One of the real keys to coaching is to know your players and your team well enough so that you can raise or lower the pressure dial to get the most from your players.
Gaining rapport and building trust are the foundations that underpin coaching. Rapport and trust are more important than technical coaching. Without rapport and trust, even the most sound of advice often falls on deaf ears.
To illustrate how pressure, trust and rapport work, here are some real examples whereby pressure was added (or taken off) with highly positive outcomes.
Putting the Pressure On
England were 1-1 with New Zealand in a 3 match overseas Test series in 2008. The final Test started badly after being bowled out for 253 on one of the most batting friendly wickets in world cricket.
At lunch on day 2, New Zealand were flying along at 93-1 with dangerous batters at the crease and enough depth to bat England out of the game.
Peter Moores - England Head Coach - delivered his greatest speech that lunchtime.
Peter told the players that you spend most of your time taking the pressure off of yourself. However, every now and again, it's time to put yourself under pressure; to tell yourself that if you don't get this next 30 overs right then the game and the series has gone. He asked for everyone to stand up and to change the game.
Real ‘now or never’ stuff.
The atmosphere of the changing room changed, the players picked up their caps, Michael Vaughan changed his bowling plan and NZ lost 9 wickets for 65 with Ryan Sidebottom picking up 7 for 47 and Stuart Broad the other 3 wickets.
I learnt a valuable lesson that day thanks to Peter Moores.
Can you use his inspirational approach in your coaching when the time is right? The situation may only come up once or twice in your career, yet you now have the resource in the coaching toolbox as and when that time arrives.
Taking the Pressure Off
A few years ago, I worked with an exceptional senior player, a great lad and strong opening batter who was having a poor season by his own standards. He put himself under a lot of pressure and his poor batting form was leading to the papers questioning his position in the starting XI.
After long discussion, we decided that the T20 format could be the catalyst for change. I worked with him on a couple of hitting techniques for the last 6 overs of the game, built up his confidence in those shots and then suggested that he would be a great finisher and power hitter at the end of an innings rather than going in at the top of the order.
This is an example of a change of situation or role releasing pressure on the player with the intention of facilitating both positive behavioural and then performance shifts.
The player accepted this role, committed to it and single-handedly won the side 3 games on the way to the semi-final and won the MOM award to get the team to the final.
When the format changed back to 4-day cricket, the player felt in good form, confident and as a result was not putting himself under pressure. The last 6 weeks of the season were highly successful and the early season challenges were soon forgotten.
These are two real stories, two different coaching applications around the subject of pressure.
Is there anything in there that can help you as a coach or even as a player?