Wednesday, May 25, 2011
THE VALUE OF A HANDWRITTEN NOTE
Many, many years ago as a freshman at Marshall University, I took a basketball coaching class from the late Stu Aberdeen. Coach Aberdeen spent one entire class session talking about handwritten notes. At that time, he had a thick, black spiral notebook that he kept all his contacts listed. Each day he would come to his office, open that spiral notebook up to the location of a paperclip. He would then hand write notes to the first five people. Then he would slide the paperclip down and repeat the next morning. When he would finally get to the end of the notebook he would simply start again all the while adding new people to notebook as he met them.
Coach Aberdeen talked about the feeling an individual gets when reading a handwritten note. It is one of the most personal kinds of communication. And he emphasized the importance of writing notes for no other reason than to let the person know you were thinking of them.
Coach Aberdeen also had the philosophy of "writing the last note." He told us that if you wrote someone a note and they wrote you back to thank you, that you write them back and thank them for thanking you --- make sure you write the last note.
I took that to heart and created my own contact notebook that grew while I coached on the high school level and worked summer camps around the country. My high school didn't have stationary so I printed my own. I began to make solid contacts. Through the years the relationships I created, in large part because of Coach Aberdeen's philosophy, either hired me or made calls on my behalf.
At LSU, I worked for Coach Dale Brown -- another master of the handwritten note. He wrote note after note after note.
I can remember my first year on Coach Brown's staff and my first big scout against the University of Texas. I worked hard on that scout and felt good about it. We were fortunate enough to pull out the victory and the next morning when I got to the office there was an envelope on my desk. It had a note in it from Coach Brown and a gift certificate for a local restaurant. The note said:
Bob, thank you for all your hard work in putting together such an outstanding scouting report. I just want you to know what a great job you are doing and that you are making a difference in our program,
Wow! For a young coach that had an amazing effect on me.
I'm reminded of a passage in John Maxwell's "25 Ways To Win With People:"
"When you give people credit verbally, you uplift them for a moment. When you take the time to put it in writing you have the potential to uplift them for a lifetime."
The proof? I still have that handwritten note from Coach Brown all these years later -- a many more. In fact, I still cherish the notes I get from Coach Brown. I haven't worked for him in more than 14 years and I still get handwritten notes from him. Sure, he emails me all the time but he knows that value of those notes.
I've used the value of a handwritten note to motivate and communicate with players. Sure, I've email our players and text our players but I've also wrote quite a many handwritten notes. For a player that did something exceptional or possibly for a player that was struggling, they could quite often come to practice the next day to find a handwritten note in the locker to start the day.
Now in all my years of coaching I've sent a lot of emails to players. On occasion they have responded via email by saying "thanks." But I've never -- and I mean never -- wrote a player a handwritten note and not have him or her come up to me at practice and say "thanks." And what that does is open up possible verbal communication.
So whether you are networking in your profession or trying to inspire those who play for you, never forget the value of a handwritten note.