Influencing The Influencers
By Wes Simmons
We’ve been helping coaches implement the 3Dimensional Coaching philosophy for many years now, and it’s having a powerful impact. Katie Gremar, a high school soccer coach in Illinois, shares part of her transformational journey below:
Anna* was new to the soccer team. She was a standout athlete, and she knew it. She had amazing speed and found a niche as a starting defender who could help us win games. In short, she was an influencer and it appeared that her influence would be a great asset to the team.
As the soccer season began, things went well. However, after we lost a few games she started becoming negative. Her negativity was compounded by the fact that, as a defender, she wasn’t able to score any goals. Her negative tone quickly began pulling the rest of the team down to her level. Half of the girls were terrified of her while the other half just loyally followed her so as not to risk her wrath.
In one of those early season losses, she simply gave up midway through the game. I pulled her off the field and sat her on the bench. I told her, “Come and talk to me when you are ready to go back in.” She put on her warm-ups and just sat there.
One of the captains came up to me and asked, “Can Anna go back in the game?”
“Yes,” I said. “But Anna needs to come talk to me first before she goes back in.” The captain went to take the message to Anna, but Anna shut her down. She had no regard for authority or her teammates.
The drama continued. A few games later, Anna ran her mouth on the bus so I benched her for the following game. To say she didn’t respect me would be a HUGE understatement. It came to the point where Anna didn’t talk to me and I simply ignored her (as long as she worked hard). The problem was, she stopped working hard! I had to address it.
She was obviously lacking motivation, and because I didn’t have any 2nd dimension strategies, I tried to deal with her 2nd dimension issues in the 1st dimension. All I knew to do was punish her lack of effort by making her do sprints. Because soccer is a team sport, I decided to make the entire team do the sprints. Needless to say, I was nobody’s friend by the end of that season. As I thought about the next year, all I could do was PRAY that she would not come out for soccer again. She was a great player, but I was at a loss about how to handle her behavior.
“How does it feel to be coached by me?”
The following summer, I read Joe Ehrmann’s InSideOut coaching book and transformation began to take place in MY heart. While the entire book was excellent, the one thing that really struck me was the part that challenged me to think about this haunting question. Quite frankly, I didn’t like the answers I came up with. I was treating 3rd dimension issues, almost exclusively, with 1st dimension solutions. Although I said I loved my players and that I wanted them to be more than just athletes, in reality I didn’t model it. This was especially true with the ones who were tough to love (like Anna).
The next school year got started and I was eager to begin transforming my team. Part of my plan was to attend at least one off-season event for each of my players. I wanted them to know that they mattered to me in the off-season as much as they do during the season. Anna played another sport in the off-season as well, so I went to a game to cheer her on.
I texted her after the game to congratulate her on her performance, and her response was surprisingly positive! I decided to go to another game and we talked some more. Our relationship was improving, but I was also hearing rumors that she might not play soccer in the upcoming season. But when the week of tryouts finally rolled around, for better or worse, there she was.
I was determined to keep things more positive this year. Team-wide, we focused on holding each other accountable. I partnered the girls up with people they wouldn’t normally be partners with and made them accountability partners for the entire season. They had to check in with each other every week to see if they had achieved their goals. I assigned Anna to a freshman, and Anna rose to the occasion.
We started the affirmation circles at the end of every practice (a variation of the “Spotlight Drill”). It was amazing to see my girls start looking for the positive in each other on a daily basis, and Anna was no exception. She owned her position on defense so well that there were even a few games where I gave her the option to go play forward so she could SCORE! She responded by saying, “No, I’m better for the team playing defense.” She never missed a practice, she played through injuries, and she was often the player who would be first to pick up equipment after practice. She is now leading her teammates by serving them. It’s a complete 180° turn from the year prior!
I have to believe at least some of the positive change comes from the fact that she now knows how much I care for her. I truly want to see her succeed in every area of her life. Once I realized that I needed to be more intentional about showing her that, the change was almost instantaneous. It’s carried over into the rest of the team as well. This year I’ve lost count of how many of my girls have told me how excited they are for soccer to start again. This has not been the norm in previous years.
Through her negativity, she demanded that I show her I cared. Once I did, she was willing to give me her best.Click to tweet
If things continue as I suspect they will, Anna will be a senior captain for me next year. She recently asked me to contact a college coach for her about playing there in the fall, and it’s a recommendation that I will gladly write. Anna was an incredibly hard player to coach two years ago, but one that I am grateful for every day now. I like to think that her poor attitude was her way of demanding my best. Through her negativity, she demanded that I show her I cared. Once I did, she was willing to give me her best. She is now using her influence in the right direction.