Dear Coach Bryant:
Our family doesn’t believe in bragging. We have deliberately raised our son to be humble. But now that he is talking with college basketball coaches, we’re realizing he needs to explain what he can do for their programs. He can’t just sit there with nothing to say about himself after they ask what he has done in high school.
Should we tell him to talk about how great a player he is? If we do, will he come off sounding like a jerk? We don’t know how to help.
Indecisive in Indiana
Congratulations on encouraging humility in your student athlete. Still, your concern is valid; your son needs to know how to accurately cite his qualifications when talking with coaches. Here’s a brief summary of what I tell my clients about why they need to advocate for themselves – and how self-advocacy differs from bragging.
Advocates cite facts
When asked, your son should be able to share his statistics, selections, honors, and other verifiable accomplishments. When asked, he should also share how he has contributed to his team through leadership and service (“I stay late after practice to help our younger players.”).
Advocates avoid comparisons
A coach isn’t interested in hearing a student brag about how he or she compares to others. “I’m the best one on the team” is not impressive. Even if that’s true for that particular team, there’s always someone better on another team — and the coach is probably talking to that player, too.
Advocates answer questions
Good coaches ask questions and listen carefully for answers. They notice when a student is being truthful. They also notice when a braggart is offering too much information. An effective advocate accurately answers all questions, including those about his/her strengths and weaknesses, without exaggeration or apology.
Advocates stand tall
Body language is important. If a student stands up straight, looks the coach in the eye, and speaks clearly, he or she looks like a strong competitor. I often suggest athletes practice their posture, gestures, and overall manner of speaking in front of a mirror or video camera. Potential recruits should take time to develop confidence in their presentations.
Parents can help their students understand that speaking honestly and factually helps coaches make accurate assessments. The most appealing self-advocates are realistic. They know what they can do now, but they also know they can learn to do better. That confidence-coachability balance can be very appealing to coaches looking for their next recruit.
All the best,