This is the one thing that every coach strives to obtain from athletes, teams and members of the staff. Gaining buy-in is something that I feel I’ve failed at throughout my very young career, and here is why. I viewed the belief, trust and care that my athletes had for me as buy into what we were doing. Now I’ve never had any issue with gaining belief and trust from athletes and forming strong bonds but this doesn’t equal buy-in. Is it a part of creating buy-in? Sure. That said, the one thing that has to be present in order for people to buy stock is CLARITY.
For some reason, I feel like I’m not alone. It can be very easy to feel like an athlete is bought-in when they do exactly what you say and do it like they mean it. There have been athletes in my past that would run across glass barefoot if I told them to just because they trusted and cared for me. They never would want to let me down in anyway. This is why kids go through with circus act, navy seal type workouts. Not because they are bought in but simply because of the other factors mentioned.
I’m not completely convinced that buy-in can’t exist without these factors. If an athlete doesn’t care too much for you but they have clarity of the plan you have in place and how it will help them, there is a good chance they will still believe in that plan. Athletes have to know exactly where they are currently and where the bus is going. If they don’t fully understand the plan (day in and day out), they can’t believe in the program and if they don’t believe in the program they can’t buy into the program. This is why it’s extremely important to explain the plan of attack to the athlete the same way you would to your fellow staff members. Expecting the athlete to carry out the plan because you are the “strength and conditioning expert” is confusing buy-in for their care, trust and belief in YOU.
We have to stop confusing buy-in with trust. Buy-in is a bi-product of a clear and concise vision/plan casted by the Coach and accepted by those involved. Buy-in is not a bi-product of trust and care. Coaches have to develop a vision and clarify how the athlete is getting the absolute best value possible and exactly how the plan is going to benefit them.
The conversation that we are having right now is the relationship between buy-in, clarity and trust. Please understand that I’m not devaluing the importance of trust and care. The fact of the matter is, trust and care is going to do far greater things and have a much longer impact than buy-in. If someone trusts and cares for you that will be there long after athletes become NARPS (non-athletic regular people) and fellow staff members switch jobs etc. So this is extremely important for the big picture but in terms of gaining buy-in for the immediate task it’s far less superior than clarity. No clarity, no buy-in.