In all of the live, group workshops that Positive Coaching Alliance presents nationwide for youth and high school sports leaders, coaches, parents and student-athletes, we discuss the concept of Filling Emotional Tanks.
Following is a script that coaches can draw from in order to convey the concept to players. This script addresses relatively young basketball players, but with just a few adjustments based on sport and your players’ ages, you can deliver the core message in your own voice.
Have you ever heard of the home court advantage? How often do you think a team wins on its home court? It turns out that teams win at home a lot more than when they are away. One reason for this is the emotional support of the crowd. It tends to lift our emotions and make us play better.
We want to be able to play our best all of the time. To play our best we have to keep our “Emotional Tanks” full. What is an Emotional Tank? Well, it is like a gas tank in a car. When it is full, we run well, but when it is empty, we can’t go very far.
Why is it important that we keep each other’s tanks full? If our Emotional Tank is empty, we become negative, and we give up more easily. If our tanks are full, however, we are optimistic and are able to handle difficult situations. As the coach, I will do my best to help fill your Emotional Tanks. To have a really great season, I need your help.
Think about when you miss a free throw. What would someone say to make you feel worse? (“You stink!”) See, that was easy. We call that draining the Emotional Tank. When you criticize or insult your teammates, you make them feel worse. That’s why we call it draining the Emotional Tank. I will try not to drain your Emotional Tank, but sometimes I will have to correct you to help you learn the game. I will try to do this in a way that keeps your Emotional Tank full.
What would someone say to make you feel better after you missed a shot? Maybe something like “Get the next one,” or “Shake it off!” We call that filling the Emotional Tank.
Here are some ways to fill the Emotional Tank:
• Tell your teammates when you see them do something well, or when you see them giving maximum effort, even if they don’t end up making the play.
• Tell your teammates when you see them improving. This will make them want to continue trying hard to improve even more.
• Listen to your teammates. If they have ideas they want to share, you can fill their tanks just by listening. Nobody wants to be ignored!
I promise to do all of these things. Also, I want you to do tank-filling activities with each other. Here is a great way that you can help me. It is called the Buddy System. Once in awhile at practice, I’ll ask you to pair up with a buddy. It might be a different buddy every time.
I want you to look for the things that your buddy is doing well. Remember, though, you have to be truthful, or else your praise won’t mean anything. Also, try to tell your buddies exactly what they did right. For example, if your buddy makes a nice pass into the low post, say “Way to keep that pass up high where only our center could grab it.”
Do you think it is important to say more positives than negatives? How many more positives should you say? I am going to try to shoot for five positives for every negative. I don’t want you to worry about the exact number of positives you say, just remember, be as positive as you can.
So, right now, pair up with someone else, to be your buddy for today’s practice. Later in the practice, I am going to have each one of you report back to the team on what your buddy said to you to fill your tank.
This season is going to be an especially great season if we support each other and keep our Emotional Tanks full. With full Emotional Tanks, we will be off to the races, and there is no limit to what we can accomplish.