There are tons of characteristics needed to be a great sports coach, but here I will highlight the best of them that will make you go from good to great!
As mentioned in the previous blog post, 5 Crucial Steps for Awesome 1 on 1 Coaching, punctuality is the highest priority.
Arriving early and setting up before your client arrives shows you care, you are professional, trustworthy and it will really send out the right messages to the parent and the athlete that you are serious about their session. This will automatically engage your athlete and let them know you have high expectations in terms of attitude and responsibility. All this is perceived just because you turned up 15 minutes early and were ready to start the session.
It is a wonderful way to make a first impression, and will ensure that your session is set up and ready to go. This preparation will have a huge positive impact on the rest of your session.
As a coach, being organised flows through everything that you do. This can include:
- Timeliness and clarity of communication with the client
- Session planning
- State and quality of equipment
- Session set-up before client arrives
- Necessary follow-ups with clients
Clients can recognise someone who is organised or unorganised a mile away. So make sure you’re the former!
Being knowledgeable in the sport you coach has a great effect on the sessions you will deliver. Those coaches that keep up with the latest trends and keep their sessions fresh, are always the stand-out coaches. No-one wants to employ a coach that knows very little about what they’re coaching.
Join coaching courses and get qualifications or licenses. It is very rare that you’ll go on a course and not learn anything new, so this is a great way of keeping ahead of the trend and getting lots of positive reviews as a result.
Coaching courses can be a tad on the expensive side, so ‘Like’ lots of different pages on Facebook or other social medias. I have found this is a really easy way to keep up to date with different drills and ideas. There are so many people out there who post videos etc., this is a great way to keep on top of the latest trends.
Without a session being fun, you will quickly lose the athletes motivation. First and foremost, they have to really enjoy what they’re doing. This doesn’t mean it has to be a clown show, but you will have to adapt your style and humour for the person(s) you’re coaching.
Vary up the drills and exercises, keep it fresh for them. The best drills are those that really improve the athlete, but are also fun and enjoyable. If you’re not able to find such drills, then make sure you mix the session up with a variety of drills that really improve the athletes performance, with activities that are more fun based and the athlete is able to apply what they learnt in the previous drill. A perfect example of this would be to coach the technical aspects of turning in soccer e.g. Cruyff, Drag-back etc. but also mix in some 1 on 1 drills afterwards, so the athlete has a fun way to apply the turns in real match situations.
This is especially important for younger athletes who still need to learn through play.
A person can be very knowledgeable about a certain sport so they hit criteria #3 above, but if they have no idea about how to teach it, that knowledge becomes redundant.
A good teacher will be able to:
- Pick out easily what is going wrong technically in the first place
- Pick the correct drills to maximise the player’s performance
- Make complex concepts or skills easily understandable to the athlete
- Break skills down to bite-size chunks
- Decide which type of feedback is most relevant
- Decide which method of learning will have the biggest impact on the athlete and apply it
- Know when the athlete or student is become tired/bored/frustrated and is able to change the session/drill accordingly.
Having great knowledge is all important, but if you don’t know how to apply that knowledge and also know how to motivate and get the best out of your students, that knowledge isn’t worth too much in an educational setting.
Being likeable is important so you can create a relationship and bond with the athlete, but also so you can create a strong rapport and relationship with the athletes’ parent. Having both the athlete and parent on your side makes life so much easier.
Make sure you smile when you first see them, ask them questions about themselves, show an interest in them, get to know them. And most importantly, listen. Good listeners can have a very powerful impact on the people they’re interacting with, so this will make you more effective as a coach.
Having said that all that, you must be genuine. Being genuine and sincere in your relationships is essential to building trust and openness, so make sure you’re creating these relationships and being likeable for the right reasons.
Some of my athletes always comment on how excited I get when one of them does something great. Some even make fun of me for it, but I don’t mind, I know they love it really!
Positive energy is contagious, in fact, so is negative energy, so make sure you’re an energy giver, not an energy sapper. If we have to collect the balls after say, a shooting practise, I run to get the balls. My athlete sees this energy and passion that I want them to get in as many shots as possible in their hour and it soon rubs off on them. They’re soon sprinting to get the balls too (plus it’s a good workout!).
The session becomes more productive and efficient and the high energy encourages motivation and hard work.
Passion is also essential as a motivator. Each athlete knows whether you care or not, and when you genuinely care about them, that increases their trust in you and the amount they’re willing to try. As a result, your impact on their performance becomes greater and then you as a coach become more valuable. All from shouting encouragement.
Like organisation, passion is a very obvious thing to see. There’s no fooling anyone, you either have it or you don’t. But let’s face it, you’re probably not in coaching for the money, you’re probably in it because you love the sport and you love the kids. They’re your passion. So show how important your athlete is to you, it will do wonders for their confidence, motivation and performance!
Coaching is really an amazing job. It’s ever-changing and you’re constantly learning new things about yourself and others. Turn these characteristics into habits whilst you’re coaching, and you’ll definitely be on your way to becoming a great coach!