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Regardless of the sport, good coaching is good coaching. Whether you’re a softball coach, a track coach, a football coach, or a soccer coach, you want to make sure your own coaching game is just as good as your players so that you can all have a great season. And regardless of if you’ve coached for years or it’s your first time around, you can always learn a little more about how to coach a winning team.
Here are some tips I’ve learned from great coaches in my life and from doing a little research. Do you practice all of these?
1. Gets players to believe in themselves.
Can you remember your best teachers and coaches from the past? They probably had similar qualities. I know that one of my best coaches, my high school track coach, helped me believe in myself by challenging me. He had me run one extra race in a meet, and I was sure I was too tired to run it. He didn’t give me an option, so I ran the race – and I finished. Suddenly I realized, I could do it if I put my mind to it.
Good coaches help their players believe in themselves. That means showing them that they can rise to challenges, being positive, and always encouraging them to push themselves just a little harder.
2. Is a clear communicator.
Good coaches communicate well with their players and their players’ families. They are honest about their expectations for the team, and they are approachable by the players. It’s really important for players to feel like they can approach their coach if they have a problem or just something they want to talk about. It’s equally important to keep lines of communication open with players’ families.
When it comes to nuts and bolts communication – Where and when is practice? Who’s bringing snacks? – things can get a little tricky. Luckily these days there are some great coach applications that can make it a lot easier. TeamSnap is a good choice. This coach application lets coaches, players, and families stay in contact by keeping the roster, team schedule, and group messages all in one place.
3. Focuses on the positive.
Do you remember the teacher or coach you really didn’t like? They probably, among other things, used humiliation as a tool to get students or players to do what they wanted them to. This is just not a good way to coach or to build a strong, unified team.
A good coach, instead of using humiliation, focuses on the positive and helps players do the same. Not only will the positive reinforcement help keep the attitude of the entire team positive, but setting a good example by pointing out players’ successes will set an example for players to do the same for each other. And a united, positive-thinking team is basically unstoppable!
4. Uses coaching to teach about life.
One day after a particularly difficult practice, one of my coaches said to all of us, “Isn’t life better as an athlete?” Feeling sore and sweaty and tired, it was hard to understand what he meant at first. But finally, I realized that after running miles and miles in the heat, was my physics homework really going to be that difficult? Nope.
A great coach helps show athletes how the lessons they learn in practice and in the game apply to life in general. If you can overcome challenges on the field, you can do it in the classroom, or on stage, or anywhere, really. If you can put your mistakes behind you and try harder next time in the game, you can do it in life, too. A good coach makes learning about the game a chance to learn about life.
5. Keeps the game in perspective.
You know those parents who get way too into their kids’ sports games? And everyone feels a little embarrassed? There are coaches like that, too. Don’t be one.
A good coach keeps the game in perspective. It’s just a game, in the end, and it’s meant to be fun. She also doesn’t allow her own ego to get involved with her team and the performance of her players. She realizes that her own self-worth has nothing to do with the performance of her team, and that coaching is just one thing she does, not her entire life. All the same, she is, of course, passionate about what she does!
6. Is flexible.
Whether it’s on the field, track, or court, things don’t always go exactly according to plan in sports. There can be accidents, absences, and just random chance. A good coach knows how to change and adapt his strategy to fit the situation at hand without letting sudden changes ruffle her feathers. She’s also flexible when it comes to how to approach challenges. If one approach isn’t working, she’s willing to try something new to find what works.
7. Continuously challenges players.
My cross country coach always used to say, Your mind is tired, your body can always keep going. As it turned out, he was right. He constantly challenged us to take ourselves just a little further, run just a little longer, a little faster. Then, at the end of the season, we were amazed at how far we had come.
A great coach should continuously challenge players to challenge themselves, with an “I know you can do it” attitude. She should keep pushing her players outside their comfort zones and giving them opportunities to prove to themselves that they can do it.