Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Developing relationships with your players

I see that Jeff Fisher and the Titans are the only 5-0 team in the NFL. That's especially impressive considering that Tennessee's started 0-5 two seasons ago.

Since Fisher joined the franchise as head coach back in 1995, the NFL has cycled through nearly 130 head coaches. That's a credit not only to Coach Fisher's success, but to the team's owner, Bud Adams, an owner going back to the old AFL and a former owner in the ABA.

According to this article, "Bud Adams, is as old-school as old-school gets. And Adams gets it. Hire a coach you trust, let him work and stick with him. Adams has."

And just as Adams trusts Fisher, Coach Fisher's players trust him. Writes the author:

"He builds amazing trust with his players and they sell out for him. His communication and influence with his players is second to none in the profession. And his approach with players is uncommon. Courageous. Uplifting. Smart."

Says Fisher:

"Sometimes coaches are fearful of developing relationships with players. They don't know how to match that with the model, the line that says there is a definitive one between coach and player.

But I have had players like Eddie George, Frank Wycheck and Steve McNair who are lifelong friends. The most important thing you can have in a team is trust. The relationships. You take the rookies we have in here right now, they probably don't trust me. But I'll earn their trust.

I don't believe that players make mistakes on purpose nor does the coaching staff. If you try to make players do things they cannot do, they won't trust you. But you have to get them to go way beyond their expectations in doing the things they can do. And, this game, it has to be fun. With the pressures, you have to have fun."

Here's how his players describe Coach Fisher:

-- "He understands player issues, how to compete and is a great coach to play for. Jeff delivers on his word. It's the premise Jeff operates on. In my experience, he has been upfront, forthright. Everything he told me has played out like he said it would."

-- "He has great rapport with his players. He cuts to it."

-- "Coach Fisher is a person you can talk to about personal things and not feel intimidated. He has trust of the players and the coaches. He talks to you like a man and he expects you to show the same respect to your teammates and coaches. It is a fine line between player and coach, but it has to be one that is more than just coming to work and doing your job. It has to be for you to have a special football team. He understands that and expects you to be professional at your job. Guys sense from the first day they walk in here that coach Fisher is going to handle you in a real way."

-- "He is a down-to-earth coach. He listens to his players. He is a real personable guy. He's going to talk to you about anything. He tells it like it is. He prepares you for what you are going to see that day. He is a caring coach. You just can't get that anywhere."

For Coach Fisher, constant improvement is a key to his success:

"I am always looking to see what I can do better. I think if you just allow coaching in this league to become a way of life you can become complacent and you will be a failure."