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http://www.riotsportsmarketing.com Coaches are technicians. They are the engineers of the sports world. They enjoy putting their heads down and plowing forward by training their team, teaching techniques and ensconcing themselves into the daily routine of athlete development. Unfortunately, that is a small part of preparing for overall program success.
I regularly preach the value of CEO skills for coaches. Networking is one of the most overlooked of them. Whether novice or experienced, every coach can improve his/her networking skills.
Contrary to popular belief, networking does not just mean getting to know someone. Just because you introduce yourself to a person in a key position that could open doors for you, does not mean that they will. Here is the most important piece of networking that you must remember if you want this skill to move your program forward.
Do something for them first without expectation of their being in your debt. Help them. Give them something of value. Make them feel special. Then, maybe, just maybe they will feel compelled to return the favor or, bettter yet, do something for you because they like you.
Here are four examples of how you can use networking skills to advance your program and make your job easier:
Potential sponsor: You have an ideal business in town that you think could sponsor your team. After you have done the first part of networking, which is introducing yourself (or having an introduction arranged), but before you make any type of ask, find a way to offer something of value to them. If they are a B2C business, mention on your team Facebook Page that you met the owner and include a link to his website. Give value first and do it with a genuine heart. Don't be surprised if in return, they volunteer their help, financially or otherwise.
Administrator: Having good relationships with our administration is key to getting things done. Make your athletic director feel special and recognized for her efforts. Invite her to practice so that you can introduce her directly to your team. Discuss the role of the AD in the success of your program. If you are an athletic director, bring the principal or vice-president "backstage" to experience behind-the-scenes at a special event.
Unaccommodating teacher/professor: If there is a particular teacher or professor at your institution that seems to go out of his way to make life difficult for student-athletes, be sure to go out of your way to understand him first. Then, determine an appropriate way to bring him into the fold and help him develop a relationship with your athletes. Make him an "honorary coach" for a competition, for example.
Uninterested Reporter: You likely want more media coverage for your team or athletic department. And you probably have that reporter in town that just will not give you the coverage that you want. Instead of expecting them to come to you, you should go to them. Call or email her to compliment her on a completely unrelated story. If she has a blog, comment on it. By making her feel important and valued, you are more likely to get what you need.
While some people are naturally more social, true networking skills are developed over time. Take some time today to go out of your way for someone that can be a strategic partner in your program's success.
Take action today. Network.