5 Ways to Be More Persuasive as a Hockey Coach

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There is a great story about The North Wind and Sun, an Aesop fable that teaches a valuable lesson about the power of persuasion. In this tale, the North Wind and the Sun engage in a dispute to determine who possesses greater strength. They spot a Traveler wearing a cloak and decide to use this person as a test subject to settle their argument. Their objective is to make the Traveler remove his cloak.

The North Wind takes the first turn, exerting all its might to blow strong gusts of wind. The winds whip fiercely around the Traveler, but instead of yielding, the Traveler clings tighter to his cloak. Despite the forceful onslaught, the cloak remains firmly wrapped around him.

Next in line is the Sun. It approaches the task with a gentler approach, slowly and persistently radiating warmth. As time passes, the Sun's warmth gradually intensifies. The Traveler begins to feel the increasing heat and, eventually, decides to remove his cloak.

This fable conveys a powerful message: persuasion triumphs over force. While the North Wind attempted to overpower the Traveler with its sheer strength, it failed to achieve its goal. On the other hand, the Sun's patient and gentle approach succeeded in persuading the Traveler to willingly discard his cloak.

The moral of the story is clear: when seeking to influence others, employing persuasion and understanding their motivations often yields better results than attempting to coerce or force them.

Are you ready to take inspiration from this fable and become more persuasive?

If the answer is yes then you need to embrace the following:

1 - Embrace Kindness

Allow me to share an insightful anecdote from my pastor, Kevin Queen, that perfectly illustrates the importance of kindness. It's a story too relevant not to pass on. During a recent sermon, he recounted the tale of a man afflicted with leprosy, as depicted in Matthew 8:2-3. The scripture recounts:

A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.

What stands out here is Jesus not only healed the man but also reached out and physically touched him. In those times, having leprosy meant being isolated from loved ones and announcing your uncleanliness when walking the streets. It was a deeply lonely existence. By touching the man first, Jesus displayed an extraordinary act of kindness. He demonstrated he genuinely cared. This act of kindness was a powerful form of persuasion that transformed the man's life, not just through physical healing but also through the profound demonstration of compassion.

2 - Embrace Boldness

Kindness is undeniably effective. Equally significant is the virtue of boldness. Jesus fearlessly challenged societal norms and traditions, often facing accusations of blasphemy. His boldness played a pivotal role in his persuasiveness.

Abraham Lincoln is another great exemple of boldness. Lincoln took a daring risk with his Gettysburg Address. He used words like "equality" and phrases such as "of the people, by the people, and for the people," which were groundbreaking for their time. In addition, delivering a concise speech of just a few minutes in contrast to the customary two to three-hour addresses was remarkably audacious. Lincoln's speech was so concise that no one managed to capture a photograph of him that day. Nevertheless, his speech forever altered the course of history. The essential lesson here is boldness yields results, and it will make you more persuasive.

A study by Carnegie Mellon revealed people actually prefer confidence or even a touch of cockiness over sheer expertise. In other words, people appreciate boldness and the thrill that accompanies it. Stand firm in your convictions, confidently express your viewpoints, and take a stance. Your athletes will respond positively to such boldness.

3 - Embrace Authority

Your athletes will also appreciate your demonstration of authority. When addressing the topic of authority, many hockey coaches often find themselves trying to chase it instead of realizing they can simply possess it. Authority is not an elusive gem never earned or found. In fact, with a little bit of careful planning and intentionality, it is easier to obtain than one might think. Here are the most effective strategies to achieve authority in your coaching role:

From the Outside

The first key aspect to understand is authority carries more weight when it comes from an outside source. For instance, when meeting a new group or team, it is better to have someone introduce you rather than introducing yourself.

From the Inside

The second key concept is creating authority from the inside. Consider a figure who exemplifies authority. We will use Jesus again. Despite his humble beginnings, being born in a barn and leading a simple life, he maintained tremendous authority. In his time, his biggest challengers were the Pharisees, who prided themselves on their knowledge and wisdom while constantly seeking ways to undermine his teachings. Jesus, however, did not engage in such behavior. He simply embodied authority and gathered it from the inside and did not rely on external material to elevate his teachings.

From the Sides

And finally, we have supporting authority, or authority from the sides. This is often referred to as utilizing statistics, facts, measurements, and findings to enhance your level of authority. By providing supporting authority, you demonstrate that your recommendations or suggestions are not based on mere opinion or gut feeling but are backed by science and research. This approach adds substantial credibility to your coaching strategies.

4 - Embrace Consistency

Another way to boost your credibility is to simply be consistent. One of my favorite phrases is: "consistency always beats intensity." In Robert Cialdini's book "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" he explores the principles of influence and persuasion. Cialdini's work is widely cited in fields such as marketing, sales, and psychology, and his principles continue to be valuable tools for understanding and applying the art of persuasion. One of the main concepts he shares in his writing is about consistency, which is all about making small commitments ultimately leading to bigger results. For instance, it is better for a hockey player to practice their slap shot for 10 minutes 5 days a week as compared to practicing one time a week for 60 minutes on a Saturday. The consistent effort will create compounding results which accrue over time. In this case, time becomes your biggest ally. The same applies to coaching. If you make those small deposits every day into your player's emotional and physical well-being, they will grow personally and professionally. A healthier player makes for a healthier and stronger team. And, they will see and appreciate your leadership because of it.

5 - Embrace Framing

Finally, for continued success, a persuasive hockey coach should know how to embrace framing. There is a great article which discusses the 'really simple' way to change people's minds. In this piece, a persuasion expert says people are 30% likelier to say 'yes' when you frame actions as opportunties to claim identities. According to Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, advises this simple tactic will generate more involvement. For instance, saying you play hockey implies you occassionally participate in the sport. However, saying you are a hockey player has a whole other layer of assertiveness because it implies an identity with the sport - "I am a hockey player." So, when thinking about what you want your team to embrace moving forward - perhaps, a new offensive or defensive strategy - how can you frame the opportunity to claim their identity? A good place to start is to think about your team's identity. Are you an offensive powerhouse? Are you defensively minded? Claim it. Take pride in it. Let it fuel how you guide and direct your team moving forward.

Parting Advice

As we wrap up here, let us circle back to the fundamental aspect of persuasion's definition: "to do or believe something."

Persuasion forms the foundation of a powerful coaching style, making it an essential element of a hockey coach's approach. Your responsibility as a coach is to inspire, motivate, educate, and above all - ignite transformation and belief in your hockey club. By embracing these principles, you will be on the fast track to achieving that goal.

Scott Schwertly

Founder and CEO of GritBase - a mental performance coaching company for hockey players. We provide customized mental performance strategies to help yo...


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