If you are a first time sports coach or a parent volunteer with absolutely no idea as to how to be one, then you are likely finding this job harder than you expected. So today we are presenting 10 easy ways to, well, ease matters and help you help your young team members.
Table of Contents
1. Communication is key
Coaching athletes is not just about organizing events and teaching kids ways to better at sports; it is also about effective communication. Effective communication comes by building a rapport with parents, assistant coaches and also with the players themselves. Communication is a two way process: it involves not only speaking but listening as well. Effective communication can help you assess each player’s goals and needs. Often, sports coaches are good at talking but not good at listening. So, in order to be a better sports coach, one needs to listen to players and parents as well. This is the most important quality of a good coach.
2. Make your players feel welcome
A good sports coach will smile, welcome each player by name and create a positive environment that will make them look forward to the sessions. It is also important to make eye contact with the players. In case of young players, it helps if you can take a knee and make eye contact when speaking to them. You literally have 60 seconds to get your player’s attention –so keep things brief instead of making long speeches.
From time to time, arrange for a pre-season meet with players and parents and let them know why you are out there. For example, at the end of each meet, you can say things like: “I just want the kids to have fun so that they all look forward to the next season. And yes, I hope to teach them some skills too.” Of course you should also feel free to share your ambitious goals as well.
4. Plan and organize
Assess each player’s needs and goals so you can come up with specific coaching sessions and programs. Systematic planning is very important to ensure progress of the team and ensure that performers achieve their goals. Based on individual requirement, you must offer appropriate levels of challenges. This is crucial to promote self confidence and instill a sense of achievement in each player. For very young players, it is crucial that you keep them moving and active. Bring plenty of props and equipment so they are not standing around waiting their turn. It helps to pick one or two areas of focus per session. For example, one session can only be about passing. During such a session, you must keep reinforcing the idea through statements like “ Great pass, John!” or “What is our focus today?” You can also have a short interactive session at the end of each practice by asking questions like “what did you learn today?” or “Who saw one of their teammates do something great” etc. Also involve the parents by asking whether they liked the session. This can give them a chance to recognize specifics and also talk about positives they saw in the game.
5. Invite parents to help
Talk to other parents and ask a few of them to don the hat of an assistant coach. Getting parents involved ensures that you will have their support and also practice with their kids outside of official practice time.
6. Analyze and evaluate
Continuous analysis and evaluation are essential qualities of a good coach in sports. Each coach needs to analyze during practice sessions the following characteristics of individual members and the team as a whole: physical and mental levels, tactical and technical aspects, the extent to which goals have been achieved as well as her/his own coaching skills. Based on the results of such analysis and evaluation, a good coach will change or revise practice sessions to meet changing needs and demands of players.
7. Keep an open mind
One of the most important qualities that can help you become a good coach and mentor is keeping an open mind. A good coach is open to new ideas and amenable to changes. S/he is open to trying out things in a different way. Additionally, a good coach is also open to criticism and must analyze his/her own shortcomings.
8. Learn to better yourself
All coaches, despite their age and experience levels, must continue learning and gaining insight to improve their skills and knowledge. One can learn a great deal just by observing other more experienced coaches. You can also attend workshops, training sessions, meetings and conferences to learn current trends and future developments. Many governing bodies of sports offer sports specific training and qualifications.
9. Create a safe environment
Every coach must, first and foremost, pay attention to the safety and well being of the performers. As a coach, you should be aware of your legal responsibilities pertaining to child safety and protection. It is very important to adhere to accepted ethical codes of practice. A good coach should, in this regard, strictly adhere to fair play and confidentiality. One should also be aware of their obligation to conform to right relationship with performers, about drug abuse etc.
10. Create a team cheer
To instill a sense of team spirit, coaches can come up with an innovative team cheer and repeat it often. This will help team bonding.
It is not easy being a coach. There will be frustrations and disappointments. However, you can avoid these setbacks by setting expectations right. Talk to fellow coaches from time to time to share your challenges. They can be wonderful resources. Remember: you do not have control over the outcome. So do not go in with very high expectations. Apart from knowing what makes a good coach, it also pays to know what makes a bad one.