I love [insert your sport here]. I work hard and I try my best. At every practice I do everything I can to show you I deserve to be here. I work to impress you and my family. My parents believe in me. I believe in me.
I seem to have all I need, right? Well, I’m missing one thing. I’m missing your unconditional support. I know that you’re there to push me. I know that you believe in my abilities. What I don’t get from you is support “no matter what.”
If I’m hurt or not feeling my best, I’m afraid to tell you. I’m afraid of how you’ll treat me or how you’ll look at me like your disappointed. I’m sacrificing my body and my ability so I don’t have to confront you.
Does this situation sound familiar to you? Do you know an athlete whom struggles with an injury or a poor performance or two and wants nothing to do with talking to the coach? Unfortunately, this is all too familiar in our uber-competitive society. It’s the “whatever it takes to win” attitude. Take it from me, I’m as competitive as the next person, but when the athlete begins to sacrifice their mental and physical being for the game, we have a very serious problem. And fortunately, this problem can be resolved and even avoided. You may not like what I’m about to say, but, it begins with you, the Coach.
Yep, I said it. You can be the winningest coach, the smartest coach, the most motivating coach, but you also can be a culture crushing coach. What do I mean by that? One asset that many coaches do not have is learning and understanding their players. We expect this of our children’s teachers on a daily basis. We want the teachers to understand our children and tailor their lesson plans for each of them. Why do we expect it of teachers, but not of coaches?
As a coach, it is your responsibility to learn your players, to understand what motivates each of them. Players, just like students, are motivated differently. It is part of your duty to learn how to get the best out of each them. As well as, knowing when something isn’t right, like an injury. If you have an acute knowledge of your players, then you should be able to recognize when they are not 100%. Recognizing it is one thing, how you handle it, is another.
A player should never be afraid to tell their coach about an injury. Players are silenced because of the fear of being benched. Having an injury shouldn’t mean punishment. Show your player you care. Show them you are concerned more with their wellbeing than with winning the game. A little compassion at the beginning could save a lot of heartache in the end.
I began the process of writing this blog by asking myself one simple question, why do I coach? Why do I do it? What started my inner drive to help others try and become better people, both on and off the field? What do I possess that makes me the type of person that would want to take on this role? What were the things that I experienced in my life that caused me to want to take on this very important role for others? Is it that I get to dive head first into someone else’s world and try to help them grow? Is it that I get to share in their successes and help them through their failures?
The answer always comes back to the same common theme. I coach because I believe it is important to have good people who want to make a difference in kids lives. This is all I have ever known. As long as I can remember I have known that there was something bigger than just me, I am just a part of this world yet I still have an opportunity to make a big difference. I truly believe that all of these parts come together to help form who a person is and what a person is all about. Knowing that youth athletes are at different points along a continuum, I want to be a part of helping them recognize they are capable of greatness. This was instilled in me by my parents and coaches. They taught me to be there for others and to try and have a positive influence on others. I feel now, more than ever, we need each other. I think we owe it to ourselves, and others, to open up and share what we have learned. Coaching is about motivating kids to try and be better today than they were yesterday.
I have chosen to follow what I believe is important. I have found something in me to share with others that I enjoy. It gives me a purpose and shows others a skill that if I chose not to share it, I would not have a completeness in my life. Being a coach allows me to be bigger than I am. Are you here to contribute something larger then yourself? Is this why you coach?
“A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.”
The coach of the team is the leader, the CEO of the organization so to speak. You alone have the ability to make or break a child’s spirit (that’s a lot of power). Parents have entrusted you to teach and guide their children in sport. As parents we feel you are our child’s guardian while in your presence. To be the voice of reason, the disciplinarian, the authority figure and to teach and manage the game.
As a coach your role is to lead your players. This doesn’t mean you need to win every game. This means guide them and teach them the fundamentals of the game and what it means to be on a team. You must support each player (unconditionally). You must recognize each of them has a role and each of them is important to the entire team. Each player should leave a practice or game knowing more than when they came and wanting to come back. If you’re breaking spirits and squashing their love of the game, you’re not doing your job. There’s no need to coddle, and there’s no need to berate. There’s a balance for each individual that will help them develop. Encourage as much as you can.
Set realistic goals for the individuals and the team. Help them reach those goals. Be there when things are good and more importantly when things aren’t. Know your players. Know their strengths and their weaknesses. Know things about them, other than their talent level. Put them in situations where they can succeed and allow them opportunities to grow. Help them build upon their strengths and improve their weaknesses; that way they’re always moving in a positive direction.
Do you have what it takes to positively affect a child’s life?
Below is a practice plan that Todd uses for his baseball teams. This is just a sample to get you started to make sure you’re using your time and players wisely. Remember, long lines of kids standing around, accomplishes nothing. In this plan utilizing stations you can get a lot done in 2 hours. Have fun and let us know how you use this plan or others like it!
Date: _____Time: ______
2-3 Minutes: Pre-Start Meeting – Today’s Points to Emphasize: