School Beat – August 20, 2009

What makes a good coach

by TIM ERICKSON 
Director of Athletics Rockford High School

As I pass by the students each day, many of them greet me with, “Hey Coach!” or, “What’s up, Coach E?” Although I have not actually called the plays or paced the sidelines for several years, I still do some coaching—but now, instead of coaching the players and teams, I am honored to coach the coaches. So what makes a good coach?

Each year we receive thousands of perceivers completed by our athletes and parents to help assist me in evaluating the coaching staff. Although all coaches receive some positive—as well as some negative—feedback, there are some characteristics that stand out in our most effective coaches. A successful coach understands how to communicate with players in a way that gets results. The goal of coaching is to guide, inspire and empower the athlete to realize and develop his or her potential. The following is a list of some of the common characteristics of our most effective coaches:

  • Has Good Communication Skills—An effective coach knows how to explain drills and plays so that all team members can understand the directions. In addition, and perhaps even more importantly, effective communication skills include being a good listener. Good coaches seek out feedback from their players and parents.
  • Is Respected—The effective coach leads by example. A good coach follows the same rules which he/she expects of the players. Therefore, a coach who wants respect also needs to show respect; a coach who expects players to remain positive needs to display a positive attitude; and a coach who wants athletes to listen needs to listen to the players. Athletes need to follow a reasonable set of rules both on and off the field. Effective coaches handle violations in a prompt and fair manner while being consistent with all athletes.
  • Knows the Sport—A great coach has a deep understanding of the sport, from the fundamental skills to advanced tactics and strategy. Coaches may have experience playing, but not all former players make good coaches. Coaches must plan for the season and each practice. They need to know and understand the rules. Even the most experienced coaches must continue to learn and develop new training techniques. Attending coaching clinics and camps, reading books, watching videos, and seeking out tips from elite coaches and athletes is a sign of a great coach.
  • Is a Motivator—Successful coaches are enthusiastic and have a passion for the sport they coach. Getting athletes to believe in themselves and achieve is not an easy task. Motivation may mean keeping the practice fun, fresh and challenging. Great coaches are able to get the best performance out of each player, so that the athletes’ strengths complement each other as part of a team. The best coaches are in the profession because they love it. Besides being strongly committed to the sport, the best coaches display a clear dedication to looking out for the best interest of each individual player.
  • Develops Positive Relationships—Effective coaches know the players on the team. Being aware of individual differences in athletes is an important ingredient in coaching excellence. Yelling, screaming and other emotional displays may work for some athletes, but can have a devastating effect on others. Individualizing communication and motivation to specific players is key to team success. Paying attention to the players’ emotions, strengths and weaknesses is the responsibility of a good coach. When a coach has a positive relationship with the players, it creates an environment for athletes to take risks and succeed.

We are fortunate to have a great coaching staff at Rockford High School. Although each coach may not have mastered all of the qualities above, they are committed to continued growth. If you are a coach, or if you are looking for one, these qualities may help you identify the strengths and weaknesses in yourself and those who take on the challenge of coaching.

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