Getting Buy-In


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getting buy-in

When Mel realized she was not getting buy-in from her team

It was the last conference series and we needed one win to finish in the top half of the conference for the first time in nearly two decades. We were ahead and playing well game one of the double-header, when it all went to hell. A mental error led to a run scoring and our lead lost. That led to frustration, finger-pointing, and eventually a complete meltdown.

We ended up losing that game but still had one more chance. That didn’t matter though. With tears and emotions flowing amongst all of the players and coaches, we had no chance of pulling it together. We lost the second game as well, and our chances of having our best season in recent program history.

After it all was said and done and we were able to reflect on what really happened, it all came down to getting buy-in. We didn’t do a good enough job of getting everyone on the same page. Some players didn’t understand their roles. Most were still trying to figure out how this new coach’s philosophy and style would actually help them and the team.

Though there were signs all season, they went unnoticed until the end. Lesson learned. Improving physical skills, winning more games and even teaching mental skills still isn’t enough. If you don’t have buy-in, you will NOT get as far as you want. Fortunately, we have some lessons to share so you can get the team to pull together and play for each other. 🙂

Getting buy-in by building their self-awareness

The number one way to get your players to buy in to the mental training program you’re running is to show them how it can help them personally. The whole process usually goes like this:

They see how it might benefit them > they listen more closely > they begin to understand the material > they start applying it to their performance > they see improvements > they’re sold!

So what you have to do is first tap into their self-awareness.

Start by helping them discover their own strengths and weaknesses. If you’ve ever been asked to write a bio for yourself or had to write a cover letter for a job, you’ve probably experienced how oddly challenging this can be. Most people are uncomfortable with it. Almost everyone else barely scratches the surface of who they really are. To dig deeper, you need some guidance. We’ve got a few questions to help build self-awareness. Try them for yourself first so you can see how they can help your players too!


No matter who you are, you’re going to excel at some things and not at others. Getting buy-in starts with discovering which mental strengths are your best and which need some work, check out our Mental Strength Eval. In it we talk about our 7Cs. Each page will show you what it looks like when you excel at that mental strength. Then you’ll rate yourself from 1-10 on how you think you rate with that C.

When you’re done, take a look at your C’s. Those you rated an 8 or higher are your top strengths. If you rated them a 4-7 it would help to work on them. A rating of 3 or less is something you need to give more attention to or make sure you have someone else on staff to help you with. You DO NOT need to be strong in all Cs to be an amazing coach. It’s also ok to have weaknesses. KNOWING what they are so you can work with them is the most important thing. You’ll learn more about that with the next questions!


An easier way to answer this question is to think about your best day versus your worst day. One of our amazing podcast guests, Megan Rhodes Smith of Lipscomb University softball, shared a great activity with us in her episode. We’ve recreated her Best Day/Worst Day worksheet so you can fill it out and experience first-hand how effective worksheets are for getting buy-in!

First, think back to the best game or day of your coaching career. That day that when you think about it, you instantly get a big smile on your face. What was happening that day? What was going on in your head? Was anything different than usual?

Next, go through the same process for your worst day. You know, those days that make you wonder, “Why do I do this to myself?” We’ve all been there. It’s not a great memory, but important to go back and look at what was actually going on.

Finally, take a step back and look at both columns. Where are the biggest differences? We’ll get into what’s really going on there with the next question.


This question helps with getting buy in by digging a little deeper into the real difference between your best and worst days. In the episode with Mt. San Antonio College’s Ruby Rojas, shared an exercise she uses with her players. Adapted from the book What Drives Winning by Brett Ledbetter, we recreated her What’s Holding You Back worksheet.

Go through this worksheet and check off anything that you’ve experienced while coaching. Then go back through and circle five things that you feel affect you the most. Can you see how these influenced your worst day? And how your mental strengths can either help or make these things worse?

Armed with all of this information, do you now have a better idea of how mental training can help you? It will help you play to your strengths, get out of your own way and have even more best days. Now that you’re sure it will help you improve, what about the rest of the team?

Getting buy-in by improving empathy & trust

Part two of getting buy-in turns its focus on the team. Now that I know I’ll be taken care of, next I want to know that my teammates will be too! But how on earth can I know that if I really have no idea what they’re dealing with?

The answer is something we talk about alllllll the time: communication. Here’s the process: more communication > better understanding of each other > empathizing with each other > trusting each other > playing for each other. That’s the goal right? But just talking more isn’t enough. There’s a better way to have more effective communication.

Tips for getting buy-in with discussions

One tip is to share in small groups first. This way, you’ll be able to make sure all voices are heard, not just the loudest or most confident. Mix up the groups to get the girls chatting with others they’re not as close with. Walking around and stoking the conversation also helps. Ask good questions and get the quieter players to speak up.

When their conversations start to die down, bring back to full group. Have a spokesperson share what their group talked about. Bonus tip: get the quiet ones to push themselves and be the spokesperson every so often. Once everyone has shared, point out similarities, differences and any themes that came up multiple times.

Finally, teach the players how to give feedback and input to each other. You may have to guide them through this at first. The main thing to keep in mind is to be kind. Kind is not the same as nice. Being kind means being honest and sometimes giving constructive feedback. It means caring about that person so much you’re willing to say something that’s difficult to hear.

The most important goal of communication is to make every team member feel heard, understood and cared for. The way you go about this is up to you. But when everyone feels like an important part of the team, they will buy in to the program as a whole.

Getting buy-in by getting to know what each individual athlete needs

The final piece of getting player buy in is knowing what each individual needs in order to improve. When a player is going through a rough patch, they are most at risk for losing buy-in. It’s simply because they’re frustrated. Have you ever had such a terrible day you actually contemplate quitting? We’ve all been there, and so will they.

The first thing you need to know is exactly how to help each player improve their mental strengths. You do this using mental skills like imagery, positive self-talk & focus. Once you know what skills and strategies will help them, you up the pressure and test them. (More about How to in the related article below!)

You also need to know how each athlete learns best. Do you need to show them, tell them, explain to them, or let them learn by trial and error? What do they need as far as feedback? What intensity level or styles gets through to them? When’s the best time to give them feedback? As you can see, there are a lot of individual differences, and it’s vital to know each of them. But you don’t have to memorize them just yet!

We like to keep track for everyone’s preferences using Google Sheets. You create a spreadsheet with the categories of information you need (like the stuff above). Then you simply send a link to your girls and have them fill out what they need. That way you have a cheat sheet that all coaches can refer to until they remember what each person needs.

Getting buy-in can be even easier(!)

These are the tools to help you get your girls to buy in to mental training and create an amazing team atmosphere. Improve their self-awareness so know how it affects them personally. Build empathy and trust through effective communication. Address individual needs to help them get through rough patches.

Following these steps will set you on the path to buy-in. If you’d like some more resources for taking action on this plan, check out our services!

Dream Team Blueprint– mental training lessons, activities & drills
So you don’t have to do extra work to improve self-awareness, communication and each individual’s mental skills.

Coaches’ mastermind– with Mel & up to 4 other coaches
So you can get personalized feedback and ideas to help you build even deeper buy-in with your team

Consulting– with Alicia
So you can take advantage of an outside voice to get buy-in even faster

To learn more about our Dream Team Blueprint & higher levels, head here!

We hope this was helpful and now you you have to tools to get your players to buy in to what you’re doing for them!

mel & alicia




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