Coaching is not just about winning games. In fact, winning is a very small component to the job. Successful coaches help athletes master new skills, enjoy competition with others, and develop a team-first attitude. They are not only well-versed in the techniques and skills of their sport, but they also understand how to effectively teach those skills through age-appropriate practice regimens and skill-building drills. The ability to apply and communicate life lessons learned from sports participation is also of extreme importance.
The influence coaches have on young adults is far too great to believe that the utilization of volunteer coaches diminishes the professional responsibilities for effectively executing the mission. In fact, any youth league organization that does not coordinate a mandatory coaching certification course for all volunteer coaches is doing a tremendous disservice to their community. Ultimately, the amount of accessible educational coaching materials and resources is far too great for anyone to make excuses for volunteer coaches who inadequately carry out their duties and responsibilities.
The Professional Coach
The coach who responsibly performs their various roles and obligations is a “professional coach.” Anyone can be a “professional coach” even the dad who coaches his son’s five year old T-Ball Team.
The Professional Coach:
- understands that the physical, emotional, social, and psychological development of their athletes takes precedence over winning;
- is an individual of sound moral character who understand the true meaning of integrity;
- is organized, disciplined, focused, and value-driven decision makers;
- has a solid understanding of sport science, sport management, risk management, nutrition, and sport specific techniques and tactics;
- always seeks to better him/herself by attending coaching conferences, reading books and professional journals, or exchanging ideas with peers and mentors;
- has superior communication skills and understands the psychology behind reinforcement, motivation, and how young people learn.
Now that we have described what a Professional Coach is, let’s examine what a Professional Coach is not:
- The Win-at-all-Costs Coach
Coaches who adopt this style care more about their win-loss record and personal ego than the development of their athletes. They will use every tactic imaginable to give them a competitive edge, even if these tactics are unsportsmanlike and dishonest.
- The Me Coach
Coaches who adopt this philosophy are more focused on “me” than “we.” For example, they may say, “I need you to play flawless today,” or “I need you to work hard for me today.” In order to build a team concept, this coach should be saying, “We (or the team) need you to play flawless today,” or “We need you to work hard for the good of the group today.”
- The Want to be Popular Coach
Coaches who adopt this style make few decisions as possible. They do not hold their players accountable, nor do they demand excellence from their athletes. The Want to be Popular Coach focuses more on having fun and giving meaningless praise and extrinsic reward than challenging the team to meet high standards and expectations. The Want to be Popular Coach provides minimal guidance and instruction, and cares more about being liked than doing the job right.
If you are thinking of being a volunteer coach, please take your responsibilities seriously. Understand that coaches at all levels of competition have the power to make a significant, life long impact on the lives of young adults.