Messaging underpins success in all professional sport.
In European football (soccer), Sir Matt Busby, who managed Manchester United to great success between 1945 and 1971, crafted many timeless messages. His quote, “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough” is still on the wall in the Manchester United player’s dressing room.
You can borrow great messaging
We don’t have to invent new messages, either. There’s nothing wrong with appropriating a message that works for your professional sports situation.
For example, in the AFL the St Kilda Football Team finished 2014 on the bottom of the league table. Most media commentators suggested that St Kilda would finish 2015 on the bottom as well, because the team was full of young, unproven players.
The media consensus was that they wouldn’t win one game and it would take 2-3 years for these players to be good enough to compete at the highest level.
But the St Kilda coach did not want that idea in the heads of their players! Unless he introduced new messaging, the consensus view of the media would become the dominant idea the players were exposed to.
Drown out negative voices with your own message
So, imagine you’re the new coach of a professional sports team like St Kilda. What message do you want to drive home in the pre-season? How about,
Good choice. Not only does this counteract the negative messaging in the media, it focuses everyone on the goal: Get good enough!
This message provides clarity for professional sports players, direction for supporters and guidance to coaching staff.
This is one of the key messages head coach Alan Richardson has focused on. He supported this with:
Halfway into the 2015 season, commentators were “surprised at the successes of this young team”.
Professional sports messaging drives behaviour
Many of the most successful professional sports teams are associated with vivid messages. The question might be then, is it the messages that help make professional sports teams successful by galvanising energy and focusing attention? Or is it simply that successful sporting teams know how important messaging is and they include that as part of their operation?
Perhaps it’s a bit of both.
But what really matters is the evidence to show that professional sports messages, when done well, have a powerful ability to drive the behaviour and decision-making that lead to success. Everyone is aligned with the vision and it unites people across different areas of the team.