The Three Most Important Words a Coach Can Tell a Player

Recently, I had the privilege of talking to two elite college athletes about their experiences in their athletic careers. I dedicate this blog to them: Athlete J and J.  Their collective perspectives made me think hard and long about the most important thing a coach can tell a player.

In the world of sports and coaching, where guidance, instruction and motivation are key, there’s a phrase that is more important than all others: “I see you.”  These three words transcend mere observation; they encapsulate a deeper understanding, recognition and connection between a coach and a player. This phrase, when said genuinely, and with intent, carries the potential to transform an athlete’s journey in profound ways.

Coaching goes far beyond the teaching of X’s & O’s and the strategizing of game plans. It goes deeper into the roles of mentorship, empathy, and emotional support.

Or at least it should.

While coaching a player’s technique is crucial, acknowledging a player’s efforts, struggles and growth creates an invaluable sense of validation. When a coach says, “I see you,” they communicate that they recognize the player’s commitment, dedication and progress – not merely just the results.

According to football coach, Tom Landry, “The coach is the one who makes you do what you don’t want to do, so you can be who you’ve always wanted to be.”

I have talked about Trust in past blogs, and cannot say it enough. Trust is the cornerstone of any successful coach-player relationship.  By saying these three words, a coach instills a sense of trust in the player. It demonstrates that the coach sees beyond the immediate actions on the field or court, acknowledging the person behind the athlete.  Kaleb Joseph, Founder of the Self Help Tour, often says, “Person over Player,” and I couldn’t agree more.

The phrase, “I see you,“ has a remarkable impact on a player’s self-belief. In a world where athletes are often evaluated solely based on their performance, being recognized for their efforts and improvements can be a powerful confidence booster. It validates their hard work, resilience, and determination, nurturing a players self-esteem, even in the face of setbacks or failures.

A coach who acknowledges a player by saying, “I see you,“ establishes a genuine connection beyond the game. This emotional connection motivates the player to push harder, not just for the team or the sport, but also for the coach who acknowledges their journey.

A coach’s acknowledgment through these three words becomes a catalyst for confidence and trust.  Ultimately, it is the acknowledgment of the person behind the player that makes these three words the most significant thing a coach can say to their athlete:

“I see you.“

linda smiling<br />

Written by Linda Martindale

You may also like…

How Ignoring Athletes Limits Team Potential

How Ignoring Athletes Limits Team Potential

The consequences of a coach ignoring an athlete extend far beyond the playing field or court. From undermining self-esteem to jeopardizing mental health, the silent harm inflicted by such behavior is profound and far-reaching. As coaches, it’s imperative to recognize the power of clear communication and the impact it has on the athletes.

read more