Coaches that develop close and personal relationships with the child and her/his parents are the most likely to contribute to a positive learning experience. Coaches are first and foremost role models and teachers. Good coaching is not about producing winning teams; its about asking every day before practice or a game: Is what were planning to do today in the best interest of the kids? The best lesson a coach can teach is that playing fairly makes everyone a winner, and that: Developing Coaching Philosophy
A casual observer of any little league game site will notice the excessive seriousness and tension exhibited by coaches on the sidelines. Coaches and spectating parents get very involved with their childrens game. Some fail to realize the deleterious effects of their vocal protests regarding game referee decisions or disapproval of their childs performance. Several soccer leagues that I am familiar with have on record a very appropriate league philosophy statement. These statements emphasize learning, fair play, fun, equal opportunity, etc¦ over winning.
Ironically, the same leagues use trained referees and linesmen, for example, to officiate a game between two teams comprised of nine-year-old players. Players are often assigned to positions in which they are most productive or least destructive. And, coaches, parents and players exhibit excessive celebration when a goal is scored (even when the goal resulted from a clumsy goalie error) or when a game is won. Overly formal game control, early specialization, and excessive celebrations seem incompatible with a child-centered league philosophy.
Should the league experience serve best only the most talented and promising individuals at the expense of the less skilled? A typical league reality of winning first, child second, seems to prevail over the same leagues beautifully crafted philosophy statement. The stress associated with coaching a losing team stems from the distorted view that winning equals good coaching and loosing equals poor coaching. The child that is allowed to play a variety of positions will learn and progress irrespectively of her or his teams winning or loosing record.
In the soccer league that I joined as assistant coach during the Fall of 1999, the head coach knew which the two best teams on the league were several weeks before kickoff. Who gets the credit for coaching these kids? Four of the kids on our nine-year-old boys team never played the game. How are they going to learn and improve if we are not going to allow them to make mistakes? Sticking to a child-centered game plan can get very tricky and involve tough decisions.
A Coaching Philosophy Some coaches get turned off by the word philosophy. They cannot see how any one philosophy can have an impact on their daily problems and work. Ones teaching or coaching philosophy, however, is actually a very practical matter. An analogy to ones philosophy may be equated to a pair of glasses that filter reality through ones personal experiences, opinions, values and beliefs. It has, therefore a direct influence on how we see and understand the world around us, what actions we take, and why we choose to behave in the ways we do. In fact, every coach, whether aware of it or not, is following certain principles or his philosophy while coaching.
It may seem reasonable to assume that the philosophy that directs the coachs everyday life thinking and actions would be also applied by her/him to coaching. Yet, this often seems not to be the case. For example, most coaches would agree that a less skilled child with little or no self-confidence needs special attention and time investment. Yet, who are the kids that usually get the most attention, the most playing time, the most praise? Still, lets assume, for example, that a businessman discovered that the firm he is negotiating with was dishonest.
He decides to do his business with another group despite the fact that he may end up paying more for essentially the same product. This may not sound like good business, yet many a businessman I talked to expressed willingness to stick to their principles even if it meant higher expenses. How many coaches do you know that would stick to principles of sportsmanship or fair play rather than win a game? Obviously, we can readily see a gap between what a coach may think is the right thing to do in every day life situations, and the actions he/she ends up taking on the playing field.
Developing an Alternative Coaching Philosophy Dr. Rainer Martens, a world renowned sport psychologist and publisher, explains that the development of a functional coaching philosophy involves two major tasks: ¢ become a student of your own feelings and who you are? ¢ prioritize and delineate your coaching objectives ¢ Developing Self-Awareness Children are great imitators. Therefore, you are more likely to shape them into your own image than into what you would actually like them to become. The coach is a very powerful role model.
This is why it is important that the coach be honest as he/she evaluates her/himself and get in touch with here/his own feelings. The coach needs to discover whether he really likes who he/she is. A quick subjective self-awareness test would be to ask oneself When I was a child, would I have liked to have my current self as a parent? As a coach? If the answer is yes, explain to yourself why you think the way you do. What is it that makes you a good parent, teacher, coach? If you realize that you do not like everything about yourself, dont panic, nobodys perfect. The key factor is not for every coach to be a perfect individual.
It is crucial, however, that the coach be honest with her/himself, and willing to take the appropriate steps to change for the better. Dr. Martens suggests that one such first step would be to form an open door policy and solicit feed back from the kids, assistant coaches and the parents. This, according to Dr. Martens means that the coach needs to learn to listento be attentive to both overt and covert communication patterns. Good listening skills ensure two way communications and thus decrease the filtering effect that often distorts the true message delivered by the other party.
Prioritization and Delineation of Coaching Objectives It is an indisputable fact that children are their parents and nations most precious asset. It may seem natural to assume, therefore, that the majority of adults mean well for the kids. Yet, how often do we wish something for our child, and then step back and take the time to find out whether this is what the child really wants? More often than not, adults feel they know better, and thus, exclude children from the decision making process. Youth sport, unfortunately, is a prime example of this phenomenon.
In 1987 the Athletic Footwear Association in America sponsored a study of 10,000 students ages 10-18 regarding their feelings about sport. The students reacted to questions such as why they participate, why they quit, and what changes they would make in order to get involved again in a sport they dropped. The most important finding of the study was that winning, which is the most publicized and pursued goal of sports never ranked higher than seventh even among the most competitive athletes. To have fun and to improve my skills were consistently the first two choices why the students chose to play sports.
When asked why they dropped from sports three of the first five reasons were I was not having fun, coach was a poor teacher, and too much pressure. How many coaches you know would have predicted this outcome? (Rainer, 1987, 3-14) Dr. Martha E. Ewing and Dr. Vern Seefeld of the Youth Sports Institute of Michigan State University who conducted the study, and Dr. Steven J. Danish, chairman of the Department of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University who added psychological and developmental interpretations proposed the following truths about children and sport:
Fun is pivotal; if its not fun, young people wont play a sport (Rainer, 1987, 3-14). Skill development is a crucial aspect of fun; it is more important than winning even among the best athletes. The most rewarding challenges of sports are those that lead to self-knowledge. Intrinsic rewards (self-knowledge that grows out of self-competition) are more important in creating lifetime athletes than are extrinsic rewards (victory or attention from others). The American Youth and Sports Participation study authors proposed the following tips for coaches and parents who are willing to develop an alternative coaching philosophy:
For Coaches Become a communicator (a listener and a giver of feedback). Recognize the needs of your kids and balance your needs with theirs. Develop perspective: remember what you were like at their age and what you could do then; dont judge the kids by what you can do now. Remember the truths and plan activities with them in mind. Seek out workshops and educational programs that teach not only sports-related skills but also communication and interpersonal skills that will help you work with parents and get the most out of your kids.
Try to work with parents and make them part of the team rather than viewing them as critics to be avoided. Coach Development Education, as pedagogical theory so perceptively points out, is a two-way process, which means that both sides of the process have an opportunity to influence each other. Therefore, the coach can expect to be shaped by his team members characters and styles in a way that is no less decisive than his or her influence upon them. Realizing it may prove a challenge to many authoritative coaches, yet this impact is undeniable and should not be underestimated.
However, in case of a younger team, the coachs influence is going to exceed that of the children as they, as mentioned before, are great imitators and need a role model to follow. For this reason among others, the coach has to develop certain moral and professional qualities that will form the basis for practical application of ones coaching philosophy. The tenets of coaching philosophy determine which exactly qualities one needs in order to develop ones team and bring them to a victory earned in the spirit of fair play sportsmanship. In the first place, a coach has to be a superb organizer.
This is the coachs primary function in the team: to unite a disparate set of players into a coherent whole. Unity in the contest has to stem from psychological unity of the team, the much talked about team spirit. A coach in ones philosophy has to define how important a place the team occupies in his/her activities and endeavors and what ways of achieving this unity are legitimate and effective. In team sports specifically, the value of team relationships cannot be overrated, since a victory is only a product of collective efforts and rarely a gift of luck.