Monday, November 23, 2015

Qualities of a Great Coach: Part 3

Just about anyone who has ever been involved in athletics for any extended period of time has had at least one coach who was highly influential and made a positive difference in their life. As both an athlete and coach of multiple sports, I have been blessed to work with some dynamite coaches who have been instrumental in my own growth and development as a coach, husband and father. The fact of the matter is that coaches are oftentimes the most influential individual in a young person's life. It is a tremendous responsibility and one that I take very seriously. With that in mind, I thought it would be helpful to write a series sharing some of the key things I have learned through my own experiences regarding the qualities that great coaches typically possess.

I am absolutely convinced that the best coaches are always great teachers. You can be a former world-class athlete and have all the technical knowledge in the world; however, if you cannot teach someone else how to do what you want them to do, you are not going to be very effective as a coach.  Take a moment and think of how many former superstar athletes have been total busts as coaches. Why do you think this is? If you are a new coach (or even an experienced one), do not make the mistake of thinking your former success as an athlete will automatically make you a great coach. 

The fact of the matter is that performing an athletic skill or playing a sport is an entirely different skill-set than teaching others how to do it. Regardless of how successful you were as an athlete, there is no way around learning how to teach if you want to be a great coach. If you are a coach and have never had any training in how to effectively teach athletic/movement based skills, you might be do I learn this stuff? While there is not a simple and easy answer for this, there are a two specific things you can do to get on the right track.
  1. You must gain a solid understanding of essential motor learning principles as this serves as the foundation for teaching athletic skills and movements effectively. If you were not able to take a college level course in this area,  I recommend at least purchasing a good motor learning textbook and there is a ton of good information on the Internet if you are savvy enough to find stuff from reputable sources. 
  2. You must gain practical experience teaching others. This is best accomplished by learning under an experienced coach who is proven to be a great teacher and who can help guide you through the process. If this is not an option, you will simply have to learn through trial and error. Regardless of the route you take, it is imperative that you learn how to effectively and efficiently break down a particular skill and systematically teach it in a way that results in performance mastery. 
The best illustration I know of when it comes to a coach who was a great teacher is John Wooden. I realize that I keep coming back to him as an example but his coaching/teaching skills were second to none and his coaching record speaks for itself. If you have never done so, I highly recommend reading any one of the great books available on John Wooden's life and coaching background. In doing so, you will get a good glimpse at the masterful teaching skills he demonstrated over the course of his career. With that in mind, it is important for all of us coaches to continually hone our teaching skills in an effort to maximize the overall development of our athletes. In other words, never stop learning and growing. 

Until next time, I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving Holiday. 

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