For better or worse, many coaches don’t realize the unbelievable power that they wield with their athletes to either build up or tear them down. The quality of the coach-athlete relationship that you as a coach develop with your players will transcend the sport and season and can shape a young athlete’s psyche and self-esteem for years to come both on and off the field.
Most pre-adolescents and adolescents look up to their coach. They want to be respected by him/her. They want the coach to believe in them. They give the coach the benefit of the doubt, respect them and believe that the coach knows what he/she is doing and saying, that the coach will give them a fair shake and that he/she has the athlete’s best interests at heart.
Good coaches are continually aware of the power that they wield. They know that they can make or break and athlete’s day, week or season by what they say and how they act towards that athlete. They know that they are holding a child’s emotional well being and dreams in their hands when that young athlete comes to play for them. Good coaches respect this power and remain aware of how they interact with their athletes and how their athletes respond. They know that they are working with “precious material.”
Bad coaches, on the other hand, are “bull-in-the-china-shop” oblivious to the impact that they have on their athletes. They are unaware that their looks, little comments or misdirected anger can destroy a kid’s spirit. They don’t really care about the athlete’s feelings and well being. They simply care about themselves, feeding their own ego and taking care of their favorites. They are immature emotionally and thus totally unaware of the incredible responsibility that they have in keeping ALL athletes on their team feeling safe to fail, learn and excel.
Unlike bad coaches, the good ones are always open to learning. They want to get better and operate on a continuous learning model. Their counterparts feel much too insecure about themselves to be open to new, potentially conflicting ideas and beliefs. As a consequence, the bad coaches are my-way-or-the-highway rigid in their interactions with their athletes and parents.
There are good coaches out there. They exist. I’ve had the pleasure to learn from them. They care about the kids and care about EVERYONE’S learning. Look carefully!