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Coach Hard Love Harder

Coach Hard Love Harder is based on finding the ideal harmony between empathy and tough love. It's about motivating our athletes to reach their maximum potential while genuinely caring about their well-being. This can be accomplished by defining high standards for individual growth and team performance, offering constructive feedback, and challenging players to reach their fullest potential. A strong sense of unity and camaraderie must be developed while also being there for our team, providing them with emotional support and inspiration during rough times. Coach Hard Love Harder aims to create an environment where players may succeed both on and off the court using this approach.


Coaching hard entails pushing players beyond their comfort zones to achieve their full potential. This could mean emphasizing the importance of technique and form and promptly correcting mistakes. At the same time, it means giving athletes the space to make mistakes and work through them. For example, (at practice), I may encourage my athletes to attempt more difficult serves or attacks to challenge their limits. They're used to hearing me say, "I don't care where the ball goes right now— focus on doing it 'XYZ' way." Alternatively, my assistant or I may critique players who struggle with proper footwork or body positioning. It may be uncomfortable for a kid to accept constructive criticism at the moment, but a coach that loves harder challenges their team to grow and reach their goals. We don’t allow them to settle.


Loving harder as a coach means more than guiding players toward athletic success. It involves showing genuine care and concern for their well-being on and off the court. This could include being empathetic towards players struggling with personal issues, offering encouragement and praise for a player's hard work, and building positive team dynamics. For example, I set aside a minimum of 30 minutes/per week with every first-year student to talk. Sometimes we talk about volleyball, but often it's simply a mental check-in. Kids have discussed everything from family to relationships to a favorite new song. By loving harder, we coaches can create an environment where players feel valued and supported, leading to a stronger sense of unity and improved court performance.


Balancing the principles of coaching hard and loving harder is essential for effective coaching. We should strive to push our players to improve while offering encouragement and support. Finding the right balance for each player is crucial, as some players may require more motivation and tough love, while others may need more nurturing and positive reinforcement. My assistant and I try to be aware of our tendencies, hold each other accountable, and adjust our coaching style accordingly. Some of my players have requested we use a loud/harsh tone with them, while others would break into tears if I used the same technique. Finding the right balance between coaching hard and loving harder can help players grow on and off the court and create a positive and productive team culture. Until you know "your kids," you can't effectively coach them.


The guiding principle of Coach Hard Love Harder can yield several benefits in sports, particularly volleyball. By challenging players to push beyond their limits and offering constructive criticism, we can empower them to unleash their full human potential. When athletes receive honest and critical feedback, they become more receptive to change and improvement. Moreover, this principle helps cultivate deeper relationships with our players. When we demonstrate our dedication to helping players develop, they are more inclined to trust and respect us. In essence, the Coach Hard Love Harder philosophy can transform players' skills and their character, shaping them into better athletes and better human beings.


In any sport, there are times when harder love is necessary to help players achieve success. Hopefully, this story doesn't come back to bite me, but a few years ago one of my athletes (a 21-year-old college Junior) walked into my office sobbing. She was as injury-riddled as me—which says a lot. This kid wasn't a whiner, her injuries were severe, and her pain was real. I made daily practice accommodations for her (she was medically cleared to participate), but ultimately the pain and lack of endurance kept her out of the line-up. She came to tell me the mental anguish was too much. She couldn't fight the pain anymore and had given everything she had left. I told her, "You aren't quitting, and here's what you will do. Go back to your dorm, let loose for a bit, and don't leave your dorm except to let good friends in. The next day I want you to pack a bag and go home for a few days. I'll accept if you want to quit when you get back. Right now, it would be best if you stopped thinking. You need to relax. You need friends and family outside of volleyball and school work." She came back a week and a half later, mentally a new person. She cried again, but this time it was tears of relief. She finished her Junior and Senior seasons and even started her senior night. She contributed from the sidelines for most matches and practices, but she still contributed nonetheless. She's a few years gone now, but we still talk weekly. I know she's going to be part of my life forever. Let me be clear that I don't condone athletes drinking— I have rules against it in my handbook, but sometimes the most “unorthodox graces” are needed to get through some tough times. Coaches should use harder love when players need motivation, discipline, or emotional support. We also can't treat every athlete the same because every athlete isn't the same person. In the spirit of transparency, I feel this story is raw and relevant.


I might need to use tougher words and provide more direct criticism to motivate athletes who have trouble focusing or don't put in enough effort. Let's say that athletes misbehave on or off the court. In that scenario, I might need to discipline them firmly per the guidelines outlined in the team handbook to ensure everyone knows the repercussions. Using tough love can also assist players in developing resilience and dealing with challenging circumstances when they have emotional or mental difficulties. To help athletes realize their greatest potential, harder love might be pretty important.


Hard coaching is 100% necessary at times to help players improve their skills and technique. We should use hard coaching when players require constructive feedback or guidance on technique. For instance, if players struggle with a specific skill or play, coaches may need hard coaching to provide clear and detailed feedback on what they need to improve. If a kid makes an effort at practice to improve but reverts to their bad habits under pressure, there must be consequences if they don't respond to verbal requests/cues. Although hard coaching can be intimidating, it helps players understand the areas where they need to focus and improve, which ultimately helps them to become better athletes. By delivering hard coaching by loving harder, coaches can help players achieve their full potential.





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