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The key to credible coaching and why it's important

One of the most insightful things that Dr. Greg Dale (Director of the Sports Psychology and Leadership program at Duke) talks and writes about is the concept of "coaching credibility". While that might be a phrase that is used frequently in coaching clinics and development monologues, Dr. Dale breaks it down for us. 

Simply put Dr. Dale says, “your success as a coach comes down to your credibility with the athletes you coach”. A coach with credibility is someone who understands that credibility is like a bank account. Either you’re depositing into it or withdrawing from it. Every interaction with your team, your players and staff is one or the other. In this, the main question you must ask yourself is if people are following you because they HAVE to or because they want to? The answer to that question is indicative of your level of credibility. 

To help coaches understand the process of achieving credibility, Dr. Dale outlines the 5 stages of coaching.

Those 5 stages are:

  1. Survival 
  2. Success 
  3. Significant
  4. Satisfied 
  5. Spent

The key to successful, credible coaching is to be in the third stage, “significant”. The third stage is when a coach truly steps into the role of servant leadership, has abandoned the “my” and “I” statements from the success stage, and has not yet moved into the implied complacent comfortability of the satisfied stage. In this stage of significance, the deposits in the “credibility bank” are consistent and players are emotionally connected to their coaches. 

Dr. Dale describes emotional equity with coaches as the development of connections with athletes. Anecdotally it’s easy in conversation to say, “of course I will want to play for someone I respect”. That seems simple and sensible. Conversely, there’s often a misconception that coaches have to be colder (or even gruffer) to be respected. Dr. Dale says it's rather opposite in reality. Sports psychology says that athletes will work harder, play stronger and be more involved when they know their coaches have invested emotional equity in them. 

It is important to be a credible coach not only because it will increase the overall success of a program but also because it encourages coaches to keep sight of the foundation of educational athletics which is to develop players as both athletes and young people.

To better explain the impact of coaching credibility, Dr. Dale often speaks of the poem “The Dash”. Although the poem speaks about life as a whole, Dr. Dale uses it in an athletic frame. Essentially, to say your record may show numbers, but what did it look like between the numbers? Did your players want to play for you? Are you well respected by players, parents, other coaches? How will your athletes remember you when they look back at their athletic experiences? 

Dr. Dale believes that the foundation for credible coaching, having purpose and staying in the servant leader role is to be self-aware. Self-awareness as a coach means to acknowledge when a pause and self reflection is needed. To avoid moving toward the “spent stage”, the best thing to do is mentally re-establish purpose. Write your purpose down and keep it visible as a reminder throughout the day.

The most successful coaches are the ones who develop relationships with players and establish credibility. Big thank you to Dr. Greg Dale for his insight. For more about coaching credibility you can find him on twitter @gregdale919

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop.