Many adults can reflect on their youth and recall a coach that hurt their feelings or even crushed a dream. In his TEDxReno talk, Bill Eckstrom shares how he moved onward after such a crushing and how he used the experience to develop a business for helping coaches become transformative – in the best way.
The behavioral choices of coaches will either propel or inhibit the growth of their student-athletes. If a coach chooses to view success only through a lens of winning, their relationships will always and only be transactional. If a coach sees success by how they impact the overall experience of a student-athlete, that coach can become transformational. When winning defines success, transactional coaches can compromise standards, and what is actually most important to overall athlete development is neglected. When creating a positive experience becomes most important, transformational coaches will put relationships at the forefront, creating a safe psychological environment is foundational, and success is measured beyond victories.
So, does Bill think that winning doesn’t matter?
He explains that the adage that ‘winning isn’t important’ is ridiculous because winning and losing are the measuring sticks of competition. Setting goals that aim to win is even crucial. But did you know that 98% of teams go home without a championship victory? Does that mean that 98% of student-athletes are failures? Of course, not.
So, should coaches be soft on student-athletes?
Pushing and encouraging athletes in a healthy way are needed behaviors that enhance the experience. However, creating the kind of environment with psychological safety can encourage student-athletes to share things big and small, from a sore muscle to something more consequential, like their mental health.
Bill shares research that analyzed a coach’s effect on the student-athlete experience. The data revealed six behavioral themes that shed light on a coach’s impact, including communication, challenge, structure, skill development, connection and psychological safety. The research showed that two of the themes – connection and psychological safety – are most foundational to creating a positive experience and the differential between transactional and transformational coaching.
Many coaches are unaware of the level of psychological safety in their environment. They likely all want their student-athletes to feel safe. The student-athlete experience will only improve if the team is led by a coach who improves. If coaches want to be difference-makers, it is imperative for them to connect with their athletes.
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The TEDxReno Team