I recently read about Dean Cromwell, the track coach of the University of Southern California from 1912 until his retirement in 1949. No other coach in collegiate track has ever approached his records. His teams won 21 national championships, had 13 world record holders, and at least one of his protégés won an Olympic gold medal during his 39-year coaching career.
Cromwell was a master at getting people to believe in themselves and getting phenomenal performances from his athletes.
He believed in always keeping everyone in an optimistic mood. Yet, he didn’t give fiery pep talks. He always kidded on the “upside, never on the downside.” He never made fun of anyone—never a putdown, but always a buildup.
This highly successful coach believed that all athletes (read: everyone) would try harder when they are seeking to live up to someone else’s image of them. For example, one year he had champion pole-vaulter named Bill Sefton. He also had an unproven sophomore vaulter, Earle Meadows. Every time Sefton improved his own mark, Dean Cromwell would tell Meadows, “You can do it if Bill can.” One day Sefton broke the world’s record. A few minutes later Meadows tied it.
The point: Pump up a person’s good feelings if you want that person to succeed.