There appears to be something that we seem to forget as coaches while we are attempting to “keep up” with our opponents. We forget that we are in fact coaching people first and athletes second. We are coaching individuals who are participating in an activity they enjoy and not simply players that are with us to put us at the top of our league. We have on our fields and in our training centers participants at various ages and skill levels who when they leave the practice or competition site, go to their homes and families with responsibilities and OMG other interests. How can that be we ask….. something other than our training and competing??? Yes it’s true. We and our sport are not the most important things in the big picture. Our athletes are also students, employees, significant others, parents, they have friends and other family members too. Imagine that. We need to keep that in mind as we are projecting our expectations and goals on their processes.
It is so easy to focus on the outcome and results that WE as coaches want to achieve from competition through constant striving towards perfect skill execution and implementation of effective tactics and strategies without considering the entire effect that the process might have on our players. There are numerous stories of athletes leaving their respective sport due to the real or perceived negative treatment they receive from their coach or coaches. You may not even know the effect you are having on your players and you might know very well the effect. My position on the miss treatment of athletes physically or emotionally is very strong and simple. It is NOT right… not at any time, in any place and not for any reason.
I have been criticized often for my lack of disciplinary abilities. It’s true. I am more of a working WITH coach than working to drive coach. I believe in developing a rapport with athletes and motivating them to work hard from within rather than using strong arm tactics to get what I want. Some may consider it a pitfall but I truly believe that if a coach can handle the parents who believe in the opposite strategies, it is a much more effective and long lasting strategy that brings out the good in the game all around. It is a very difficult position though and caused many disagreements with some of the parents of athletes I coached through the years.
Coaches who believe in fear tactics and who simply have expectations that are not realistic will do more to drive athletes and participants at all levels away from sport rather than bring them in and will do nothing to promote an active lifestyle. My belief is that most coaches want their participants to enjoy their experience and at the end of the day to play to the best of their ability and walk away feeling good about themselves and their progress. If we consider the “Do no Harm” principle of coaching, we need to consider the emotional harm that can be caused as much as we do the physical aspects.
Confidence and positive self esteem are critical to not only the benefits of participating in sport but also in enhancing the athletes performance during competition and training. An athlete who is feeling anxious about performing because he/she is afraid to make a mistake is not going to have the same level of skill execution as an athlete who is feeling confident and not having to be concerned about potential repercussions of making an error, such as being pulled or publicly ridiculed in front of others.
We need to always consider….. What were our priorities really when becoming a coach? Why did we decide to become a coach? What kind of effect did we hope to have on our players when becoming a coach? We need to always keep these questions and answers in mind when we step on the playing surface and take our players experience into our hands. How are they going to feel when they leave the field? My guess is that most of us as I have, began coaching as an act of altruism. We wanted to be there for the individuals we are coaching whether it is our children, our friends and even our significant others. When things get stressful and you are feeling that things are not going the way you want them to…… think about how they are going for your athletes and if they are meeting their personal and team goals. You might be amazed at their response if you asked them…. how do YOU think things are going?
My hope is that coaches at some point in their interactions with athletes take note of the effect that they are having on the individuals under their leadership. My guess is at the end of the day, athletes want the same thing that you do but perhaps would benefit from a more positive and empowering direction than the strictly authoritarian approach.
We need to ensure that our athletes receive as much enjoyment out of their experience as we are attempting to attain from ours. 🙂