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Cathi Aradi

Fastpitch Coaching Tip: What You Believe Is What You Get

"Some things are true whether you believe them or not." So sayeth Seth in the movie City of Angels. And that is a pertinent statement in the process of recruiting student-athletes and their families.

Did you ever stop to consider how important people's belief systems are in their decision-making? Our beliefs make up the core of our beings. You cannot live without them. They are the basis from which we formulate our realities and interpret events and circumstances in our lives. What we believe dictates our behavior and determines how we feel about ourselves and others.

If we believe we are going to be late and that being so will be an inconvenience to ourselves or others, we hurry. If we believe we can hit that pitcher, chances are much better that we will make contact with the ball. That confidence allows us to relax and execute our mechanics.

On the other hand, a negative belief creates anxiety and makes it much more likely we will move our heads, come out of our stance, swing prematurely and miss the ball. Now think about your relationships. We tend to get along with people who believe the same things we do. There is a rub when we must work closely with someone who has an entirely different slant on life or morality or religion or politics or any other subject which is important to us. Everything can be going swimmingly until the wrong topic comes up. Then our guts tighten, we start feeling offensive or defensive and we either want to argue or change the subject. Beliefs to right to our emotions and it is well to observe the axiom "never discuss religion and politics."

Recruiting is a relationship business. It is nearly impossible to recruit someone with whom you have a substantial conflict of belief. And sometimes seemingly small things can escalate into very big deals. If you don't know a person well, you will be guessing at her beliefs and you could easily say something off-hand or with the best of intent that blows up in your face. It can happen very quickly and with total innocence.

I recall having a chit-chatty conversation with an acquaintance on the golf course recently. We were talking about a friend of ours who had been successfully treated for cancer a couple of years ago and who, we had both noticed, had resumed smoking. That led to a discussion of the tobacco companies and I directed a snide remark at them. I was shocked by his response. He immediatley went to their defense and loudly decried any atempt to limit their activities or put them out of business. I hit my shot and shut up. It wasn't worth going there. Now I know something about him and he knows something about me that will forever color our relationship. Because now I will infer, rightly or wrongly, other beliefs that he must have and he will do the same with me. It won't prevent us from playing golf, but it will limit my openness with him.

As I have worked with coaches in recruiting, I have picked up on two critical areas of belief that you have to take care of.

The first has to do with you and your employer. Kids and their parents either have or will soon develop beliefs about you. Often, these beliefs have not been formulated through direct experience, but rather by hearsay, their high school coach, friends and of course by competing recruiters. (I'm thinking here of negative beliefs because if everything is positive, you have less to worry about.) When you hear beliefs you know are not true, you must be very careful. Your gut will tell you and you will either be ready to do battle or vigorously defend yourself. Neither is right. If you do battle, you may win the fight but you will lose the war.

And if you become defensive, you may lose their respect and confirm in their minds that what they believed is true. Me thinks the lady doth protest too much? Instead, listen to your gut and see the red flag it's waving in your face. Take your time. Calmly explore the issue with her. "That's interesting. I'm really curious. Who or what gave you that idea?" She may well be vague. "Oh, it's just something I heard," and refuse to divulge her source. That's okay. Don't force the issue. Rather, respond with something like, "I can understnd how someone might have gotten that idea."

Now go for the proof. "Is this something you have seen for yourself?" If it is, you better listen closely and try to determine the truth of the matter. If it isn't, then you can say, "Would you do me a favor? Would you come and see for yourself? Because I can guarantee you that what you will find here is something very different." And now, of course, you offer your own evidence. Beliefs can be changed if there is sufficient evidence!

The second critical area involves the beliefs about the young lady's ability. Parents may really be off base here. You are dealing with Generation Y kids and perceptions of how good they are may be a bit on the glorious side. You know you're there when there is an entitlement issue at stake bigger piece of the pie, a more prestigious school, a higher division or even a guarantee of playing time.

Coaches usually get angry when they hear these issues and then the tendency will be to attack. Don't do it. You must remain consistent with the belief and open about your own issues. "I believe you/your daughter is as good as you think. That's why I'm here. If you want to be here, I want you here, too. And because my job is to put a winning team on the filed, I an recruiting other girls with equal talent at their own positions.

The hardest part of my job is taking the money I have and trying to make everybody happy. Besides money, we also have these benefits for you..." (this is what I can do--it's your decision.) In other words, put it back on them after acknowledging the issue. If money is the bottom line and you can't win, don't beg, don't diminish yourself.

People who are most effective in relationsships are people who understand the power of beliefs and maintain an wareness of them--your own beliefs and those of others. Find out early what your recruits and their parents believe. How? By asking questions and listening carefully to their responses. The more energy theyt put into statements, the stronger the belief beneath it. It is also a good idea when asking your questions to say, "What do you believe...? rather than, "What do you think or feel...?"

Some things are indeed true whether you believe them or not. And some things are not true even if you do believe them. The trick is managing all of this without creating defensiveness, anger or embarassment.