During my career, I had the opportunity to play the game for a wide variety of coaches. Having been raised by my all-time favorite coach (my father), I was taught from an early age to pay close attention to all my coaches and always respect their authority. Through my experiences, I have compiled a list of five things that every player wants from his coach. This list is given from a player's perspective and is meant to help coaches connect with their players and hopefully earn their respect, which in my opinion is the only way to get the most out of a team!
1) Take an interest in me personally
This stems from the saying, “I don't care how much you know until I know how much you care.” By no means am I saying that coaches should be best friends with their players. Players want to know they are more than just a number on a roster, that you really have their best interests at heart. Never underestimate the impact of asking one of your guys how his day is going or how his family is doing. These conversations lead to trust, which is key if you are looking to get your guys to fully buy in.
2) Help me play better
Sounds simple, but this is a fundamental desire of every worker from their boss. It has been my experience that the best coaches are not just the ones who have great leadership and people skills, but they are also gifted in teaching the game. This is essential to earning a players’ respect. If you can take the time to help me learn my craft, then I will run through a wall for you.
3) Communicate my role to me
In my opinion, this is in an area where the best truly shine. I have seen so many coaches shy away from giving players specifics about what their role on the team is. The reality is that coaches who do the best job of communicating to their players what their roles are and letting them know when those roles change have the best chance of fostering good clubhouse chemistry. Remember no news is worse than bad news! I would rather know that I have been benched than to walk in to the locker room everyday not knowing what my role is.
4) Put me in positions to succeed
One way to win your players’ respect is to have an understanding of their strengths. The best example of this from my career occurred when I was playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2008. Bob Melvin was our manager, and I was having a terrible offensive season and was not playing that often. We were on the road playing a division rival and right before the game, he sought me out on the bench and asked me if I knew what my numbers were against a certain reliever, and “if that guy even stands up in the bullpen I want you to grab a bat!” Immediately my confidence was boosted. In one conversation, he showed me that he cared about me, that he was supremely prepared, that he believed in me and that he wanted me to succeed. As you can imagine, after that exchange Bob Melvin had just earned my unwavering trust and respect!
5) Walk the walk
Every coach has his core principles that he tries to instill in his team. While it is important to have these principles and to stress these principles to your players, the most important thing is that you live out these principles yourself. I can't tell you how many managers I have seen yell at players for not hustling yet they bring no energy to the field either. They tell their players to respect the umpires and not let bad calls effect their play, yet they are constantly "loosing it" on the umpires. They stress great physical condition and good eating habits, yet they haven't lifted a weight or eaten a salad since the end of their career. The point is players will follow your lead, either good or bad. The best leaders I have played for never asked me to do anything they weren't already doing. Remember actions speak louder than words!