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The 12 Qualities of a Successful Coach

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By Dr. Michael J. Hahesy |

Having been a coach of athletes of all ages (elementary through college) for the past 30+ years, I’ve seen many coaches – some successful, some not, but all different from one another. In order to be successful, there are 12 skills that a coach must possess.

1. Be a role model- Always be enthusiastic, stay in top shape and be a role model for the athletes to look up to. 

2. Be knowledgeable in the sport- Every sport is constantly changing and advancing.  You need to remain current and always be aware of new techniques, ideas, training methods, etc.

3. Be honest with your athletes and others- Always be honest with your athletes, administration, and yourself.  Additionally, always do your best to keep your word and do what you say you’re going to do.

4. Care for your athletes- Kids don’t care what you know until they know that you care!  There is a delicate balance when it comes to knowing when to help athletes and when to give them some space.  Strive to find this balance.

5. Communication- You must have exceptional communication skills.  You will have a variety of different people you need to relate with: administration, AD, parents, media, janitors, etc.

6. Keep winning and losing in perspective- No matter what level you coach at, you’re going to win and you’re going to lose. If you win – awesome!  If you lose – it’s not the end of the world.  Remember: the average coach has a record of .500.

7. Be a coach, not necessarily a friend- This mistake often occurs with younger coaches who are closer in age to the athletes.  You need to build and develop a relationship with your athletes but not always a friendship.

8. Maintain a positive vision- Have a vision of where you are going and set goals to get you there!  Your athletes feed off of your energy – stay as positive as you can, as often as you can.

9. Spend time with your feeder system- Spend time with your future athletes so that you can know them and their parents.

10. Not all kids are the same- This is VERY important!  What works for one athlete may not work for another.  Get to know each kid and figure out how to reach them through your coaching.

11. Trust that your assistant coaches will do their jobs and treat them with respect- You can’t do it all yourself.  Hire quality assistants and let them help.

12. Be observant of others in the field and always experiment with new ideas and methods –EVERYTHING I’ve learned about coaching has been through observation of others (some were successful, some were not!).  Almost everything that I’ve done as a coach has come from other coaches.  Some of the most important things are the simplest things.  Remember that simple is often better than complicated. 

By following these 12 points, one will not only become successful but also remain successful in the coaching profession. Good luck!

Dr. Michael J. Hahesy is an Assistant Professor at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and the head wrestling coach at Erie Cathedral Preparatory High School.

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