Just recently I asked hundreds of coaches a simple question, “What is one thing you are struggling with, right now, in your coaching?”
Maybe you were asked. Possibly you responded.
The most common reply I got was, “I struggle with getting the athletes to do the hard work.” That’s a struggle every coach, every leader, every parent, every teacher has.
I’ve been scratching my head on this for a few days, and a few thoughts came to mind.
People Need To Be Sold
An athlete who needs to do the hard work has to be SOLD on the idea that doing the hard work is a good thing. A great thing. A super-duper thing that will benefit him.
Growing up in western North Carolina, I saw many people doing hard work. Some were along the road, chains around their legs, with armed guards making sure the work got done. Those prisoners were sold on the idea that they had to do the hard work just to survive.
But that strong-armed type of selling won’t work on athletes. They need different selling. Smarter selling.
They need to be sold on the idea so well that they will go past The Resistance, and do the work.
Author Steven Pressfield, a great writer, promotes a reason why people won’t do the hard work. He calls it The Resistance.
According to Pressfield, The Resistance is the universal nemesis of every artist or entrepreneur, and I would add athlete.
The Resistance is also known as laziness, jealousy, fear, anger, self-doubt, self-sabotage, self-conceit, self-satisfaction. It keeps humans from doing what needs to be done to get to the next level.
Where does it come from, this Resistance? Inside the person. And it is often so strong that to overcome The Resistance it takes more than just the athlete and the coach.
You’re Selling The Wrong Person
Here’s a secret, when The Resistance is strong, you’ll need help selling the athlete on the idea of doing the hard work. As a matter of fact, you, Coach, may be the LEAST EFFECTIVE sales person in this whole process.
Here’s an example. Take Aveda, the maker of natural skin and body products. Before they make a sale to an individual, like me, there are many other sales that have to happen before I even think of opening my wallet.
- The workers at their home office have to be sold
- The guys in the warehouses have to be sold
- Their financial advisor has to be sold
- Same with their investors, marketing agency, distributor
… and dozens of other people have to be sold on how great their products are, before I will make my purchase. The least important person in this selling process is the sales clerk. So why is it any different for coaches?
Who Needs To Be Sold?
Who else needs to be sold before an athlete can overcome The Resistance and do the hard work? Let’s take the college world of sports:
- Athletic Director
- Athletic Trainers
- Fellow coaches
- Athletes parents
- Support staff
- Student Affairs
- Health center
- And, of course, you
If any of those folks aren’t sold that the athlete needs to do hard work then the chance quickly diminish of the athlete ever being sold.
In business terms, it becomes a bottle neck. Here’s an example:
Years ago, one of my better rowers came to my office and told me she couldn’t row for several weeks, maybe never again. She had gone to the school’s health center for a sore throat and was asked, “Do you ever have shortness of breath, get light-headed, feel exhausted, get nauseated, sweat profusely?”
Her response was, “Yeah, sure, everyday.”
The nurse jumped up with a really worried look on her face. A doctor was called in. A battery of invasive tests were immediately ordered.
The athlete was ordered to do no strenuous activity until all tests had been completed (weeks and weeks of tests).
Here’s the thing, that’s how a human feels when doing hard workouts. The rower tried to explain that to the doctor, but to no avail.
The nurse and doctor had never been athletes, had no reference point, and had never been sold on the benefits (and effects) of the hard physical work.
Your job of selling the athlete on the idea he or she needs to work hard will be INFINITELY easier once those around the athlete are sold on the idea.
And If That Still Doesn’t Make A Difference
If their sales job, and your sales job, doesn’t make a difference, then what? Well …
- Maybe you’re wasting your time with that athlete
- Maybe someone else who is a better salesperson needs to be brought in
- Maybe those you think are already sold (the athlete’s teammates) aren’t really sold
Not easy stuff, that.
Where Are We Right Now?
Have I sold you on this idea? Does this spark any thoughts?
This particular challenge is a tough part of coaching, and I’d venture that it’s a tough part of being a coach.
If you’d like, we can continue the conversation over on FB, or send me an email. I’d be very interested to hear what you think. In the meantime, find Pressfield’s The War of Art, and dig in. It might help you make some sales!