Coaching a team is one of the most demanding and rewarding jobs you will ever attempt. Along the way, you will experience a wide range of emotions from exasperation to exhilaration, and everything in between. Beyond the highs and lows from game to game and season to season, you will have the opportunity to play an influential role in the development of your players, both athletically and in their “off the field” lives as well. Many of the lessons you teach your players will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Focus on Improving the Team as a Whole
One of your most basic functions as a coach is to improve the skill level of your players. On the surface, this task is very straightforward. Your players will begin the season at a certain skill level, and under your guidance, their skill level should improve as the season progresses. If you simply set out to make each individual player better, you will find some success as a coach, but your team will be unlikely to reach its full potential.
If you desire to truly coach a team instead of a group of individuals, you should focus on improving the team as a whole, not just improving each individual player. At the beginning of the season, set goals for the team and work towards achieving those goals as a group. You will win and lose as a team, so you should set goals for the entire team too. Teaching your players to give maximum effort for the team and put the good of the group above their own individual desires are lessons that will serve them well long after their athletic careers have ended.
Coaching is More Than Just X’s and O’s
The role of a good coach is far more than simply organizing practices and managing games. If athletic skills and plays are the only things your players learn over the course of the season, then you will have missed a golden opportunity to truly make an impact in their lives.
Coaches fill a variety of roles in their players’ lives, acting as everything from mentor to role model to substitute parent. These roles carry significant responsibility, as your players will look to you for so much more than just athletic instruction. Younger players may look up to you as a parental figure, while older players will come to you for advice in various aspects of their lives. Most coaches cherish these roles and find them very rewarding.
Develop Synergies Within Your Team
One of the hallmarks of a well-coached team is that the team’s performance is far greater than the sum of its parts. Fashioning a group of individuals with varying attributes and skill-levels into a cohesive unit that exceeds the sum of its parts is one of the most difficult tasks coaches face. Coaches that motivate their players to play together as a cohesive unit, putting the good of the team above individual goals, will find success. Such teams often play an effective and entertaining style that is difficult to overcome. Learning to excel as a member of a team is a lesson that serves athletes well in so many facets of their lives.
Know Your Players
To be a good coach, you must understand how to manage the individuals on your team. Unsurprisingly, different players will respond differently to different coaching methods. In order to maximize the team’s performance, you must understand how to best motivate and train each individual player.
Additionally, many of your players will look to you as a mentor. With this role comes tremendous responsibility. Make sure you are guiding them down the appropriate path. Over the course of the season, your team will likely begin to take on your personality, so make sure you are conducting yourself in an honorable manner.
Teach Good Exercise Habits
Playing a sport is hard work. With childhood and adult obesity both rising at a steady clip, sports are exactly the type of activity that many people need in their lives now more than ever. By teaching your players that exercise can be fun and beneficial rather than just another chore, you can influence them to exercise regularly and live a healthy lifestyle for the rest of their lives. The discipline brought about by healthy living will benefit your athletes for years to come.
The Mental Aspect of Sports is Often Undervalued
In order to get the best performance out of your players both as individuals and as components of the larger team, you cannot ignore the mental aspects of the game. Many talented players will fail to reach their potential due to mental obstacles, such as poor confidence or fear of failure. A good coach will build their players up and instill confidence in them, helping them overcome any hurdles in front of them. A confident player is far more likely to succeed. Confidence in athletic competition quickly spreads to other aspects of players’ lives, building up the self-esteem and self worth with which many young people struggle.
Remember That You Are Coaching a Game
Regardless of the level at which you are coaching, remember that it is still a game. By their very nature, games should be fun. Too many coaches lose sight of this simple fact in their pursuit of winning at all costs. You must find the appropriate balance between player development, finding success and having fun. If the coach is not having fun, then the players likely will not be having fun either. As a coach, your attitude is contagious among your players. Make sure you are staying positive, and your team will too.
Be the Best Coach You Can Be
Good coaches take many different forms. A perfect coaching model simply does not exist. Just like many great players come equipped with different sets of abilities and attributes, many great coaches have used very different styles and approaches to find equal measures of success. No coach is perfect, and each one will make many mistakes along the way. The key is to learn from your mistakes and continually strive to become the best coach that you can be.
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