A coach’s role is critical in the context of our society. What I want to share with you in this article is my philosophy on the role of sport and the significant contribution coaches make. This is particularly important for your sport and every sport.
My belief, is sport is a medium to teach lessons to our athletes (particularly the young ones). Lessons about life. These lessons learnt in sport can and should be transferred to other areas of our lives so we can all become more effective and meaningful contributors to society. Sport can expand on the quality of the lessons. So the role of the coach is to help their athletes learn these lessons about life. Each coach may teach a slightly different lesson. We do not all have to teach the same lessons, just as long as our athletes are learning.
For coaches to be successful in sport, I believe they have to build emotional bonds with their athletes. There is a significant amount of research about the importance of an effective Coach Athlete Relationship. Effective relationships are underpinned with trust and respect. Trust and respect develop over time, particularly trust (we have a great article on how to build trust with your athletes through behavioral predictability).
Creating this relationship means coaches need to truly understand their athletes. What makes them tick? When an athlete feels as though you are trying to learn more about them, they feel valued. What happens when you feel valued? When I feel valued I want to contribute more. It is the same for all of us. It is a fact; people who feel valued give their best more often. They are engaged and contribute more discretionary effort.
How we make our athletes feel valued is by understanding them, their strengths, limitations, motivations and other needs. Not every athlete is the same and so every athlete needs to be coached in a way which is suitable for them.
Before any coach can understand their athletes they first need to understand themselves. We all have our unique personality which impacts the predominant way we coach. When coaches understand how they coach they are in a position to coach in different ways. Remember it is possible each of your athletes requires a different coaching style. Every coach has the ability to adopt a different style if they choose.
So in this short article, I want to encourage you to really appreciate the critical nature of your coaching role. Sport is not about sport. It is about life and the skills required to make meaningful contributions to society. Also, I hope you build wonderful relationships with your athletes, especially the young ones. They deserve wonderful coaches. I had a coach at school that inspired me to compete in my first Olympics. What are you inspiring your athletes to achieve in their lives? Finally, take time to truly understand your athletes and their unique needs and if you can, coach them in a way they require.