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Each year I get this comment at least once: “You let your players call you Chris? Why don’t you have them call you Coach Snyder?”
I normally laugh as I enter into a five-minute conversation about demanding respect from your players. The traditional rule of thumb is that your players call you Coach or Coach plus your last name. It shows status and respect. I grew up calling all my coaches by this title rule, and my parents encouraged it.
I agree that the best word a child can ever call you is Coach. My high school wrestling coach Dan Hannum told me that when I first started coaching youth sports. He is right. It is a gift to be a coach, and you will always leave an impression on those kids, good or bad.
Today’s children are a little different, and there seems to be a swing in the respect levels. Players now come into sports with less discipline and, at times, less support at home.
Things have changed even in the influence of television since I was addicted to shows like “Different Strokes” and “The Wonder Years.” Some players come to you with the MTV mentality, where they do not give respect until adults earn it first.
My way to combat this is to have my players call me Chris or Coach Chris, never Coach Snyder. I found that is helps build that relationship between us as friends, and not just coach to player.
Players today look to coaches as authority figures that they can talk to about issues and upon whom they can rely on in pressure situations. The quicker you can build relationships with a new group of players, the quicker they will run through that wall for you in a tight spot.
My opinion on this topic is not the only one, not the right one and not the wrong one. You need to ask yourself what type of coach you want to be, or how you want to be remembered by your players. Personally, I have never found a coach that wants to be feared, wants to be hated, or wants their kids to dread coming to speak with them.
Maybe giving a little with what players call you will go a long way toward building that family-like atmosphere for your team. Perhaps that will help you to bond to battle instead of battling to bond.
What are some strategies you’ve used to build relationships with a new group of players? Leave your suggestions in the comments section.
A version of this article appeared in the August 2011 issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.
Photo Credit: Scott McCall
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