Why do we coach? Coach Morgan Wootten would say, “so that we have the opportunity to touch people’s lives. But Coach Morgan was also one of the greatest competitors in the game. He wanted his teams to be successful. He wanted to win, and he always believed that competing to win was a life skill.
But he also understood that there’s often more to learn from losing than from winning. Part of having a positive impact on our kids’ lives — another reason, spoken or unspoken, that we coach — depends on our ability to teach lessons of lasting value on and off the court, in the face of both wins and losses.
How can you ensure that your coaching is making a positive impact on your players’ lives? Remember the 5 “Ps.”
Practice what you preach.
Coach Don Meyer said, “It is foolish to expect a young man to follow your advice and ignore your example.” Kids have hypocrite radar. They see right through lessons taught by people who don’t seem to heed their own advice. Just like in parenting, in coaching the concept of “do as I say, not as I do” is bogus. For example, don’t ask your kids to keep their language clean on the court if you can’t manage to do it from the sidelines. Leading by example makes you easier (and more rewarding) to follow. It makes your lesson stick.
Position your players for success — on and off the court.
That means fostering a winning and persevering attitude. How can you do that? One of the best ways is to help set individual and team-wide goals, establishing a vision for what can be achieved through hard work and dedication. Painting that picture in concrete terms and constantly reminding the team about where you’re headed helps inspire and keep focus. Guess what? This helps off the court, too. Being an active goal-setter factors into a lifelong positive attitude and a willingness to take on new challenges.
But never to the breaking point. It’s your job to ask kids to work hard and maybe even surprise themselves with what they are capable of. Part of that is not allowing players to (1) stay in their comfort zones or (2) rest on their laurels. You do a disservice to your players by not asking them to work hard to achieve goals that feel like a stretch. Of course, pushing too hard is bad for kids physically and mentally. But experience helps hone the ability to sense when a kid is hitting the wall.
Kids today really are under a lot of pressure — in sports, in the classroom, and often at home, too. And they’re still kids, after all. They haven’t had the time and the experiences necessary to learn how to control all of their frustration, anger, and disappointment. One of the best things you can do is remember that fact and remind yourself to be patient (but firm) when kids act out or don’t follow directions. Yelling or losing your temper makes you harder to heed and respect (see #1).
“Post up.” Every day.
You cannot expect your players to turn out for you and bring their best to every single practice and game if you don’t offer them the same respect and courtesy. One of the most difficult and disappointing experiences for kids is when the adults in their lives to let them down. This happens inevitably, of course, because none of us are perfect, but don’t let them down by being late to practice or not taking the game seriously. You can’t expect the kids you coach to be earnest, diligent, and responsible if you can’t manage to be that way yourself (#1 again!).
Noticing a pattern? It all comes back to “P” #1, staying true to your own rules. Hold yourself to the same standard as you hold the kids, and do regular check-ins to make sure you’re really “practicing” and not just “preaching.” That’s how you ensure that players look back on your lessons as guidance for the future.
To learn more about coaching techniques and how to position your players for success in life and in the game, check out our library of past posts.