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#7 I am Only One: Say NO to Being a Yes-Man

This article marks the seventh installment for the 13 Beliefs of Good Sports Coaches. This post looks at the belief that attempting to be everything to everyone is not only foolish but impossible to do well.

I mentioned before that I teach a Fundamentals of Coaching course at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Recently, the class discussion turned to the topic of delegating responsibilities. It is too simplistic to say, all good coaches are good delegators. Every coaching manual, leadership book, and self-help guru has so often repeated the idea leaders must delegate responsibilities, I feel the impact of this truism is losing its impact.

During our class discussion, one of my students posed the question, how do wayward coaches fail to delegate? After a lively round of give-and-take, mainly lead by the student who originally posed the question, I would like to share some of our conclusions. At the onset, I would like to thank Taylor Concepcion (my student) for much of what is in this post. I truly believe Taylor has a bright coaching future.

Coaches often lose their way and become overburdened with responsibilities because of a simple, and seemingly positive word… “YES”. Maybe it comes from fear of the unknown, or being a people pleaser, but many coaches just can’t say “NO”. Yet, as the old adage states, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

When we step back and take a bird’s-eye view it is understandable how a coach may start down the slippery slope of “YES”. Who wouldn’t want to help a player after practice. Who doesn’t want a freshly turfed field. What coach in their right mind would turn down new uniforms. Who would not accept free membership for their entire team to a local gym so they can workout during the off-season? However, good coaches understand each of these perks and extras come with a price. Maybe, that “free” player membership will only cost you the time, energy, and hassle of having an advertising banner made to promote the gym at your games. So you say, YES! Then, the print shop messes up the gym’s address and you have to return it to be fixed—more time, energy, and hassle, you say YES! Then, you have to hang the banner, which usually involves risking life and limb 18 feet in the air. Saving others from breaking their neck, you climb the ladder and say YES! Of course, the membership cards have to be picked up between 7:30 and 7:42am on a Saturday morning. You say, YES! Then, the gym manager politely explains that the players will only be allowed in the gym if you are present for their workouts. At this point, you are so far down the slippery slope all you can do is nod your head and say, YES.

There is a paradox involved in learning to delegate. The paradox begins very early in a coaches career. As a player, you had that can-do attitude. You were “coachable”, a Yes-Man. Your willingness to say yes led to being hired as an assistant coach. Being an assistant coach demanded even more of a yes attitude. As an assistant, you did what had to be done for the good of the team and for the head coach. Of course, you would never let the team down, you have to say YES. The years and years of wanting to do what’s right has led to being named head coach. However, as a head coach the attitude of YES must change. To become a great coach you have to be willing to say “NO!” This coaching paradox is too difficult for some coaches to handle. The wayward coach concedes. They revert to what has become the default… just say “YES”.

Andrew Bennie and Donna O'Connor recently described the process of effective coaching. In their paper, they explained that effective coaches move their athletes toward higher levels of courageous behavior. Learning to become more courageous is not easy; either is learning that you can only do so much as a sports coach. Despite what some leadership gurus might say, there is no easy 5-step process to becoming a better delegator. Understanding you are “only one” starts with understanding the paradox of being a Yes-Man. What better way for a coach to model courage than to sometimes simply say… NO!

Bennie, A., & O'Connor, D. (2011). An Effective Coaching Model: The Perceptions and Strategies of Professional Team Sport Coaches and Players in Australia. International Journal of Sport and Health Science, 9, 98-104.


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