Here’s a tip for better relationships with your players – and anyone else for that matter.

When they come to you with something, don’t ever say, “I don’t care.”

While that might be exactly what you feel, there better ways to go about things.

Consider this situation. A player, assistant coach, or whoever comes to you and tells you something. Clearly, for them to bring it to you means they place at least some importance on the matter. Saying you don’t care dismisses their opinion or feeling on the subject as invalid and/or unimportant. How do you think that makes them feel? How would you feel?

What should you do instead?

First, legitimately listen. Make it clear that you’re taking in what they’re saying. Don’t let it seem like you’re not paying attention or couldn’t be bothered.

Second, acknowledge what they’ve told you. That could be something as simple as saying, “I understand.” It’s all about showing them that you’ve listened.

Third, give them an explanation. Chances are you don’t care about the subject in question because you think other things are more important. Tell them as much.

Here’s an example from when I coached at the University of Exeter. One day in practice my assistant coach came up to me to share an observation about something that needed work. It wasn’t a priority for that particular practice. I told him we’d file it away for future work, but for today I wanted him to stick to the defined priority.

So in this situation I listened, I acknowledged, and I gave a rationale for why I didn’t care about it in that moment.

Not only did my response not brush aside his opinions and feelings on the subject, which could have hurt our relationship, it actually was a teaching moment. I used it to demonstrate the need for focus. That’s another important consideration in all this. If you just brush someone off with, “I don’t care,” you probably miss out on an educational opportunity. Teaching is a big part of our job, and we shouldn’t lose an opportunity to do it.

So, as much as you really might not care, never actually say that.

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John Forman
John Forman

John most recently coached for an NCAA Division II women's team. That followed a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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