Desirable Coaching TraitsUpdated Tuesday May 17, 2016 by pcgsl.
What defines a highly effective coach? At the top levels of sports, these are the individuals renowned for diligent strategies, efficient personnel management, excellent relationships with their players, and a quiet innovation that wins games and earns respect. Phil Jackson, Bill Walsh, John Wooden, Tony La Russa, and Bear Bryant immediately come to mind; Joe Maddon and Pete Carroll (his Super Bowl decision to pass instead run at the goal line notwithstanding) are beginning to establish themselves on this list as well.
On the youth sports level, effective coaches aren’t defined by wins and losses, but by the development of and enjoyment felt by the kids they oversee. Despite the gap, elite coaches and successful rec volunteers have more in common than you might think. Often, both use excellent team management skills to achieve goals. You will never win 11 NBA titles, but you can lead a team of players who love the game, and whose parents keep requesting you as coach season after season. With that in mind, here are four team management habits of highly effective coaches:
1. They are organized
Effective team management doesn’t necessarily mean bringing the perfect tactics to every game situation each time your players take the field. Especially with younger rec players, deep strategy is impossible—you’re just happy when they hit or catch the ball. But good organization helps when planning practices that the kids will enjoy and learn from, and having a backup plan if a drill just isn’t working. Good organization also means securing the equipment you need from the league for your team, updating your team webpage, establishing practice schedules ahead of time (which, granted, might not always be in your control), and simply showing up on time and ready to coach. If you are scrambling out the door 15 minutes before practice with no idea what drills you will run, your team management will suffer.
2. They strive to improve
At the rec level, winning and losing should be secondary to learning the game and constantly improving. The team that finishes the season should look nothing like the team that seemed utterly lost during the first five minutes of the first practice. Players who feel they are improving will get more excited and more invested in improving more, and this excitement is infectious, encouraging other players and delighting parents. Tell your team one way it improved each week, and don’t be shy about high-fiving players who make a clear skills leap.
3. They communicate
Coaches are responsible for dispensing a lot of information, but they also are often the targets of questions, mostly well-meaning, though occasionally angry. In this role, you must communicate effectively in order to keep your team management running smoothly. If a rules change comes down from the league, for example, you may be best positioned to explain it to your team’s parents. Schedule changes, league-wide news, and other updates may be sent by admins, but when they also come from you, they carry more impact (online league management software makes this easy). Furthermore, good communication helps when parents do have a serious concern—the trust you have built in turn makes them more comfortable in opening a dialogue.
4. They keep perspective
Undeniably, winning games, advancing in the playoffs, and capturing league titles is terrific. But when that becomes the only goal, your team management is going to suffer because you could start ignoring all the other things that make you a great coach. As an example, consider 8-year-old softball. At this age, players should be able to try a variety of positions. When winning dominates your thinking, your team management might shift to never letting your less coordinated players try the infield. Winning with integrity, losing with grace, and fun no matter what the outcome is the perspective highly effective coaches bring to every practice and game.
OPEN LETTER TO MY DAUGHTERS 10u COACH
Although we have not had the pleasure of meeting yet, I wanted to first thank you for taking the time to volunteer to coach the girls softball team. I know firsthand from coaching my son just how much time and effort and the commitment it takes to do such a thing. I am thankful for your time.
What I want you to know is that my daughter has only played one year of 8U coaches pitch softball before this. And she is how shall I say it…still learning.
I have been working with her out in the yard, and recently hit her in the head with a softball. So now she is terrified of the ball, and pretty much closes her eyes and winces anytime its thrown in her direction. We got her a facemask to help with this, but she is pretty much against any type of pain, and feels like the ball would hurt just as bad if it hit her in the shins, arms, or anywhere else. She tends to use her glove like a tennis racket to swat the ball away from her. It’s terribly frustrating for me, as her parent (especially since I played college softball)- so I can only imagine how it will make you feel. All I ask for is patience.
Please understand that from one day to the next, my daughter fancies herself anything from ballerina, a volleyball player, a famous singer to a doctor. And although part of me wishes she would stick to the one thing I love the most (Softball), I don’t think that will happen with her at the ripe age of 9 years old. I will promise to have her at every practice and every game, and I am hoping that you will find a way to keep the game fun for her so that this time she spends on the field is meaningful.
That you will be able to understand that to her – softball, is still very much a child’s game. This is precisely why she is playing recreation ball and not travel ball like some of her friends are.
As you are probably aware, since you likely have a young daughter of your own – my daughter has a lot of energy to burn. She wiggles and giggles and enjoys being with her friends. One of the reasons that we want her to play sports, is to expend some of this energy and I am hoping that she will leave practices tired. While she is respectful and we expect her to follow directions, we also know that she learns more from doing than from listening at this age. So whatever this ‘doing’ is, we hope you will trust her to do it. She will be happy running, gathering balls, and doing whatever drills that you see fit. In fact, she will be much like a Labrador retriever if you make a game of putting balls in the bucket between infield drills.
I also wanted to mention that she is still working on her self-confidence. (Crazy, right?) Some days she doubts herself. Some days she struggles to find the mental and physical skills necessary to complete certain tasks required by this game. After all, she is just 9. I see this lack of confidence firsthand when she tries to bat. She gets nervous and doubts herself. I have tried yelling at her, threatening her, and even embarrassing or shaming her to get her to hit the proper way and all that has done is make her even more apprehensive. I am hoping that you will show her more patience, and understanding than I do. I am hoping that when your voice is raised, it will be so in praise, lest she shut down on you completely like she does with me.
I will warn you that she might cry a time or too. No matter how hard I have tried to make her mentally tough, she has some days that are better than others. When she isn’t having fun, or if she thinks someone (especially an adult) is mad at her – she tends to get her feelings hurt and cries. Most of the time all she needs is some general encouragement and she can get right back to her smiling and jovial self. I am hoping that she spends more time smiling on the field than she does crying and that you enjoy seeing kids happy when they play ball. I know from my own experience that being happy on the ballfield is what keeps them playing.
For the sake of being 100% honest, I will tell you that the main reason she wanted to play this spring was because 3 of her best friends are playing also. She is a bit of a social butterfly, and likes spending time with her buddies. (She is also super excited about wearing brightly colored socks) I totally expect you will have to find a way to get them to stay on task and I am totally fine with that. But I do hope that you will allow the girls to bond together as a team as well. After all, softball is a team sport.
It would be MY dream if my daughter were to follow in my footsteps and play softball all the way through college. In typing that, I realize what a HUGE amount of pressure that is for me to place that dream upon her when she is only 9.. One of the reasons I have opted not to coach, is so that she can learn the love of the game on her own, without me pushing her. I am hoping that through you, she will experience the joy, and learn lessons about hard work and practice paying off. I am hoping that she will have fun while she is out there, that she will learn a lot (especially how to catch a ball without freaking out) and that you will push her to be a better player and a better person.
But mostly, I am hoping that she will walk away from this being able to say she had fun with the desire to play again next season. Because I know, and I hope YOU know….that this is where IT all begins.
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