Going into a career as a sports coach means you have a strong passion and respect for the sport. You have experience that you believe will prove valuable to future players of your beloved sport. Or you simply just want to stay involved and do something on the side that you enjoy 100%.
Whatever your reasons for being a sports coach, make sure you have the right qualities to go with the knowledge and responsibilities associated with your coaching duties.
Your job cannot be done effectively if you don’t know how to communicate properly. And the way you communicate will largely depend on the age group and demographics of the children or adults you are working with. In either circumstance, you need to be a strong and clear communicator.
You need to be able to address confrontations, deal with overbearing parents and managers, instruct your athletes and be understood and respected by them when you talk. And hand-in-hand with speaking and being heard, you need to listen in order to understand where the players you’re talking to are coming from.
You don’t want to be the reason that your athletes quit and leave the sport you all love so much. And, yes, there will be times when people mess up and it’s important that those situations are dealt with, but there should never be a reason for you to undermine your athlete’s effort.
Constructive criticism goes a long way. It’s a way of telling someone they’re doing something wrong, but still encouraging them to keep trying. It’s about knowing how far you can push their physical and mental limits before taking them aside and reassuring them that you’re only trying to help because you know they’re capable of getting it right. Through constructive criticism, you can build their character without driving them to the edge where they give up as a way to stop feeling stupid, disappointed, inadequate or like a failure anymore.
By hammering down 24/7 you can break an athletes spirit and lose a valuable member of the game.
Respect the player
As the coach, you need to know your athletes. You need to understand that every one of them has a different personality and will require different training methods. Hardcore yelling may motivate some players to drill harder, but it may simultaneously drive another player to quit.
You’re in the business of nurturing and growing sports personalities – plural. If you have to adapt your coaching method slightly for different players (without it being special treatment) then you need to do it. Respect what your athletes bring in terms of their effort, capability and promise and work with that.
Starting out with a new team or a new athlete can be frustrating at times. Teaching them the rules of the game, how to play and heading back to the basics may make you feel overqualified and your skills being underappreciated. But everyone has to start somewhere and not everyone is going to be on the same level as the other athletes you’ve trained in the past or are training on the side.
Patience is a virtue all sports coaches should have. As long as you know that they are indeed trying and doing their best, all you can do is keep motivating and supporting them until they get it right. And when they do, everyone can celebrate.
Half-time motivational speeches should be a default part of the job description. How can you be a football coach if you don’t know how to motivate your players to still give their all even though the scoreboard says their losing? How can you be a gymnastics coach when you don’t have anything to say to calm your gymnasts down and reassure them as they enter their first big competition?
Motivation, when the odds are against the team or athlete, can be easily lost. Even something such as playing away from home for a crowd where your only supporters are on the benches behind you. A great sports coach knows how to motivate and draw out every last bit of effort out of their players so that, no matter what, there will always be a reason to be proud of how they did, knowing they’ve done their best.
Another quality of a great sports coach is commitment. Commitment to the sport and commitment to the players. You have the responsibility to stay updated in terms of the rules and regulations of the sport and communicate that to your team. You also have the responsibility to show up and take your job seriously when it comes to practices and sporting events.
Your athletes want to trust and rely on you to keep them informed and show them you’re serious about their future in sports.