Once you start thinking about becoming a coach, you probably get that initial rush of excitement and anticipation. What a great opportunity to pass along the wisdom you’ve picked up over the years, either as a former player or parent watching your child play. Best of all, you get to be around the sport you love on a different level.
But once that euphoria wears off, reality hits. You begin to realize the enormous responsibility that comes with the job, whether it’s as a volunteer for your child’s T-ball team or a paid position at a high school football program.
If you are just beginning your journey as a head coach, or even thinking about becoming one, congratulations! You’ve already taken an important step toward making a difference in the lives of young athletes. Here are eight tips every aspiring coach should know. They may not address every issue you’ll face, but should ease some of the biggest concerns most coaches have when getting started.
1. Understand your motivation. Tom Bass, former defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers who now conducts seminars for USA Football, says all new coaches should ask themselves one important question: why am I doing this? Is it to win football games, make sure your kid gets more playing time, or to teach valuable life lessons athletes can use on and off the field? Knowing your motivation will help you make an informed decision about whether coaching is right for you.
2. Expect the job to be challenging. Being a coach at any level is hard work. Some coaches, particularly parents volunteering to coach their child’s team, don’t realize the challenges and responsibilities that come with the task. While you don’t want to allow yourself to become overwhelmed, it’s important to remember you don’t have complete control over the final outcome. Positive Coaching Alliance advises first-time coaches ask for help, particularly from an experienced coach who has already been through most of the same challenges you will encounter.
3. Get feedback from your child and family about your decision. If you’re considering coaching your kid’s team, PCA recommends seeking his or her opinion. Explain why you’d like to do this, and ask how they would feel about it. It may or may not ultimately affect your decision, but it’s good to include them in the process.
4. Don’t pretend to know more than you do. This is especially tempting for a former player who wants to impress a kid or his parents, says Steven Cournoyer, a youth coach and creator of The Inspired Coach Training Academy and guidebook.
“Stop positioning yourself as an expert,” Cournoyer told theSeason. “What happens is, parents come to the first game, and the first 15 minutes, they see something the coach does they consider un-expertlike. All of a sudden, the backbiting starts.”
Instead, Cournoyer recommends coaches be up front about their coaching experience, even if it’s their first job. Explain your expectations, and encourage parents to be a part of the process, whether it’s to shoot videos or bring snacks.
5. Make your team’s goals realistic. It’s natural for a young coach to make winning the primary objective, particularly at the most competitive level. In his article Guidelines for the Rookie Head Coach, Jeff Walters, a high school football coach in Brentwood, California, says it’s better to establish more attainable goals, such as building character or making academics a priority. The only thing you can control is what the athletes will gain from the experience.
6. Remember that they’re just kids. According to Baseball Brains, an online group for players, coaches and parents, patience is required when teaching young athletes. Not everyone learns at the same speed, which is OK. Some won’t immediately understand what you’re trying to tell them, and others may not even be listening. If your players see that you’re patient and compassionate, they’re more likely to learn the game and enjoy it more.
7. Have a plan, and stick to it. Whether it’s practice or team activities, players need to know you’re organized and not just winging it, Walters says. Write everything down and communicate your plan to the entire team. Include your assistant coaches to ensure everyone is on the same page. Apps like GameChanger are perfect for staying organized and keeping everyone in the loop.
8. Make your team experience positive and fun. Sure, everyone wants to win and become great at what they do. But that shouldn’t be a coach’s top priority, according to former baseball and softball coach Jason Zimelman. Make practices and games as enjoyable as possible for your players. Developing skills and winning will come more naturally if everyone is having a good time and enjoying the whole experience.
From GameChanger and Stephen Kerr
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