By Carl Normandin
As a coach, you affect your athletes' performance level, motivation and enjoyment in athletics. You also have the ability to influence your athletes positively, negatively, morally and even socially.
Athletes benefit most from coaches who are supportive and encouraging. Research suggests that team members with supportive coaches enjoy sports more and develop more positive self esteem than athletes who are not supported or encouraged,
Your athletes' decisions about competing on your team or even life-long involvement in a healthy lifestyle are in part, based on your impact on them as their coach. Therefore, your role and responsibility as a coach is far more important than it may seem at first glance.
Coaches working with JV- and varsity-level athletes often develop close relationships with them over time. When this occurs, coaches can influence their educational, occupational endeavors and general value beliefs.
When coaches become genuinely concerned with the overall well being of their athletes, they tend to confide in them about important issues and decisions that affect them. Consequently, the impact and responsibility of the coach extends well beyond the playing field and courts.
Following are three key principles to effective coaching and coaching relationships:
- Respect for Individuals – The concept that each individual possess an intrinsic value and worth is integral to respecting individuals. As a coach, you are called upon to act in a manner respectful of the dignity of individuals.
- Key ethical standards: Treat and respect everyone equally, regardless of race, language, religion, culture, gender or physical ability. Recognize that your athletes can contribute in providing positive feedback on training methods and how training and competitions could be optimized. Remember that there is a need for certain information to be kept confidential. Be sensitive to the feelings of your athletes when providing feedback on training and competition.
- Responsible Coaching – This concept requires that the coach be competent and that sufficient duty of care to your athletes is followed. It encompasses the idea that risks are minimized during the planning of all training and competitions aspects of your programs.
- Key Ethical standards: Be responsible for periodically updating your expertise through courses, clinics, conferences or workshops. Prepare well-planned and sound training programs and execute them in a way that benefits your athletes best. Recognize your own limits of knowledge and collaborate with others when appropriate.
- Integrity in Action – This concept challenges the coach to act with uprightness, wholeness and coherence. Coaches are expected to be honest, principled and honorable. Be honest and sincere when communicating with your athletes. Never give false hope or make promises you never intend to keep. Abide by the rules of your sport and respect your opponent along with those that govern your sport. Adopt a professional attitude and maintain the highest standards of personal conduct, not matter how well or bad things are going. This includes your mannerisms, dress and language in an education-based setting.
Coaching is an incredible responsibility, and to some, a privilege. What you do and how you act is extremely important as a coach. Athletes observe you both on and off the field of play. When athletes like and respect their coach, they tend to imitate the behavior they witness and accept many of the attitudes displayed by their coach. The best way to ensure that your impact is both positive and beneficial is to demonstrate a genuine concern for each and every athlete you coach.
About the Author: Carl Normandin, CAA, is director of interscholastic athletics and executive director of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Section 10 office in Canton, New York. He previously was a teacher, coach and athletic director. Normandin is a member of the NFHS Coaches Publications Committee.