Let me say up front that coaching is not easy, and I greatly respect anyone who takes on the role.
I am writing this blog from two perspectives: I am an elite athlete benefitting from my various coaches’ wisdom and knowledge, and I financially support my training by coaching Judo and running a personal trainer business. I am constantly reflecting on mistakes and positive choices from both positions in order to improve my coaching skills. So here are my thoughts.
1. ACTUALLY COACH YOU. This means your coach pays attention to the details of everything you are doing, noticing the small stuff. They don’t have an ‘I’ll fix his foot position next week’ type of attitude.
2. TREAT THE RELATIONSHIP LIKE A TWO-WAY STREET. Your coach expects you to act your age, and, in turn, you should expect them to coach you accordingly. Many coaches who treat junior athletes like adults lose them. Alternatively, coaches can get frustrated and treat adults like children, and that patronising attitude is also counterproductive.
3. FIRE YOU UP! How often have you turned up to training, had your coach nod his head, mumble his way through the warm up and initial drills - and before you know it – you’ve snoozed your way through an hour of training without being mentally or physically stimulated?
4. PUSH FOR CONTINUED IMPROVEMENT. Too often when a student begins to really make progress they are given less guidance and support.
5. TAKE A STAND! Your coach can’t always act like a friend. There’s times in training (lots of them if you’re in the elite range) where what you NEED to do in order to get your results isn’t much fun. Taking it easy on your athlete sets an unhealthy precedent.
6. CHEER YOU ON. Athletes are all too aware of when and how they lose, fail or make mistakes. Nothing will motivate an athlete to perform more than realising the coach enjoys their success just as much as they do.
7. ANALYSE ON-FIELD ISSUES. Whether the athlete was caught out, unlucky, made a mistake or just plain screwed up, they need to be able to debrief with their coach. Not analysing a mistake means that the athlete never gets ‘closure’ and might have that mistake on their mind for much longer than necessary.
8. KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT. Athletes aren’t dumb and when a 160+ kg coach is lecturing a player on nutrition and weight cutting, it can be hard to take. Too many coaches try to be all things to their players. There is nothing wrong with being an expert in one field and getting in specific experts for other fields. It shows your athlete that his or her training is a team approach.
9. FOSTER RESPECT. Treating your players fairly by not screaming, abusing, berating them will do a lot more to earn their respect then otherwise. There is a time and place for a good yell; however the old school hard-ass approach will usually lead to negative results.
10. ARE REAL. Athlete’s who have a real bond with their coach tend to achieve far better results. You don’t have to be buddies. Often there is a cultural or age gap that means you’ll never be that close. However, it is the coach’s responsibility to learn about their player, what makes them tick and find something to take their mind of the daily grind of competition and training.
I am not the perfect coach. As I said, I am learning as I go.