You can argue that Buzz Williams gets more out of his player’s than any coach in college basketball. And, it’s not through X’s and O’s — even though he does a great job keeping things simple and is better than he’ll ever admit. He does it NOT through Tough Love, but by Loving Tough (A Phrase originally coined by WSJ bestselling author Jon Gordon). What’s the difference? With Buzz the love comes first. It’s why he’s helped guys like Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler get a chance in the league. By holding them accountable to high standards through love.
When your player’s know that you truly love them you can be as hard on them as you possibly can. Why? Because they know that you 100% have their best interest in mind. You’re not being hard on them to abuse your authority or pump up your ego. You’re doing it because you see greatness in them—maybe something they can’t even see yet—and know that it’s going to take more than they can imagine to see that potential come to life.
Tough love doesn’t work. You can’t be ridiculously hard on your guys and then tell them after the season that you love them. You have to love them first, connect with them and build a relationship. Show them that you care more about them as a person than you do as a player. And, it has to be the truth. Player’s have a huge bullshit radar. They know if you actually care or not.
But only when you build that trust — through love first — can you push them beyond fatigue, beyond that second effort and beyond their comfort zone. With the summer coming up, focus on building a relationship through love and see what that does to your ability to motivate next season.