Sugar and Salt

Set the Table

Leaders need to prepare themselves for tough conversations. That’s what leaders do. Leaders care too much about those around them, not to have those conversations when the situation requires it. Those conversations aren’t easy, not even for the strongest of leaders. It requires practice. Players need reps. It’s important to start training for the trial your not yet it.

In order to have effective conversations, players need to learn to balance love (sugar) & truth (salt).

Being able to speak kindly, gentle and with love can go a long way and in this exercise we call that “Sugar.”

Truth is what we know it to be, the truth, which is sometimes painful and harsh. We call truth in this exercise “Salt.”

Through this exercise your players will get their reps to cook up a recipe combining the perfect amounts of sugar and salt.

"“As a coach, this was one of my favorite exercises. I loved watching my players try to navigate these difficult conversations that even after 15 years of coaching, I sometimes struggle having.”"
Veteran Maryland High School Varsity Boys Basketball Coach

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Lesson Plan

Player Growth Areas

Exercise Length

Language Guide


Communicating with respect, kindness, and love


Communicating in a very direct manner, straight-forward and frank

Example Videos

See Sugar & Salt in action below to get a better understanding of how to teach the the Exercise.

Shareable Graphics

Share these in the locker room, coaches office or on social media.

Exercise Reminder Card

To emphasize and reinforce the lessons learned in this exercise with your players, download and share this graphic with them 24 hours after completing the exercise.

Quiz Questions

Quiz Questions

Use these questions below to engage after you have taught the exercise.

  • What does it mean to communicate with “Sugar?”
  • What does it mean to communicate with “Salt?”
  • Why must we balance Sugar and Salt when communicating?
Quiz Questions

At Home

Coaches, use the below question, reflection, and action to engage parents, guardians, and other family members in the lessons learned in this exercise.

Suggestions on how to use: Email to parents the day you have taught this lesson, add it to the materials you send home, or text it to text message threads with your players.

  • Question: What does it mean to communicate with “sugar” and “salt”?
  • Reflection: Why do leaders prepare for and engage in tough conversations?
  • Action: Share an example from the session with your family and illustrate what the perfect blend of Sugar and Salt would look and sound like.
Quiz Questions

Coach’s Reflection

Coach, take a moment to reflect on the lesson and how you can lead by example to your players. 

Coach, where do you fall on the communication scale? Do you lean more heavily towards “salt” or more towards “sugar”. In the coming weeks, reflect upon your daily communication and evaluate if you’re using too much salt, too much sugar; make a conscious effort to communicate with the appropriate levels of sugar and salt.