What makes a good coach?
Passion and commitment to the sport and to the athletes. A coach is a leader and motivator who has a vision for creating champions. Coaching is an art as well as a science. An effective coach understands how to communicate with athletes in a way that gets results. The goal of coaching is to guide, inspire and empower the athletes to realize and develop their true potential.
Qualities of an Effective Coach
Knows the Sport
Must be able to teach effectively the coach must have in-depth understanding of the sport from the fundamental skills to advanced tactics and strategy. Coaches may have experience, but not all former athletes make good coaches. Coaches must plan, know the progressive nature of training adaptation, know the rules, strategies and provide a simple, structured environment for athletes to succeed.
Seeks Out New Information
While a good coach knows a great deal about a sport he must continue to learn and develop new training techniques. Staying up to date with the sport, new training methods, understand conditioning, diet and mental skills. Seeking new information from peers, attending coaching clinics, camps, and seeking out tips to train with elite coaches and athletes is a must. Studying videos and reading can also be helpful. There are so many great resources out there and the best coaches seek out the information.
Is a Motivator
The successful coach is a motivator with a positive attitude and enthusiasm for the sport and his athletes. The ability to motivate and inspire is part of the formula for success. Getting athletes to believe in themselves and achieve come far easier for some coaches than others. The coach who can motivate is able to generate the desire to excel in their athletes. Motivation may mean keeping the practice fun, fresh and challenging. When motivating athletes, a good coach stresses trying to reach performance goals, not outcome goals. To be a good motivator your opinion must matter to your athletes. I always say to new coaches it doesn’t matter how much you know, until your students know how much you care. If you students don’t know that you care, you are not going to be an effective coach. The key is mutual respect, coaches who show their athletes respect will receive respect in return, and then you can do your job. A coach should make sure that his athletes understand they can completely control their own effort and training, but can’t control what your opponent does. So focus on the things that are in their control. The athlete needs the burning desire, but the coach’s job is to stoke the fire.
Knows the Athletes
Being aware of individual differences in athletes is also an important ingredient in coaching excellence. Yelling, screaming, and other emotional displays may work for some athletes but could have a devastating effect on others. Individualizing communication and motivation to specific athletes is key to success. Paying attention to the athlete’s emotions, strengths and weaknesses are the responsibility of a good coach.
Is an Effective Communicator
The effective coach is a coach who communicates well and exudes credibility, competence, respect and authority. A coach should be able to explain ideas clearly. Clear communication means setting defined goals, giving direct feedback and reinforcing the key messages. Acknowledging success is also essential for good communication.
Is a Good Listener
Part of communicating effectively is listening. A coach should be a compassionate ear and should welcome the athletes feedback, comments, questions and input. The effective coach will seek out information from his athletes. Finally, the good coach will be flexible and will use feedback to modify the training plan if necessary.
Athletes need to adhere to a reasonable set of rules both on and off the mat and if these are ignored the coach is responsible for discipline. The effective coach clearly states a code of conduct up front and adheres to it. When violations do occur, discipline should follow. Evidence supports that for discipline to effectively change behavior, it must be mild, prompt, and consistent. “I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself.” ~ Robert E. Lee
Leads by Example
The effective coach also leads by example. A good coach adheres to the same rules he expects of the athletes. A coach who wants respect should also show respect. A coach who expects athlete to remain positive needs to display a positive attitude. A coach who wants athletes to listen will also listen. A coach that want his athletes to work hard also works hard.
The best coaches are in the profession because they love it. Besides being strongly committed to the sports and success of the team, the best coaches display a clear commitment to looking out for the best interest of the individuals he coaches.
Becoming great coach is not easy and requires a very unique set of talents and skills. If you are a coach, you should strive to work on these traits. It’s unlikely that any one person will excel in all areas, but a good coach will have many of these qualities, and a great coach will continually work on developing all of these qualities.
If you are looking for a coach, these qualities may help you identify the strengths and weakness of the coach you are looking at.