Thursday, March 24, 2022

What Are the Pieces in the Team 'Trust' Puzzle?

In the fragile process of becoming a team that can sustain the storm of competition, 'trust' may be the most important factor. There are others.... a competitive team must have a work ethic, confidence, perseverance, patience, toughness.... but without trust (which is a component of love as well) I don't think the other qualities have a foothold to stand firm in the storms of competition.

For decades, in the 'training camp' portion of seasons, I repeat this phrase over and over- if you are around me for any length of time you will hear me say it like a well worn mantra, "Players trust players, players trust coaches, coaches trust players, coaches trust coaches". Like a lot of things I say, it originally came from David Cutcliffe. And it takes a lot of work, mistakes, conversations, and time to develop this and keep this in place. 

So.... Let's dig in here a little bit, what is the level of trust needed from the player? How do we get there? 


Every championship level team I have ever had ranked super high in the trust category. I will state it again: "Players trust players, players trust coaches, coaches trust players, coaches trust coaches"

So what does this mean? Is it only a factor of continuous success? 

I say that you HAVE to have "trust' to have success, but "YES" it is strengthened as well when success accompanies the process.

Also, the trust factor is not measured in wins and good times....  this type of trust shows up in the tough times, when doubts and questions begin to rise.


True "TRUST" is nurtured in human reality and flourishes in a worldview of mistakes, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Have you ever been in a competitive dog fight? I reckon it is a mini-version of the chaos we call 'the fog of war'. Testosterone fills the air, bravado overwhelms passivity, and the intensity glows red hot. Do you suppose that there can be tempers and mis-understanding in that context? Would it shock people to know that we have occasional fights at football practice?! They generally don't last long, the guys have on pads and it doesn't take but a few times to realize that punching a helmet is pretty stupid.

We call this 'mess up, fess up, and grow up'. We don't condone the fight... but competition is more warrior than gentleman. We have to work really hard on those boundary lines. And it helps those lines to not get crossed during games.

Championship level trust is that a player will grow to trust a coach has the team's best interests in mind and is making tough choices. Championship level trust is when a coach will put a kid back in after a mistake and keep giving him a chance to grow in confidence, even in the storm.


Do you want to know what I believe is the best evidence for team trust? What do the players say when no other coach is around?

Now this is harder than we might believe. As a teen matures, the peer group begins to supplant the authority structures in their life. And that stays in place throughout life. I suffer as much from peer pressure as the 16-18 year olds I coach. Sure, I would love for one of my players to tell me that I am a good coach... but nothing makes me happier as when a fellow coach tells me I am a good coach. 

And in the exchange of these structures, there becomes a 'questioning' of authority structures. If that side talk is rooted in a lack of trust for the coaches, then it can become a real drag on the performance of a team. Healthy teams always have some of the griping about the boss as some comic relief, but it never doubts the intentions or the expertise of the coach. 

I believe it is a mistake for a coach to be paranoid about the 'side talk'... don't demand trust... if you are demanding it, it won't blossom anyway. Instead do what you can to build trust on your end. And forgive immature kids when they doubt.

Remember what Jesus would say? "Of ye of little faith"!

The 'Side Talk' piece doesn't mean the team agrees with every call, but the overall talk is 'do what the coach asks' and the team has an overall obligation to obey. I think this is ultimately the greatest evaluation of player leadership. Good team leaders demand that the head coach be faithfully followed.

It is also a mark of spiritual maturity... am I willing to trust God when His Word counters what my peers are telling me? That is not just a question for a teen, it is more important today for me.


"Players trust players, players trust coaches, coaches trust players, coaches trust coaches"

What missing here?

What about parents?

Well , for the success of a sports team,  parents are a factor in how easy or hard it is to develop team trust- but their trust is not required. And even as I write this, I can feel the pushback. And this is where I want to be clear and careful.

I want parents to trust me, and just the opportunity I have to coach their child already indicates that a high and special 'trust' is in place.

But the team trust I am writing about is deeper.... it come from time together, tears together, celebration together, hours of meeting, film, weights. And the TIME it takes to build that level of trust will likely NEVER take place between a parent and me unless we are friends beyond the world of school and sports.

A parent will love their child more than I ever can, the "LOVE" word I use is different from the "LOVE" word a parent uses. In the same way, the "TRUST" needed for me to coach a player to championship level competition is way deeper than any level of trust I could hope for or expect a parent to have in me or my program.

A parent can't be at every film session, meeting, coaches meetings, practice... and the sheer lack of time will prevent team trust.

However, I have had some amazing parents who by faith pressed their sons to trust me, even when it seems illogical or hard to do so... and that support does help the trust to deepen at a faster than normal rate.

So know that I am praying for all teams... 'keep the faith"- keep hope in place... and build trust. Teams who grow together in trust will never regret the process and find a great culture that lasts a lifetime!

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