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The Seven Cs for Coaches to Navigate



This time of uncertainty can add stress and anxiety for many groups of people. Sports teams are groups that are especially susceptible to the added tension. This time of people staying in their homes can be particularly hard for teams because they’re used to spending so much of their day in close connection with teammates and in physical workouts.

Over the last few weeks of supporting leaders in various industries through these unprecedented times, we’ve realized there are some important concepts to be thinking about when leading people. The same is true for coaches of sports teams. My friend & colleague, Keith Hadley, has been on a lot of these client calls with me. He also happens to be a fan of author Patrick O’Brien, who’s written a bunch of maritime war novels including Master and Commander. Because of that, we labeled these important concepts the 7 C’s (like the 7 Seas). Here are the important concepts we believe leaders and coaches should be mindful of during these times:

1) Connection: This is about staying connected with your staff and players. Many coaches I know were either in the middle of their season, in preseason training, or in the middle of their off-season training. Suddenly, teams had to end their normal workouts, split up, and head home with no date for when they’d get back together. This can easily cause a feeling of isolation amongst players because their normal friend-group has been quickly and unusually disassembled. They need to feel connected to the team.

2) Communication: We often encourage leaders to “over-communicate” what’s important strategically & culturally within an organization. Now it’s even more important because so much has changed so rapidly. But not just communication over email or text, it’s important to see each other so I suggest Zoom or other similar platforms. Be intentional about this and set up a regular cadence for small and large group virtual chats. Think about these types of groupings:

- The whole team

- By position

- By year (if you’re a college coach)

- 1 on 1 meetings with the head coach and/or assistant coaches

- The captain(s)

- The captain(s) and other players (without coaches)

3) Care: Demonstrate concern for your players and assistants during this time. Each of them will be experiencing different emotions throughout this time. Some may really enjoy being home, some may not; some players may miss their teammates, some players may not as much. Realize these emotions will ebb & flow at different times for each of your players.

4) Clarity: It is critical to be clear about your expectations for them physically and mentally during this extended time on their own. Develop a plan for them to stay in shape, grow their knowledge of the game, and about being a great teammate.

5) Creativity: Get creative in how you utilize this time. Here’s a creative suggestion for you... utilize Zoom to have your players workout together in small groups and include an assistant coach or a strength trainer. Or share different workout videos between each other (perhaps utilized Microsoft Teams or a Facebook group). Send out articles, books, or podcasts and then discuss them on your virtual calls.

6) Courage: It is vital that leaders exemplify courage and admit when you don’t know certain things (like when you’ll be back together again) and voice any concerns you may have during this time. Your players and assistants want to hear you embrace your own humanity as you all go through this.

7) Confidence: As we navigate this unprecedented time, in addition to the courage to be vulnerable, leaders need to display confidence in that fact you will overcome this. Rest assured, if you’re intentional about staying connected with your team, you should be confident about leading your team through something none of us has ever experienced before.

As leaders, we have to lead during a time or situation we didn’t anticipate. Until now, we generally thought those times were limited to situations like our star player suffering a season-ending injury or the death of a player’s family member. However, this is a global situation with an ambiguous ending. I hope the 7 C’s help you find your way through this unprecedented time.

Please let me know any tips that have been successful for you at: james.felton@tablegroupconsulting.com

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© 2020 by James Felton Consulting.