Most high school football coaches will tell you games won Friday night are a byproduct of what happens Monday through Thursday. Preparation, repetition and buy-in are every bit as performance.
But how do you get your players to buy in to what you're selling? How do you earn the trust of your players and get them to believe in your process?
Here are five ways to get more buy-in from your players.
Develop personal relationships
The first key to getting more buy-in from your players is developing personal relationships. This is where it really starts. If you want your players to play hard, they have to know who you are, and you've got to know who they are.
There's an old adage that truth travels over the bridge of relationships. Another great saying: Kids don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. That's a very popular phrase about working with teenagers, and I think that it's been true in every generation. You've got to show them that you care and they have got to know that you care. Focus past Friday nights
Get to know what these kids are involved in outside of football, maybe outside of school.
Are they into karate? Can you go watch a match of theirs at the local dojo? What is their family into? Are they into camping? Is there maybe something you can talk about to build that relationship about camping? Is their brother a minor league baseball player, and so you can talk to that kid about his brother's career.
Focusing past Friday nights means that you get to know your players as people, not just players. Give them more ownership
Another tremendous way to get more buy-in from your kids is to give them more ownership. Players will invest in what they feel they own.
If your program is led from the top down and your players have absolutely no say in any part of the program, they aren't going to feel like they need to buy in as much as if they had some ownership. So give your player some ownership of the program.
What are you OK with the players taking over? For instance, a school I worked at went to the same restaurant for years and years for their pregame meal. During my second year as the head coach as we were doing exit interviews, a lot of players talked about not liking going to this place for their meal because they thought they ate too much. They got too big of a steak before the game. That was interesting feedback. I brought that up to my player committee, and they all wanted to change the restaurant we went to. I really didn't care what restaurant we went to as long as we had a private room and could start our focus on the game and our Friday routine. So we changed restaurants, that gave the kids a lot of buy-in to something I thought was pretty silly, but it meant a lot to the kids. Create teams
Create teams within your team to get more buy in from them during the off season. Divide all your kids. Divide them by five, six, eight different teams where they can compete for points. This will get them to buy into what you're trying to do with your team. They can compete for weightlifting points. They can compete for Grade Point Average points. They can compete for attendance points. They can compete for playing another sport points. Whatever it is, however you develop it, this helps your players be excited and get more buy-in to your program and what you're trying to do during the offseason. It also gets them in the competition mode throughout the year and season.Develop a leadership team
Lastly, develop a leadership team. A leadership team or a player committee is a really great way to get players involved with the type of program you're trying to to run.
I love using a player committee to get buy-in; it to allow the kids to design the theme for their year or their shirts or sweatshirts. Whatever it is, there are some things I just don't care about how things look or appear to the program.
There are non-negotiables. I'm never going to let players set the practice tempo or practice length. I'm never going to let players decide how they're graded on film. But there are a lot of parts of the program I'm going to turn over to player leadership team to try to get more buy-in from all of them as a whole.Chris Fore is a veteran head football coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.