Three Ways Nick Saban Gets the Most from His Players

6 time national title winning Alabama football coach Nick Saban is a big believer in the importance of the psychological aspects of athletic performance and coaching. He works with mental game coaches like Dr. Kevin Elko to maximize mental preparation. Here are three ways Saban uses the mental game to get the most from his players.

1) Knows How and When to Push Players Motivational Buttons.

Example: When Alabama lost to LSU a few years ago and got a chance at a rematch in the national title game Elko’s message was: “Remember how you felt right after you lost to LSU? Remember how you felt when you looked across the room at the other players with a broken heart? Now prepare and play this game so you don’t have to feel that way again.”

“I’ve learned a tremendous amount from guys like Kevin that has really helped me understand the best way to help manage guys psychologically so that they have a better chance of being successful,” Saban said.

2) Understands the Difference between Praise and Encouragement.

Encouragement is different from praise. If your kid comes home with a report card and it’s all A’s, this is praise: “Bobby, you got all A’s. That’s incredible.”

Here’s encouragement: “Bobby, I saw you doing the things that brought you these grades. I saw you working hard and doing all your homework assignments. I’m glad you like learning.’”

3) Knows How to Use Motivational Catch Phrases.

Phrases are a big part of Alabama’s football culture and players catch them like touchdown passes. Many will write some of the more popular ones down.

One of Coach Saban’s favorites and one he repeats often is Benjamin Franklin’s phrase, “Pain instructs.”

Another popular one is “Dead Soldiers Fighting.”

“We get completely caught into a step-by-step of winning the game, and there’s a phrase we got into,” Elko said. “There were a bunch of these soldiers, and they kept on winning these battles. People said to these soldiers, ‘How do you keep on winning?’ They said, ‘We’re dead soldiers fighting. Once we quit worrying about winning and losing, we got lost in the fighting.’”

You can learn much more on what Nick Saban and America’s greatest football coaches do to get the most from their teams in the new book “The Football Coach’s Game for Leadership”.