By Kyle Elmendorf
In every profession, every walk of life, there are things that one must do and must avoid. With regard to philosophies of coaching, these five habits will certainly help coaches to build successful programs.
The first trait is to praise loudly and criticize softly. No one likes to be screamed and yelled at. Screaming and yelling at mistakes will only cause more mistakes. It also causes embarrassment for the athlete and makes the coach look childish. If mistakes are made, they need to be corrected and should be done so in an appropriate manner. It is always best to use the sandwich method. When criticizing mistakes, first point out something positive the athlete does, follow it with the critique and conclude with another positive remark. People are much more likely to respond to praise. In most cases, athletes will give you more when you are praising their efforts.
In order to run a successful program or business, all people involved must feel valued. The second trait is to try to make everyone in your program feel important. This is not easy and it takes a lot of effort. One way to do this as a coach is to take the time to get to know your athletes. It’s important that you know about their lives outside of sports, and it’s also important that they know about yours.
The girls on my basketball team are around my family a lot. My almost two-year-old son loves to watch our games and be around the team. A successful program is a family, and that atmosphere is created through trust. Trust comes when people feel that they are valued as individuals from those who have authority. In order to create this environment, make it a point to talk to every player every day. You’d be surprised at how often that does not occur in sports.
Coaches should also encourage some form of contact during practice. Make it a point to give your players high fives or fist bumps and acknowledge the effort they are giving you. Lastly, tell them you care for them. If you coach, you spend a lot of time with your athletes. If you don’t care about them, you shouldn’t coach.
All great coaches run great practices. A trap many coaches fall into is that they think they need to stop practice and talk a lot in order to get their team to do things correctly. However, the third trait says, coaches should not talk a lot at practice and keep the athletes moving. Repetition is the mother of all learning.
In sports I am a huge believer in the fundamentals. As my coaching idol John Wooden stated, “Little things make big things happen.” Kids do not want to stand around and listen to their coach talk all practice. Obviously, there needs to be verbal instruction, but it needs to come in between drills or while the drill is still moving.
A suggestion is to create practice schedules that do not have drills lasting longer than eight minutes except for scrimmages. By doing this, things are kept fresh and moving at a face past. It helps you to get through a lot in two hours and you are able to constantly provide feedback and instruction while moving.
In coaching there are a lot of tough decisions to be made. Another difficult issue is discipline. The fourth trait is for coaches to always be willing to suspend or remove disruptive players regardless of their ability. All players need to be held accountable at all times, regardless of their talent level. In order to establish continuity within the program, coaches must coach all players.
Sometimes, coaches will only criticize the marginal players and will hesitate to correct their best players in front of the team. The truth is that the best want to get better, so don’t be afraid to coach them up as well. If the best player gets a detention or is late to a team function, he or she should have the same discipline as the last player off the bench would receive. When this occurs, it will solidify the coach’s authority and players will buy in and have more respect. If it does not occur, a team can quickly tune out or turn against a coach.
Anyone who has been in the coaching business and has had success knows that change is inevitable. The fifth trait is to always be open to new ideas and techniques. There is nothing that frustrates and irritates me more than someone who goes by the philosophy of, “It’s always been done this way, so I’ll continue it.” It just doesn’t make sense. All things come to an end.
A great coach is one who is evolving with the times. Today’s athlete is not the same as the ones 15-20 years ago. Coaches must stay young at heart, know what is popular with today’s teens and be able to relate to them. Successful coaches are also in tune with new trends within their sport and with how the newest resources out there can benefit. The great ones in sports, business and life are life-long learners. Don’t be someone who thinks they know it all after a few years and is too good to learn something new.
About the Author
: Kyle Elmendorf is in his eighth year as a teacher and coach at Orchard Farm High School in St. Charles, Missouri. He is the head girls basketball coach and assistant football coach.