One of the most interesting things for me is learning how head coaches communicate with their players. Yesterday on KNBR, Kyle Shanahan gave us a window into how he coaches a player after they’ve made a mistake in the process but achieved a good result.
“I have a way of wording it to guys. If they could do the completely wrong thing, but it works, like Aiyuk did the wrong thing on the two point conversion. He ran a route and they jumped him, which was going to open up Kittle. Then Aiyuk just reacted and uncovered, and jumped in front of Kittle. He kind of intercepted Kittle’s ball, which if he wouldn’t have done that Kittle would have got the two point conversion.
So you tell him not to do that. ‘You’re wrong on the play.’ But he did score and it was a hell of a catch. So, at the end of it I tell him, ‘That’s a great job overcoming coaching. Understand that it wasn’t right, you don’t want to do that, but man I’m happy you scored. Good job overcoming coaching.’
So you’ve got to kind of word it the right way. If you keep saying that stuff, eventually it will come back to haunt you. You’ve got to let them know that it wasn’t right cause when they do it the next time and it’s a fourth down deal and you don’t convert because they were just winging it they’ll be like, ‘Yeah, but last time you told me that was great.’ No, I didn’t, I said that it was wrong. You happened to overcome coaching at that time and it worked, but that’s why we don’t do that.
So you’ve got to be smart with how you articulate it to the guys, and then they all kind of keep saying the same thing.”
That’s the sign of a good leader and a good communicator. When you’re in a management position like head coach, you have to communicate in a way that guarantees your message is actually heard and acknowledged by your subordinates. Kyle knows he can’t just blast guys for doing the wrong thing when they end up making a good play, so he found a way to compliment them while also also letting them know that they screwed up.
Honest and open communication like that is one of many reasons that the 49ers have such a solid culture inside their locker room.
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