10 Skills To Make A Good Sports Coach
I have been lucky enough to coach a few junior teams across 4 sports over the past few years including rugby, football, hockey and cricket. The teams I have coached have varied in abilities from club to county level. But as a coach there are basics that should be addressed before every session to ensure you are best prepared and your players can get the most from the sessions planned. Here are 10 skills a good coach should think about before any coaching session
- Your players don’t expect you to be the best player. There are many top level coaches that haven’t played at the highest level of their sport. That doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified to coach though. Jose Mourinho played 94 games at a good level in Portugal but, was never a prolific player. However, he has become one of, if not the best club manager in the world. Apart from education by working under other top managers, he has passion for the game and a drive to improve his group of players. A club coach should also be passionate about improving his/her players. If you don’t have this I believe you won’t be able to give effective coaching
- Let your players have an opinion and be heard. No matter what level you coach, you will need to listen to your players. They want to improve so ask them what areas they are looking to work on. You may have a fixed goal for the team as a whole but each player has an individual need. So, give them a voice and listen to it, some of the best coaching ideas come from you players
- Are you willing to change? Ask yourself – How many players come back week after week? Do you have a waiting list for players? If you find your squad numbers are going down through the season, it may be your sessions aren’t engaging enough. So take note, it is a good sign that you are doing ok as a coach, if the players keep coming back.
- Plan your session but we flexible. A good coach is a prepared coach but the best coach can adapt when things are working better than planned or when they might not be and need changing. Never turn up to a coaching session and try to wing it, as the players will know and most of the time failing to plan is a sure sign you plan to fail. If a drill isn’t working though can you adapt and change to plan B or plan C?
- Remember you are coaching youth players’ not Elite players. The goal of a youth player is going to be different to the elite sports player. If a young player makes a mistake, be patient and work out a way to build confidence through skill development and repetition. Don’t push the player too fast, ensure they have the basic skill set before coaching specific skills. In football let them kick the ball around the pitch before coaching how to kick, In hockey let them play with a stick and ball before coaching stick skills, In cricket it may need some thought on how to start with young players but let them play. In rugby let them kick the ball and pass as soon as you can. They may already have some skills that can be developed naturally rather than coaching by text book.
- Wait for it before heaping praise on a player. If your player actions a skill well, a quick word of praise can give them a huge boost however, be careful to what level of praise you give. I quite often wait for a few round of one drill before offering feedback as it is as good to observe than comment sometimes. If your player did something well and you say ‘that was brilliant’ where do you go from there? By all means give praise but be specific about what they did well. Rather than say ‘that was brilliant’ you could temper it slightly by saying ‘ I thought was the best pass you have done today, well done’ The player then knows what they did well but also have room for further praise should they do better.
- Smile – remember it’s supposed to be fun. I know quite a few coaches who shout and frown during sessions and forget why they coach. Some sessions are challenging but if you have an extensive collection of drills, games and activities then you should be able to adapt. A frown or scowl serves no purpose and to fully engage with your players and parents watching on the side, it is far better to see a smile and hear a laugh as the atmosphere is far more attractive
- It’s not about your ego, it’s about the player. It is absolutely vital you set the level of coaching to the level of player you are coaching. If you coach a variety of teams then the plan will need to change to ensure the players remain engaged and challenged. A good coach has to be player centred and not self centred. If your session is planned to make you feel good the player will fell they are missing out and their enthusiasm is likely to drop off quite quickly
- Good sportsmanship starts with the coach. When you are in a match or competition, your club will insist that your players abide by the good sportsmanship guide. However, this starts with the coach. Speak with umpires, referees and opposing teams coaches before you play and be welcoming and friendly. A win at all costs culture is a bad culture and players become negative to other players needs. A team that plays well and can learn to lose is just as important so they learn to enjoy the wins even more.
- Get feedback from as many people as you can. At the end of every session or game, I encourage every coach to get feedback from your players. You quickly find out what they are thinking and how you can use this information for the next session. Don’t be critical during the debrief, look for positives. I worked with a coach once who focused on what went wrong rather than what the player or team did well. Even if the team had won the game, the mood went down as players were told what they could have done better rather than what they did really well. Try to engage with coaches and parents too. Getting parents feedback is almost as important to get an understanding of players needs. Work closely with other coaches to ensure your message is the same, try not to have a good cop – bad cop scenario within your team set up.