Author: Elianne Douglas-Miron
My driving passion is to help make a difference in the lives of student-athletes. As a college coach, my job is not only to prepare these young women to win tennis matches, but also to help build the next generation of leaders. There are countless leadership skills that student-athletes will learn in college, but there is one critical skill that is often overlooked: embracing the process. If more college athletes were exposed to the Law of Process, I believe they would be given a great competitive advantage.
The Law of Process says that nothing happens overnight.
Instead, we must commit to a process to achieve our goals. If we know this to be true and obvious, why do so many of us continue to pursue instant gratification and the path of least resistance? We want results now, but often we aren’t willing to put in the hard work that is required. It would be easy to cast blame on the ‘like’ button or conclude that the new generation of kids are lazy, but the reality is, few of them are exposed to the Law of Process, which could truly revolutionize their approach and perspective.
This blog post aims to tackle three common problems student-athletes face when it comes to trusting the process and how we as coaches can tackle these problems earlier rather than later in their college careers.
Problem #1: “Leadership is for the select few.”
As a coach, I notice this belief ingrained in so many young people and it makes me angry! In John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, chapter 3 is dedicated to the Law of Process. He talks about how everyone has the chance to become a good leader, but it takes many years and lots of hard work to become one. I’ve seen too many players dismiss the importance of leadership and think to themselves “I’m not a leader. That’s someone else’s job.” Not at all! Everyone can be a leader. Everyone has strengths and those strengths are needed on a team. Find your role, think about what skills are needed in that role, and be the best at it.
Solution for Coaches:
1. The first step to creating better leaders is to get to know your players as people. There are many personality tests now available that can give you further insight into what drives each individual and to discover their strengths and weaknesses. This can be a great start to help them self-reflect on what type of leaders they can be. Investing time and energy in getting to know your players will help them see that you want the best for them. This is the best way to develop trust with each player.
2. Does your University offer a leadership class? If so, find out when and where, then get your student-athletes into the class! Don’t have one? Create one! Bring a guest speaker in every other week. Print out quotes from great leaders. Make them listen to leadership podcasts. Search YouTube videos that explain how to develop leadership skills. Even better, make them read a book such as Maxwell’s Laws of Leadership and have them discuss what struck them from each chapter of the book.
Problem #2: “I don’t have any mentors in my life.”
Everyone can find a mentor to help them know what they don’t know. They simply have to seek one out. Brian Cain refers to mentorship as a way to gain inexpensive experience. He says that by learning from others, you “speed up your learning curve and increase your chances for success by intelligently approaching the adversity you will endure.” Most people fail to recognize the value mentors can have in their life. Furthermore, a 1998 study on the importances of mentoring in the development of coaches and athletes suggests that the more coaches were mentored during their early coaching careers, the more “valuable knowledge and insights” they gained, which helped shape their coaching philosophy and enhanced their abilities. Mentors allow you to ask questions and seek specialized knowledge. They can have a huge impact on the decisions you make in your career.
Solution for Coaches:
1. Be a mentor. It’s that simple. You must put yourself in a position where student-athletes trust you and feel like they can come to you no matter the issue.
2. Often, there is no one coaching you. That’s why, as important as it is to be mentors for our players, it is equally as important to have mentors ourselves. Having mentors, seeking knowledge, and applying your new learned knowledge is all part of the process of becoming the best leaders and coaches we can be. The Law of Process is an active system that needs to be applied day in and day out in order for you to grow. The best coaches and leaders assess their weaknesses and actively seek out answers day after day.
Problem #3: Not knowing the difference between an event and a process.
Coaches need to teach the difference between an event and a process to their student-athletes. An event is something that can inspire and motivate you in the moment. A process is something that will make you better in the long run. An event encourages decisions. A process encourages development. An event challenges you. A process changes you. An event is easy, while a process is difficult. Helping student-athletes understand the difference between an event and a process will help them understand that results don’t happen in a day, in a week, or even in a season. They are in college for four years and with proper coaching and hard consistent work, athletes can achieve great things!
Solution for Coaches:
1. Sit your athletes down and explain to them the difference between an event and a process. Make them find examples in their own lives.
2. Before the start of the year, help players visualize what process they will undertake this year to reach specific goals. Will they focus on their mental game, on a certain stroke, on their conditioning? If so, what steps must they take to get there? Remember, a process encourages development. It is our job as coaches to help them through this development.
Everything about college athletics is a process. Not many athletes come in as freshman and everything just ‘clicks’. A player has four years to improve and learn and that’s why I constantly try to emphasize to my players “trust the process.” As coaches, it is our responsibility to help these players grow, learn, and improve. Our behaviors and personal characteristics, such as leadership styles, can have a significant impact on a player’s willingness to trust the process. So, we must work everyday to earn that trust, mentor them the right way, push ourselves, and create a culture of growth on our team. By investing time in your players on and off the court, you are applying the Law of Process.
Bloom, G., Durand-Bush, N., Schinke, R., & Salmela, J. (1998), The importance of mentoring in the development of coaches and athletes. International Journal of Sports Psychology. 29. 267-281.
Cain, B. (2012). The Mental Conditioning Manual: Your Blueprint for Excellence. Peak Performance Publishing. 12.
Giacobbi Jr., P., Whitney, J., Roper, E., & Butryn, T. (2002). College coaches’ views about the development of successful athletes: A descriptive exploratory investigation. Journal of Sport Behavior, 25(2), 164-181.
Maxwell, J. (2007). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You. Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishing. 3.