Protect your players
The only way to be successful as a coach is to have players that execute the plan you have devised to achieve your common goal. Whether that is winning the league or developing players for a higher level, your players are the conduit to reach your goal. You are the leader and therefore the one that players and staff look to for guidance when the going gets tough and the storm has arrived. Imagine for example that you loose the first three games of the season when everyone expected you to be fighting for the title and winning these games comfortably. The media and fans start to ask critical questions after the games and you are suddenly in a very uncomfortable situation.
When the outside world is criticizing your players you as a leader have two choices. Either you protect your players by taking responsibility and letting the blame fall on you, or you can deflect the criticism and hang your player out to dry. When you look through the media outlets after a team has lost it is all to common to see comments from coaches that are publicly criticizing their own players. These comments are made by coaches who, per definition are not leaders and who will struggle to get players performing to their potential.
Imagine you are working as a teacher at a high school where the grade average one year is the worst in the state. When your principal is interviewed by the media and asked the question of why the grade average is the lowest in the state, the principal answers: ”The students doesn’t work hard enough. They need to look themselves in the mirror and take responsibility”. The principal is blaming 15-18 year olds for failing classes and receiving poor grades instead of taking responsibility and look for ways to improve the school system. How crazy would that be? Everyone understands that children and young adults wants to succeed and improve if they are given the right environment to do so. But why is this not the case when talking about football players?
The reason for these coaches to blame their players publicly can be a number of different things. For example the coach can feel pressure from the press, the fans of the club or even the board because of the poor results. Or maybe the coach does not know how to be a leader because he or she went straight from a playing career to the position of head coach without receiving proper education. Regardless of the reason for blaming the players instead of taking responsibility, the action in itself can only be explained by the coaches trying to protect their position and to keep their jobs.
As you know, the statement of the principal in the example above is a statement that you can read in the press after every weekend when you look through interviews of coaches all over the world. These coaches are not leaders since they do not take responsibility and instead blame their players. If you as a coach want to be a leader you must protect your players and staff from the outside world no matter what in the same way that the principal must protect the students and the teachers of the high school regardless of the grade average.