When one initially begins to coach, the task can seem overwhelming. Although I got into coaching because I was unsatisfied with the instruction I had received as a player, the first thing I probably did at the time was run the same practice my previous coaches did. It was far from the paradigm shift that I had envisioned.
Nevertheless, I’ve made some progress over the years. Coaching and coach development is a very organic process and one size doesn’t fit all. That said, here are some tips for the rookie coach or the player who decides to give back by coaching a younger team.
Three Quick Tips
- Get certified: attend a coaching course or two, the sooner the better. It protects you should anything occur and the players deserve a knowledgeable coach.
- Draft a coaching philosophy: Once you determine your core values, it becomes easier to create a coherent programme. If you can look back on a season and know that everything you did was in concert with your values, you will have no regrets.
- Keep a coaching journal: As you develop as a coach, it’s important to reflect. You may come across an idea that will be valuable later or you may wish to look back to evaluate your progress.
It doesn’t get easier but as a coach becomes more involved with the sport, these strategies help keep one’s head above water (which is constantly rising so keep swimming).
As a new coach, one of my goals was to reduce player idleness in practice. Planning practices by the minute allowed me to provide as many repetitions as possible.
As I became more experienced, detailed planning facilitated my desire to incorporate energy systems and other performance factors into my coaching. Highlighting points of emphasis focused the attention of players and made practices more targeted and effective.
Planning maximizes your time and delivers the best coaching possible to players. Pragmatically, given the litigious nature of society, an archive of practice and season plans is essential.
When I look back at the difficulties I’ve experienced as a coach, almost all originated due to poor communication or could have been prevented with better communication. I feel that you should always be upfront and candid with athletes and administrators. This can cause some trouble, but I would personally have trouble operating differently.
There are many options to communicate with the student-athletes on your team so avoid information overload in games and practices. When the team is competing in a game or participating in a drill, the players are in a kinaesthetic mode and ill-equipped to listen to you in great detail. Limit timeout instructions to the facts and don’t give out more than one or two pieces of information. Comprehensive communication can take place later in a meeting when all sides have time to reflect and prepare themselves.
Often, a brief positive word exchanged before practice or during a meeting in the hallways can be very encouraging.
Initially it may be hard to reconcile your expectations with the talent level of the team you are coaching. Children or adolescents are not little adults. Even young people require patience as we are prone to the occasional bad decision. As NBA player Donyell Marshall said about playing on the inexperienced Chicago Bulls: “It was frustrating, but that’s the way young guys are. You could fault them, but you couldn’t.”
Adjust your expectations to match the athletes on the team. Don’t ask for too much. Reasonable expectations will result in much lower stress levels.
Secondly, when planning your season, consult the appropriate literature or experts to ensure that what you are doing is appropriate for the developmental age of the players.
Learning and Experimentation
I try to learn as much as I can from different people, teams, or sports. Recently, I came across some interesting ideas about footwork from a soccer coach and read about power and ethics in a business magazine. Keep an open mind.
When you endeavour to adapt new ideas to fit your squad, it may not go smoothly. It’s important to be honest with your team and they will be patient with you. If there’s a minor snag but you’ve acted openly and in accordance with your philosophy, there won’t be any long-term problems.
You should continue to learn because it models that behaviour for the athletes in your care. More important, you should continue learn so you can better yourself as a coach and a person.