Empathy for your Players with Brian Kight

By Eliot Clough | Posted 9/16/2019

Vulnerability among football coaches is not something that is necessarily prevalent, especially with their players.

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Brian Kight, founder of dailydiscipline.com, who talked “Living the Standard” on the Coach and Coordinator podcast believes this is something that can drastically change your program. “If you struggle with emotional control on the sideline, you can live that standard by opening up about why you struggle, opening up about how that inhibits you, opening up about what happens to you in games and how your mind changes,” says Kight. “[By doing that] you allow [your players] to open up about how they struggle.”

Relenting the fact that you, as a head football coach, are not perfect, also allows you and your athletes to meet in the middle. “I have a problem with a coach that lacks the self-awareness to see that he doesn’t actually apply the standard to his own life,” says Kight. “Then [the coach] just hammers on players to do it, demands it from players or gets angry if a player doesn’t uphold the standard and that coach hasn’t held up a mirror to see if he’s lived that standard in quite some time.”

The former CEO of Focus3 points to his concern for football players and coaches rather than judgement of the coaches themselves. “What I see is too many coaches not understanding how much that kills their credibility, and they lose connection with athletes because of it,” says Kight. “And now that coach is out of position to actually change that athlete’s life and help that athlete and grow that athlete because the athlete is looking at [the situation] and there’s a disconnect for some reason. And I don’t want coaches to be disconnected. I want coaches to be strong positions of influence. You just can’t be in the strongest possible position of influence if you’re not living the standard you set for other people.”

Understandably, Kight does receive pushback from coaches on living the standard they set for their players. This comes from the fact that coaches don’t see the necessity to eat, go to school or behave like their athletes. “You don’t have to do the same thing a student-athlete does, you just have to uphold the standard you expect,” clarifies Kight.

He continues, “If you don’t take care of your body and you expect the student-athlete to take care of their body and you get upset with that student-athlete when they don’t take care of their body, how can you be credible when you don’t take care of your own body and nobody is allowed to say anything to you about it?”

Kight returns to the point of empathy needing to be a focus when coaching athletes at a different age. “If you struggle to take care of your body, when an athlete struggles to take care of his body, do you empathize with him and reveal some of your insecurities and struggles and emotional problems that don’t make you take care of yourself? [That will] help you work better with that athlete and give him a longer leash because he has the exact same struggle as you.