Very recently I’ve been in the position of having to, shall we say, consider how different coaches impact their teams. Part of my life is as a coach evaluator on behalf of the OCA (Ontario Curling Association) and in that role I have to watch a coach run a practice and evaluate them based on an extensive list of criteria developed by the CCA. I’m a huge fan of the process and I know a ton of work has gone into developing it. Essentially, to become certified, a coach must now demonstrate their competence as a coach in front of a live evaluator. You are allowed to submit a video of your practice but it is strongly discouraged partly because of the difficulties in getting a video that is good enough quality to evaluate but also because there is no chance for any interaction in the process. This requires a certain level of competence and is designed to ensure that coaches have the knowledge they need to be effective coaches in competition.
Unfortunately, I’ve also heard too many stories of coaching gone wrong. Excuse me a moment while I get up on my soapbox. Thank you for your patience. Now I have posted about this before in my article Coaches? We Don’t Need No Stinking Coaches but as I said, I have a recent incident to re-ignite my fires on this topic.
A coach WILL have an impact on the athletes they interact with. This is an absolute certainty. It cannot be avoided. YOU as a coach are then responsible for the impact that you are going to have and it’s a big responsibility. Should this scare you away if you’re interested in coaching? Absolutely not! However, you must recognize your impact on your athletes and behave accordingly. What am I talking about? First of all, it’s my firm belief that the coach is there for the team NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND! Yes, I take selfish pleasure in coaching but my athletes are people in their own right with their own goals and motivations. A coach should make sure their goals and aspirations align with the athletes they are working with before getting involved with them. Coaching is a behind the scenes role and if you don’t want to remain in the background while your athletes shine then you have to re-evaluate why you want to be a coach in the first place.
Also, a good coach should recognize the individuality of their athletes. If you have taken the Competition Coach course you should remember the module on teaching and learning where the different learning styles are discussed. Not every athlete will learn in the same way and coaches need to be flexible with their delivery methods if they want to be effective. This is going to require knowing your athletes as people and not just athletic performers.
Finally as a coach you have a duty to be knowledgable about your sport. You must make the effort to stay on top of what is happening in your sport so that you can effectively help your athletes attain their potential. There are many well intentioned people out there willing to help athletes but without that technical knowledge they can only do so much. If you want to make the transition from cheerleader to coach, study the game. Get certified. Learn and don’t stop learning until you stop coaching.
Yes, I know this post was very preachy. Most of the time I’m not this bad but as I said, I’ve recently encountered too many bad coaches who had significantly negative impacts on young athletes. I’m not amused.