  Secure?  How will they produce the next time they go on?  Will they be creative?

You have a big mouth with a my-way-or-the-highway mentality.  (You know who you are.)  One of your players has a brilliant idea.  Will they ever feel comfortable enough to share it with you? 

Are your needs as a coach satisfied?  Are you afraid to lose because of parental pressures?  Are you tired and hungry from a rushed day before training?  Overall, do you take care of yourself?  What kind of coach will you be tonight for your players?

As a coach, teacher, employer, you can't control what happens to to people you deal with when you aren't together, but you can have a very positive (or negative) effect on all layers of the pyramid.