In Becoming a Champion, Coaching: Good/Bad/Unfair

Most youth, high school and even college coaches have had very little training in how to successfully work with young kids and adolescents! They have not formally or even informally stuidied their emotional development, how they learn best, how to communicate with and motivate them and overall, how to be most effective with these age groups. A striking omission, if you ask me, given that the very foundation of good caoching is all about having a sensitivity to and understanding of who you’re working with!

Despite this lack of training, there are still a select few coaches out there who are truly excellent coaches. There success is NOT measured in their won/loss record. It’s NOT recorded in how many athletes they may “send on” to D-1 programs with full scholarships or how many of their players get selected to play pro sports. Good coaching can NOT be measured with State and National Championships. WINNING DOES NOT MAKE YOU A “GOOD” COACH!

Good coaching can ALWAYS be measured in the positive changes that it catalyzes in these kids’ lives. These changes far transcend the simple “x’s” and “o’s” and physical mechanics of the sport. Good coaching inspires kids to pursue excellence in every part of their lives. It motivates young athletes to work hard, face their fears and adversity and persevere. It helps them learn to conduct their own life with honesty, integrity and class! Good coaches help young athletes feel good about and believe in themselves, and the self-confidence that comes from this lasts a lifetime and can be seen woven through the fabric of their lives as they grow up!

Good coaching does NOT involve “techniques” or mental tricks! It is not mainly geared towards the “better,” more talented athletes. It stems from the basics of effective human interaction. It involves an adult, a CARING, MATURE ADULT understanding that he/she is a “life coach/teacher” and that everyone on his/her team is equally valuable and deserving of attention because, at some point in the not too distant future, every one of those kids will grow up to be an adult in the world!

The sport that you coach is simply a metaphor through which you train young athletes to be good, highly functioning human beings. And your most powerful teaching tool is YOURSELF: WHO you are and HOW you are in the world. Great coaches teach through modeling. They don’t just rely on words! They understand that their own behavior always speaks much louder than anything that they might say. As a consequence, they are exquisitely aware of how they interact with their young athletes. They make a point to “walk the talk” and directly model what they want to teach! They demonstrate a genuine caring and respect for their athletes in all of their interactions, even if this might mean expressing anger and disappointment along the way. They do NOT demean, embarrass or humiliate their athletes because they know that these kinds of behaviors don’t constitute “coaching,” but ABUSE! Good coaches BUILD UP, rather than TEAR DOWN their athletes! Good coaches teach that failing and making mistakes is how one naturally learns and therefore these effective educators do not yell and scream at their players when they mess up. They do NOT make them afraid of taking risks and making mistakes.

Great coaches “pounce” on their athletes whenever there’s a job that was well done! They reinforce that good effort, fine performance or whatever deserved positive attention because they know that by “catching” their athletes doing things well, they end up building positive self-esteem. In this way the great coach doesn’t subscribe to the inanity that praising young athletes makes them soft and complacent!

Great coaches are not blinded nor distracted by their own egos. They understand that what’s truly important here are the athletes and their development and well-being, and NOT the coach’s ego and needs! In this way, these coaches are able to keep the sport in perspective, a critical accomplishment in our winning-crazed society.

Unfortunately, good coaches may be hard to find but I hope that you are blessed with a few in your athletic career!


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