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Building Vocal Leaders

No matter how long you have been coaching, at one point you have probably had a team that was on the quieter side. Even those who seem to be the strongest leaders might have trouble speaking up. For a coach, this can become tiresome as you pick up the slack of creating team accountability. But how can you get athletes to speak up without pushing them further into their shell?

According to an article for FastModel Sports by Stephanie Zonars, owner of the business Life Beyond Sports, having leaders who are too quiet can be detrimental to a team in multiple ways. First, it can wear out the coach, as he or she will be constantly responsible for the entire team’s accountability. Second, coaches aren’t able to be everywhere at once and won’t be able to stop all negative behaviors. You need someone who can be in the locker room and the classroom to make sure athletes actions are reflecting and building a championship culture.

However, if you have leaders who are able to use their voices, your team will become more successful both on the playing field and off. In her article, Zonars offers multiple tips on helping athletes find their voices. It starts with teaching them to give encouragement to other players. Many athletes might be worried about calling out their teammates for negative behaviors for fear of being disliked or seeming bossy. Giving positive remarks is much easier.

“Have a manager keep track of verbal encouragement exchanged in a practice,” writes Zonars. “Find ways to reward players for using their voices. As you know, loud practices are more intense, and positive energy creates momentum!”

Part of teaching athletes to give constructive criticism or point out negative behaviors is giving them the confidence to do so. As Zonars explains, one reason why athletes might not do this is because they are afraid of being wrong, sounding stupid, or making their teammates angry. One way to help them get over this is to have them do it in small doses at practices or team meetings, and build up their self-assurance over time.

“Perhaps sharing an opinion when they know their teammates will disagree,” writes Zonars. “Or practicing confronting a behavior privately instead of calling it out in front of the whole group. Remind them that the goal is progress not perfection. Stay patient and supportive.”

Next, Zonars says it is important for athletes to know that being a team leader means that they have the authority to call players out for a lackadaisical attitude or making a bad decision. She suggests helping them understand and believe this by bringing the team together and making it known that these leaders have your permission to be vocal. This will help give them confidence to speak up and also help them be less worried about a possible backlash from teammates.

Last, one of the best ways to implement a behavior is to give encouragement when something is done right. Zonars recommends paying close attention to these athletes and making sure to celebrate when they do make an effort to use their voices. Even if it doesn’t turn out the way they were expecting, letting them know that their efforts are noticed and are moving in the right direction can help them to be more confident when speaking up in the future.

“Rather than constantly harping on them when they miss an opportunity to speak, notice the times that they do,” writes Zonars. “That kind of encouragement will spur them on to keep growing.”

“You’re positioned for incredible influence in your players’ lives!” she continues. “Making time to help your team leaders become confident vocal leaders equips them with a life skill that will reap dividends for the rest of their lives.”

Click here to read the whole article.

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