The role of a coach is difficult to define because of the many hats you wear. You have to learn to be a friend, leader, role model, etc., and, at the same time, distance yourself from your players so they can develop their own identity and responsibility.
Often, holding sympathy is replaced over empathy, leading to a band-aid result, not a process or solution. Empathy shows your player that losses happen, failure occurs, and disappointment is real. But most importantly, how to move past it. Compassion, empathy, and understanding are what will lead your players to success and victory, as well as a positive and healthier life.
What Is Empathy?
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and feel what other people are thinking and feeling. Usually, it is because you have had a similar experience or can make a real connection to your player. Empathy creates a process of consolation and, at the same time, independence- being able to get your player back on their feet with confidence. Empathy creates compassion, and compassion leads to sincerity. And, sincerity leads to trust. When you have gained the trust of your players, you can inspire them to play harder, increase their self-worth, and their confidence by focusing on improvement instead of results. This is by far the best way to inspire and motivate your players to play hard, play fair and play well.
How Coaches Can Empathize With Athletes
As a coach, you are full of life and sports experiences, much like the plays and strategies in your head. If your player is experiencing disappointment, you can probably empathize with the player because you went through something similar. Most importantly, you can demonstrate how situations will happen and that learning to accept is the most important part of the process. The faster your players learn to accept, the less harping on and disruption from the situation. The purpose is to deliver a strategy that can help your players move on. Players are faced with many difficulties and challenges in school or life. You have a unique influence, role and ability to use empathy and help your players get through challenges, avoid setbacks and make them mentally and emotionally stronger. Your ability to just simply listen, understand, and connect, will help your player overcome their situation. This puts you in the best position to listen and be empathetic to understand your players.
How to Develop and Use Empathy
Listening to your players helps them to unload their minds and get things off their chest. And, when you introduce empathy at this point, your player will feel less vulnerable. It is also at this point you can establish trust. When you listen, it sends a message that they have support and don’t need to go through the situation alone.
As you listen, observe the tone of your players’ voice, their bodily movements, etc., so you can understand the seriousness of their concerns and issues. Don’t interrupt. Listen and observe. Let them talk. When you listen, trust is being unconsciously developed and earned. It shows you care about your player.
Empathize With An Open Mind, Not Expectation
Don’t’ set out to create a result of a high standard. It is not about expectation. Empathizing is a crucial step to help your players face their issue and produce a process rather than ignore it. And, if you create an expectation, and it is not achieved, you will lose trust and credibility.
The purpose is to connect with your players to see their ability to discover their answers. Your input should lead them to their outcome and not something that should happen.
Use Personal Experience
Empathy can provide real-world advice and lead to solutions for your players by showing them that they are not alone. It can be a roadmap and a plan that can develop from or mimic your solution. The player is vulnerable in this state. You already went through the situation. By you empathizing and telling them your experience, they feel less vulnerable. And, probably, that something they see as not every day is normal. The player can see you could solve the problem in your past and inspire them to do the same. Personal, empathetic experience is great because it is true feeling and emotion that can assist a player, not something conjured up out of the air. Showing empathy, compassion, and sincerity relaxes the person and leads them to trust you and your advice.
Maintain A Soft And Confident Voice
The tone of your voice plays an important factor when giving your player any kind of feedback. When your players receive feedback with a firm, soft, confident voice, it provides feelings of support, security, and inspiration. Your player will feel more positive and confident about solving the situation, improvement, and your advice.
Empathy is an essential skill for you to have as a coach. It is the best way to provide strategy, advice, answers, and solutions. The more experiences you have, puts you in the best position to understand your players and guide them in the best direction. Empathy also helps you improve your understanding, perspective, and perceptions, enhancing your communication skills and developing your 6th sense as things unfold and happen around you.