All coaches have their own tools and tactics they use to empower their teams. Though no two coaches approach their jobs exactly the same way, there are common traits that top coaches share across sports, age groups and skill levels.
They're skilled communicators.
It takes vision to lead a team, but it also takes communication to express that vision to athletes, parents and coaching staffs. Top coaches communicate with intention. They know exactly what they want to say, and even more importantly, they know their audience. Every team and athlete is different. While some more outgoing players may respond well to the spotlight, more introverted athletes might be easier to engage in one-on-one conversations. The ability to effectively connect with their players is a telltale sign of an effective coach.
Consistency is an important skill in any sport. That's why we have our teams run drills, shoot free throws, take batting practice, etc. Consistency is even more important when it comes to coaching. Though effective coaches may have different expectations for athletes of different skill levels, they set universal standards for things like effort, attitude and attendance at the beginning of the season, and they maintain them throughout. Coaching is a challenge, but it becomes a little easier when your team walks into every game or practice with an idea of your expectations. Consistently enforcing the rules, rewarding good behavior and even establishing a standard practice format can boost team morale and performance. Just like Mark Zuckerberg saves time by wearing the same outfit everyday, bringing consistency to your coaching can also free up time with your team to work on skills you may not otherwise get to.
Though organization comes more naturally to some, highly effective coaches have managed to find systems that work for them. Many top coaches use digital platforms to help them organize stats, schedules, videos and more all in one place. Simply keeping a detailed planner can also be a big help for busy coaches. In addition to balancing coaching with your other responsibilities, be sure to schedule yourself some downtime.
Teams change from year to year in terms of skill level and personality. Highly effective coaches are comfortable making adaptations to fit their team’s current characteristics . The most effective coaches adapt to meet their team's needs rather than applying a one-size-fits-all coaching style season after season. Advances in technology have led to the development of plenty of new coaching tools. The most effective coaches aren't afraid to implement the ones that may work for their team and ignore the ones that won't.
They lead by example.
Coaches should expect their players to demonstrate positive attitudes, display good sportsmanship and treat others with respect. The best way to ensure your players implement these behaviors is to lead by example. Coaches who show up on time, stay focused throughout practice, stay positive and treat their athletes with courtesy are more likely to receive the same treatment from their players. Of course, even the most effective coaches get worked up from time to time. These incidents can be used as teaching moments as well. By managing their tempers and articulating their grievances in a productive way, highly effective coaches can show their players the right way to handle frustrating situations.
For more tips, check out our first e-book on how to balance your coaching day-to-day with your personal life. Focusing on these key aspects can help your program succeed with you at the helm.