10 ways to raise the level of the supporting cast

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In my previous post I wrote about how a team compromises of different levels of players and focused on how we as coaches can alter our approach when dealing with our star players to get the best out of them, so they can give their best to the team. However our squads usually comprise more of the ‘supporting cast’ type of player. The player who often gives it their all but is outshone by their more skilled teammates. They are still a contributor and can improve the same way that the other players can. We just have to accept that their trajectory will be different and that their individual requirements are also slightly different. We need to show them the love first and foremost and then show more patience when it comes to their play on the field.

Here are my top 10 guidelines to get the best out of the supporting cast player to keep them motivated and feeling like an important component of the team:

1) Understand them There are many people who know us but few who understand us
Get to know the player. What do they like about the game? What do they see as their strengths and weaknesses and what do they wish to improve? More importantly, get to know the person. What are their interests outside of the game? Who are their friends and family and what makes them happy.

2) Appreciate them People will forget what you said, what you did, but never how you made them feel
Spend one on one time with them wherever you can. Ask their opinion.  Regarding on the field matters as well as off the field. Engage with them before, during and after drills and be thankful for them sharing their thoughts. Show gratitude for their presence as well as their efforts. Always leave them with a smile on their face.

3) Recognize them What you praise you increase
Rightly shout them out when they deserve it. Their final actions may not look as smooth as what the better players can do but it is the effort and intention that counts. Take the opportunity to openly recognize them in front of their peers and watch them try to earn that praise again. Be loud, be obvious but be sincere.

4) Empathize with them – Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle
Understand their current capacities and acknowledge what you are asking of them. Try to see things from their point of view and show acceptance of the challenges they are being faced with. But then always make them feel that they are better than their current level. Do not dwell on their limitations, instead focus and exaggerate their strengths.

5) Celebrate the small successes – Success is a series of small wins
Every victory is still a victory. Celebrate it together. Enjoy it together. Their progress may be slower it may be a level or two below other teammates but recognize the strides that they are making based on their individual level. Share briefly in the satisfaction that comes when conquering something and leave them wanting to progress to the next milestone.

“Come ‘ere you. Where did you learn that?”

6) Mix them with the best players – Don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits
Allow them to experience what the better players in the team are capable of on a consistent basis. Praise the players when they deserve it. Give them the belief that they belong in this company. Be aware to ensure that the quality is not dropping and be ready to modify personnel if things are too tough. Let things run first though.

7) Demand quality just like the others – Quality is never an accident, it is always the result of intelligent effort
Similar to the point above. Push them and demand quality actions from them in all exercises. Do not treat them any different to any other player when it comes to the demands of the game; concentration, awareness, reactions, start positions, communication. These are things that all players regardless of their level should be showing on a regular basis.

8) Continually show them their progression – A little progress everyday adds up to big results
Keep them motivated to continue working hard on their game by showing how they are progressing with their new knowledge and skills. Reinforce that they are making strides on a regular basis and be specific with where exactly they have progressed. Allow them to recap ideas and themes to the group to reinforce their personal understanding.

9) Set achievable goals – A goal is a dream with a deadline
Allow them to work towards goals that they have a chance to succeed in. Vary them in their nature but don’t have too many goals running at once. Give them a chance to understand why they are working on a specific goal and how it relates to the overall team so they will feel some accountability and responsibility to carry working towards the said goals.

10) Give them a distinctive role in the team – The strength of the team is each individual member, the strength of each individual member is the team
Off the field it may be something like the joker, the motivator, the opposition scout, and on the field it may be the runner, the sitter, the crosser. Find what it is that they can do well both on and off the field and let them grow into this role. Show them the value they provide to the team by doing what it is that they do by showing how their role is appreciated by all.

What are some of your favorite tools to use with your supporting cast players?

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