I’m noticing a trend with my fellow coaches — a concern about “digital.”
I’m hearing coaches express, like in my coaching survey, that they worry about troubles with recruiting, and degrading relationships. They are feeling challenged with ways to improve and take their sports coaching to the next level. Could digital be to blame?
What happens in the outside world impacts our coaching. This is especially true with how digitalized our world is becoming. We use and rely more and more on digital products and services.
Those products and services impact people – like in the way we communicate — and that has a direct impact on our coaching.
The thing is, problems arise when we coaches don’t see the digital-impact. And when we don’t notice something it’s hard to respond or change our coaching.
Like when I assumed team members were reading my emails. In reality they had ditched email, and had moved on to texting, and other platforms like GroupMe. So I’m emailing like crazy, thinking they are receiving my messages — which they aren’t. And they are waiting for me to send them important info by text — which I wasn’t.
I didn’t even know about this disconnect until one of the athletes knocked on my door. We had the youngster-to-oldster-social-media-talk.
There’s Good And Bad
Now, I know the digital-impact is not all negative — there are positives. For instance, here’s a list of positives I came up with:
- instant feedback from video for practices and competitions
- real time results
- improved registering for events
- live streaming of action through social media (like Periscope)
- data processing and quick sharing of info to groups (Google Docs)
- seamless communication with recruits (FrontRush)
- locating quick solutions to a problem (like Amazon Kindle books)
- knowing the weather forecast immediately (I use WXsentry. You?)
- getting information in a method you prefer (such as podcasts)
- spectator comfort (like Super Bowl 50)
And there’s more, which leads me to say there is a strong positive impact of digital on coaching. But there’s also a significant downside to the digital-impact as well:
- making difficult conversations “avoidable” (quitting by text)
- anonymous social media
- hair-trigger on emails, that seem to skip the “thinking part”
- a haunting long tail (your mistakes on the web live on)
- stalking (the tracking of email openings, such as where, when, how many times … programs used by college admissions)
- there is NO privacy, and no being anonymous
- weird little pressure (the nagging annoyance of your phone always beckoning you)
- you can find anything at anytime (good), and think it is the right thing (bad)
- when your data goes down, or away, then what do you do?
- the complexity of simple (I just heard a coach say, “If we can put men on the moon, why can’t we get my wifi to work.”)
- your day is never done
Make Room For Digital
Months, weeks, even days ago, enough digital products/services didn’t exist or weren’t used enough to have an impact. But yesterday we reached a tipping point.
Super Bowl 50 was played in the most technologically advanced stadium ever, where spectators didn’t have to leave their seats to order food, and coaches didn’t need to leave the bench, to coach the game. Techiest Super Bowl ever.
Humans are slow to make changes to the impact of technology. As Martha Beck wrote, “human technology changes many orders of magnitude faster than human biology.” I think that goes double for coaches.
But coaches need to adapt — because human engagement is critical to what we do. If a coach doesn’t adapt, the coach and her coaching will suffer. The problem with adapting is when and how do we do it. Let me share a recent example from my coaching.
At our College we host several recruiting events during the year. The recruits come to campus on Friday, visit admissions, tour the campus, view practice. Then on Saturday morning they see practice again, have breakfast with the team. It’s a full experience that takes quite a bit of investment.
A few hours before a recent event we received a cryptic email from a recruit,” I cannot attend. Something has come up.” That was it. No other information. No apology. No reschedule attempt.
I know things come up on short notice requiring plans to change. However, in this case, the expectation was a more personalized (and more thoughtful) communication. In the past, I would be quick to remove this person from our recruit list.
But as I noted in last Friday’s Coach Zap, I’m reading Reclaiming Conversations: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. The author, Shelly Turkle goes into great detail on the negative impact that smartphone use is having on people — specifically changing the way young people are learning to communicate. She noted research indicating youngsters, who are heavy smartphone users, have reduced empathy and reduced communication skills (among other impacts).
I gave the recruit the benefit of the doubt. I called her coach and was told she was a good kid, but just doesn’t communicate well. I think, reflecting on Turkle’s info, it was a case of negative digital-impact influencing the way she communicated.
Action You Can (and should) Take
Here’s the message I’m trying to drive home … the world around us is quickly changing. Our increasing digital use is having an impact. Some (notice some not all) of the impact is negative, and will challenge you as a coach, and impact your coaching effectiveness.
So what do you do? Well:
- the coach who can recognize the impact (positive or negative) and adapt improves the odds of being successful. Look around and see what digital-impact is happening to you, and your coaching. It’s what you need to do.
- the speed of change of digital is increasing. Not only in the arrival of new products but in the acceptance/dependence of digital in coaching and sports. It might be better to adapt than fight it.
- help me help you (and other coaches). Can you spare three minutes to answer 7 quick questions about how digital is impacting your coaching? If so, I’ll send you a free copy of my next book, Build Your Team, and, of course, share the results of the survey with you.
You and your coaching are impacted by digital. Each day that impact increases. Our coach-choice is how we are going to respond. Just keep in mind, coaching is a human thing. We need you to coach well — digitally and otherwise. We really do.