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How to be an Engaged Coach

No player wants this kind of coach…

Kicking and Screaming Cone

and they surely don’t want this kind either…

Picture of Roberto Macini Sleeping During Mancity/Tottenham Match

By no means is coaching an easy role to fill. There are many qualities that make a coach effective and memorable, and without a doubt the greats have one thing in common… They are engaged. They can turn it on when needed because they care. They care about the job, the sport and the players. Remaining engaged in any practice, game, or event reflects in both your and your team’s enjoyment and performance. Getting into a state of mindful coaching takes effort, but it is possible and well worth working towards. We’ve broken down a few of our favorite tips for bringing your A-game so that your team can bring theirs.

1. Change Things Up

In the structure of a well organized practice, don’t be afraid to make things interesting. Watched a new YouTube video of a drill you have yet to try? Go for it! Modify the warm-up, adapt the line-up, blast tunes during a shooting sequence. The possibilities are endless, and most players will appreciate a change of pace now and again. For your sake and theirs, give yourself the freedom to have some fun and test the waters. Note the modifications that sparked a light and which were a one and done.

2. Delegate Management Tasks

Training and designing drills, analyzing performance, providing valuable feedback and mentoring is why we coach; however, the role of an administrator can often fall into the lap of a coach. By entrusting an eager parent or manager with the team management tasks, you free yourself to focus on the excitement of training. Why not go one-step better and work with your club or team manager to find the right tools to schedule and communicate effectively. Put your energy into player development and team performance, and get back to doing what you love the most.

3. Coach To The Situation

Each coaching style is effective in its own right, as long as you know which best suits the scenario. Having the confidence to adjust your variance of leadership, assures you are engaging in the right way. The 3 main styles include,

  • Autocratic… In an autocratic approach, the authoritarian leader has the answers. A coach, in this case, should take charge and make a decision in the best interest of the group or individual. For example, when handling an injury it may be necessary for the coach to take the lead and problem solve.
  • Democratic… In democracy there are options. A demoratic coach provides guidance in a positive manner in order to achieve a goal. This often is the case when setting up plays, for instance. Players are given a number of options, that come gametime or live play, they have to decide how best to execute. Pass right or go for the shot? Lay the groundwork as a coach, then let the players execute.
  • Laissez-Faire… The final style is the most casual of the 3. Taking a more hands-off approach puts the decision making onto the performers, offering them a voice within the team. Opening up 10 minutes of practice for players to work on their choice of technical work is one example of where this style can take effect (1). 
Diagram of 3 types of Leadership Styles

A coach who engages in the right manner can understand the need for all 3 styles. Whether it’s appropriate to step back and observe or jump in and demand authority, understanding what the players need will lead to greater coaching engagement.

4. Get Feedback

Like player evaluations, all coaches should take the time to listen, reflect and adapt to the needs and desires of the team. Seasonally or annually, take the time to have conversations with players, parents or other coaches. Another option is to assign anonymous surveys across the team. Coaching is a reciprocal role. The more you get the more you can give.

5. Stay Focused

Repeat after me, “when I am coaching, I am coaching”… A simple mantra that holds a world of weight. Whether it’s a 90 minute match or a 2 hour practice, be there. Disconnect, leave the phone in the car, and give your attention to the players around you. Stay attuned to the micro details, to the players that require more direction and to each correction or positive reinforcement. If you ask your players to leave it all out on the field or court, ask it of yourself as well.

6. Appreciate The Impact

There is a special privilege in upholding the title of “coach”. Between the monotonous touches and the endless reps, there is a bigger purpose. Take ownership of the beautiful opportunity bestowed upon you to shape young minds, bodies and hearts. Think of a mentor that has impacted your life for the better. Now think how that person made each interaction about more than just a sport, more than a task, more than a conversation. In each individual athlete is the chance to positively influence generations to come. A good coach changes a game, but a great coach changes a life!

(1) Cherry, Kendra. Leadership Styles (http://myweb.astate.edu/sbounds/AP/2%20Leadership%20Styles.pdf)