blinded by November Part 2: Coaching

In the United States, we have the opportunity to enroll our children in sports at a young age, typically 8-12 years. These sports may be through a community recreational group, through school sponsored athletics, or through clubs. Generally, sport teams in this age group are coached by volunteers with no formal training in coaching. The youngsters go through the program without the benefit of a guide to educate them on individual goal-setting versus outcome goal-setting, leaving them to measure self-worth by winning or losing.

As adults who coach, we must ask ourselves, “When they are left without sport, how have we taught them to measure themselves in other arenas?” Typically, we are drawn to pursue hobbies in which we have some level of talent. We pursue what we are good at because it makes us feel good. We withdraw when we feel failure or anxiety. Children are no different. They enjoy the sport because they want to be with their friends, they are good at the sport to some degree, and there is a non-competitive challenge for them to enhance their skills that leads them to want to learn more.

As their guides, the first quality we must embody is patience. The coach must be patient with the athlete and the athlete must be patient with their development. The coach should be encouraging questions, meeting mistakes with corrective instruction, and give the young athlete the understanding of how and why to execute a specific skill. Daily, weekly, or monthly individual milestones should be illustrated to help them gain the confidence to attack the mistake head on and praise should be given when the athlete has accomplished the task. I learned from being a group exercise instructor to connect, correct, and commend. I took these three C’s into my coaching as well.

The most effective drills my team practiced were guided discovery drills. We had several drills that incorporated the idea of “releasing” a teammate from a box by being able to pass to them by drawing the opponent away. This required impeccable skill of full-field vision and communication. If I said, “Our goal is to have zero turnovers and get the ball to this player,” we would turn the ball over after three passes. However, if I said, “Get a player up advantage by maintaining possession and get the ball to this player for the reward,” they would complete 8-10 passes flawlessly. The players would be able to accomplish the task because the reward was both challenging and positive and both teams had the ability to create player up situations. The coaching is direct and to the point.

When time passed without execution, I would allow the team to converse with themselves to figure out the strategy and answer to the problem. I would listen, rather than be so eager to provide, because if I have done my job right, they would figure it out for themselves and ultimately be able to coach each other, which is essentially what needs to be done at game time and in life.

At game time, the coach has limited, if any, time to provide all the answers to what is going on. Designing your team and drills so they can communicate with each other and solve the issues together will prepare your athletes for the uncontrollable. It encourages sportsmanship, problem-solving, and patience. Imagine the confident and strong people we could raise if we had guided discovery at the heart of every practice.

“Do nothing out of self-ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3






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