We pour, time, energy, heart and money into developing our kids, but what about their coach?
In my last post I suggested beginning with the end in mind so you know the way to the finish line for your athlete. Expect a good coach to clearly define the steps to progress your child and what achievement looks like. Just promising to help your child achieve his ‘full potential’ leaves far too many unanswered questions.
The coach may have a winning track record, but that does not mean that your child is assured of this kind of success or even that this level of play will rub off on him if he rubs shoulders with these kind of players. Player development, like child development, is a process.
Too often, a misunderstanding between parents and coach rears its ugly head here, though. Coach promises “player development” but what parents get is player selection. If their child isn’t selected, they blame the coach and move to another team or, if enough parents of disgruntled players band together, they fire the coach (or in extreme cases the technical director or director of coaching) and select a new coach.
Can we see the irony in this? The parents are engaging in the very behavior they disapprove of in the coach. They are selecting, rather than developing.
What if, instead of selecting or unselecting and firing our coach we worked with him or her to develop better coaching (or people, management or communication) skills just as he/she is working with our child to develop better athletic skills? We know how damaging the “selection” environment can be when it is mismanaged. Fear of failure or dismissal inspires fear rather than confident performance and may actually pressure the coach into selecting players who can win now rather than developing players who will all contribute to the win, in time.
The better course for both player and coach is to develop loyalty to the team by making it a place where achievement is fostered and success happens naturally.
If we expect the coach to present steps for kids to achieve, what would a step ladder of development for a coach look like? It’s only fair to delineate expectations and present them for agreement and approval. Then, it is fair for the parents and team to hold him/her accountable. Here are 10 characteristics I would want on a checklist for my child’s coach:
- Possession of a coaching license appropriate for the level of teaching/play
- Clear coaching philosophy and policy for communicating with team parents
- A teaching style that is instructive and not punitive
- Demonstration of good motivational skills
- Good knowledge of the game
- Ability to demonstrate skills as well as instruct them
- An approachable manner toward parents and players
- A willingness to engage questions
- A positive approach to solve problems
- Enthusiastic and encouraging demeanor during practices and games
**From the Fit2Finish health and injury prevention standpoint, there would be a #11. I would insist the coach runs a properly designed and monitored injury prevention warm up.**
Certainly, each of these items can be improved upon, just as each of my child’s sport skills can be improved upon. Low performance in one area shouldn’t mean dismissal, just as I wouldn’t want my child cut from the team or program if he/she was lacking in one area. We simply re-visit that expectation and set a course for improvement. Just as we teach our children to receive constructive criticism and act on it to improve, we should work with coaches to do the same.
If we want to help our kids be better, we need to help their coaches be better, and not just threaten termination over wins and losses or playing time issues. We should expect much but also forgive much. Hope for the best and work for the best. People will surprise you when you ask them to be their best. Coaches included!
So far, no one I know: parent, coach, player, administrator, technical director, tournament director…no one is TRYING to get this wrong. We need to help each other get this right. If the body, mind and spirit are willing, there is a way. The way forward is:
- Set reasonable expectations
- Hold each other accountable
- Be patient
- Be forgiving
- Expect the best
- Be willing to let go.
Let’s come together for the benefit of our kids and for their development in sport. It has so much to teach all of us!