Performance is a behaviour not an outcome.
That’s a line I have heard a few times, but until recently it didn’t fully click with me. It sounds like a sound bite with no real substance. Yet, looking back over some of my frustrations as a coach in the last three years, I have realised that it’s almost always behaviours at the root.
- Players who are not bought into training.
- Disengaged players who don’t want to do the activities I plan out.
- Youngsters who are disruptive.
- Team mates who ignore poor behaviours and complain about it behind each other’s backs.
- Cricketers who show no sign of learning new skills despite trying it many times over.
And as that’s the case, I decided to get my “behaviour development” game on point with the players I coach. If the theory is correct, the outcomes should follow the behaviours. And I think it is, so I’m going to put more focus on it.
Here is my plan.
“How we do things here”
Last year, in conjunction with the senior players at West, we developed a Code of Conduct. It was a written set of standards that we all agreed were important in defining what we stand for as a cricket club. How we do things round here.
It crystallised what we expected of each other and what was most important. If we act like the code, we are at our best. If we don’t, we hold each other accountable.
The challenge is to keep this a real, living reference and not just an inspirational poster on the wall that means nothing. I think we can do better on that by first, reviewing it to make sure it still applies, and second, reinforcing it as much as possible.
For this I plan to pinch a trick from Mark Bennett: Asking players before practice and games and to define today’s acceptable, exceptional and unacceptable behaviour. Then relentlessly use the “rule of three” to ensure those standards are met every time we are together.
If they are consistently not met, we need to get together to adjust the standards.
This is the part where I have fallen down in the past. I have gone through anger and frustration through to acceptance that I can’t control player behaviours. Of course, this is still true, but where I can do better is to help the players realise they have a choice. They can define their own behaviours. All I need to do is remind them of their own standards when they forget to apply them.
My big question is how will this apply across the different players I coach. I have one to ones, small groups, club nets, school kids in a range of ages in PE lessons and pathway squads. Can the same model apply across the board? I’ll find out as I try.
This is especially a question around players who don’t buy in despite my efforts.
In many cases (school, club) I don’t have the luxury of removing players from the system if they refuse to fit. I can’t drop a schoolgirl from a PE lesson because she doesn’t like the culture. I can’t stop a player turning up to club nets because he is half-hearted in his training.
Yes, I can try and engage them with a relentless application of agreed standards. That will work for some. For others, they will both continue to attend and continue to be disengaged. I’ll be interested to see how many and how I deal with it.
That said, here’s the basic formula in a nutshell:
- Identify and agree overall standards.
- Agree acceptable, unacceptable and exceptional behaviour at every opportunity.
- Use the Rule of Three to relentlessly apply these standards.
We often lump all behaviours into the one aim of reducing unhelpful behaviour in kids. This is one part, but behaviours are more. They are how we act at all times, and so also what we do when we are at our very best. These days a coach can’t enforce those behaviours on those we coach, but we can show our players how much we refuse to let them be at anything but their best by helping them hold themselves up to the highest standards as defined by themselves.
That’s why I’m doing this. The proof will soon make itself obvious!