Last week I asked a number of our players what they understood by a 'value'. Getting some rather vague replies I asked whether 'family' was important to them. Naturally their reply was 'yes, of course!'. I probed further by asking how they demonstrate that family is important to them. The answers were numerous ranging from eating meals together round the table and playing the Wii together. We decided that a value was something in which we place great importance on and is backed up by certain behaviours. When we don't demonstrate behaviours to support a particular value, the value is compromised, and so are our emotions – we feel bad.
It's the same as saying, 'you'll only do what's important to you'. I've long since been in love with the idea of playing the guitar, but since being lent one by a colleague three years ago, I've only picked it up once! Why? Because I only like the idea, I'm not fully committed to it and have not built a 'value' around doing so.
At our academy, one of our key values is our commitment to fight for every ball – so much so that we've named our Academy after it. Fighting for every ball – head, heart and legs. We fight with our heads by making smart decisions, we fight with our heart with a Nadal like 'never give up' attitude and we fight with our legs by being in the best possible physical shape to compete. Running down every ball, no matter where it lands, getting up to the top of the bounce and recovering appropriately after each shot are key ingredients in our value of fighting for everyball.
Perhaps all this is obvious – doesn't every player do that? The answer is no. Why? Because just like me and my guitar, it all sounds nice, but the reality of doing so on an everyday, consistent basis is much tougher. Therefore, as coaches we work hard to help our players build a true value around 'fighting for every ball' – this is in my opinion THE key coaching skill and one that challenges and stretches us day in day out.
In fact, change in any dimension is far better supported by building a value around the change you are making. Building a value around use of the chopper grip will help your player 'buy in' to that change far quicker than if you just teach the chopper grip. Creating values creates buy in, and buy in means a steeper learning curve and greater improvement.
When I see one of our players not getting up to the ball or allowing it to bounce twice without maximum effort to get there, a key value is being compromised, and as the leader of the organisation I feel this deeply. What are your values and can you be more of a value-based coach?