We all want to be good at what we do…that’s the base level, right? Good, then great, then excellent. I talked about excellent here, but wanted to step back and write about the basics of being a good coach. Besides knowing your stuff and being a good teacher of skills, there are some less concrete places where good coaches excel. In this article from the current issue of Psychology Today called “Dear Leaders: Mastering the art of being in charge”, they talk about those less tangible aspects of leadership. While its focus was bosses in a corporate environment, I was able to pull out some “good boss” tips that can most certainly be “good coach” tips as well.
Good Boss Tip #1: They know themselves and their situation. “Being in power is a deterrent to self-awareness”, making it more difficult to “ascertain the impact their behaviors and policies have on their employees.”
Good Coaching translation: Whether the adjective before your name is “assistant”, or “head”, or “volunteer”…you’re still a coach. I’ve met too many coaches who think that they are friends with their teams…you can’t be their friend when you determine their scholarship money or their playing time. Please listen: your team members are not your friends and they don’t all love you. As coaches, we need a friendly relationship with our teams (or maybe just our captains) in order to get the real scoop as to what is going on with the team. If your captains say that the 6 am practices are killing them because they are all taking 8 pm classes that don’t get out until 10 o’clock at night, that’s something to take under consideration. You may not change your policy, but they’ve got to believe that you heard them and that you have a good reason for those early morning practices. When one person (the coach) holds all of the power, it’s pretty hard to be friends, but a friendly relationship with your team is essential to being the best leader for your group.
Good Boss Tip #2: They consciously break out of the power bubble by asking for direct input and feedback. Good bosses “are more sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of their charges.”
Good Coaching translation: As tough as it is to admit for us controlling coaches, we don’t know everything and aren’t always aware of how we impact the team. Instead of railing about how awful practice was, how about asking the team? They no doubt realize how bad the practice was and will probably be just as eloquent in getting that point across and it’ll mean more to their teammates coming from their peers. Or maybe you can meet with your captains and find out how the team dynamics are shaping up…are people getting along on and off the court? Who do they feel the most comfortable with on and off the field? This knowledge (that most of us aren’t privy to) will go a long way in putting the right grouping of people together to ensure successful competitions. The toughest, and most essential, is asking them what they need from you as a coach. Sometimes you will find out that they want more/less discipline or feedback…or maybe you’ll find out that they love what you’re doing with the team. Regardless, it’s pretty important to find out.
Good Boss Tip #3: They are decisive rulers. Employees don’t want “touchy-feely group therapy leaders.”
Good Coaching translation: For as much time as you take your team’s thoughts into account, they want to believe that you know what you’re doing and that you believe in what you’re doing. As coaches, it’s our job to explain the benefits of a decision and go with it. If we believe that a certain defense or offense or lineup is in the best interest of the team, it’s our job to “sell” it to the team in a manner that they understand and can get behind. We’ve got to alert them to the strengths and weaknesses of our plan, but also be enthusiastic and authoritative with our decision.
What do you think about these tips? I thought they were a nice starting point and could help us become a coach who “continually and constructively pushes [players] to do their best.”