Getting Buy-In


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getting buy-in

When Mel realized she did not have 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. This was my first season as a head coach, taking over a program that had been struggling for a while. As their first full-time, armed with two Master’s degrees and experience at every collegiate level, I thought I had come in and turned the team around with a great culture!

We were already ahead and playing well, and this was just game one of the double-header. We were feeling great about our chances! Then it all went to hell. After a mental error that led to a run scoring and losing our lead, tempers flared. What was meant as some firm teammate encouragement was not taken well. That led to frustration, finger-pointing, and eventually a complete meltdown.

We ended up losing that game but still had one more chance. We could come back, take game two and make history. That wasn’t going to happen 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 went out the window.

After it all was said and done and we were able to reflect on what really happened, it all came down to buy-in. We simply 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, (including one senior outright saying they weren’t on the same page) they went unexamined and eventually blew up. Lesson learned. Improving physical skills, winning more games and even teaching mental skills still isn’t it. 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 giving them the wheel

This is a tough one for most of coaches. Sure we say it’s the girls’ team, and want to give them ownership… But at the end of the day, isn’t it our responsibility as coaches to steer the ship?

Yes and no. Consider that metaphor. Does the captain actually steer the ship and keep it running? Nope! The crew does! The Captain’s job is to make sure they’re going the right direction and getting there safely and efficiently. It’s the same for us coaches!

If you want your girls to buy in to “the way we do things,” they have to have some input in that. It’s in the phrase right there: the way WE do things. Not the way I do it that you must obey. 😉

Many coaches come up with team slogans or focuses for the year. And that is great! They typically have the best perspective on what the team needs in order to succeed. It’s the extra step that most coaches miss that can makes the difference.

Getting buy-in by giving them ownership

Whatever the focus is, the players have to take ownership of how they’re going to live that culture every day. What does that culture look like in action? On game day? At practice? When they’re on their own? How about what it doesn’t look like? I think we can all think of a few examples of that!

Your first response may be to want to come up with these for the girls. Butt out, Captain! Trust that your girls will come up with excellent ideas (probably the same that you preach and lead anyway!) and be able to execute on them with your guidance!

Getting buy-in by guiding them along the way

If you’re starting to feel a little useless, it’s understandable. “If the girls are running everything, what the heck to I do?” A) They definitely could not run everything. B) They don’t want to!

Going back to our ship metaphor… If you’re going on any meaningful voyage (read, WINNING), there will be storms. Tough opponents, pressure, team drama – you know how it goes! That’s when you step up and guide them through it!

Note, we said guide. Not take over. Ask questions. Get them thinking. Give them a different perspective. Remember, it’s their team, so they have to figure it out if they’re going to actually learn (and not have that dreaded yo-yo season).

That’s where the real buy-in lies. How you get that culture where the girls will “run through a brick wall for you.” Because they know you’re there to support them. You have their back, and a lot more experience for them to draw from!

Getting buy-in is a process

There’s that dang word again. It’s probably overused at this point, but only because it’s SO TRUE! Patience is difficult – especially as a coach! So we have to keep reminding ourselves that we may get off course some times or lose steam. But that doesn’t mean we stop.

It helps knowing what to expect. Coaches who’ve been around for a while know the storms:

  • players unhappy with playing time
  • parents unhappy with playing time
  • dealing with not winning
  • dealing with pressures we put on ourselves or feel from others

These things will happen. Teams that are bought in accept it and work through it together.

Getting buy-in is what we do!

Not to brag, but we’ve got this topic figured out. Not that we don’t face storms. We just feel confident enough in our training and experience to charge right through them (think Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump).

Here’s an example!

Mattawan Week 1- Culture


mel & alicia




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