This paper examines the growth of pivotal elements in coaching by naming these pivotal elements and striving to establish coherent definitions that can be applied to the field as a whole. Coaching theory is an ever-changing science that has seen tremendous growth in psychological studies over the last half century. The role of a coach shifted from a leadership role played by a member of the team, to an established figurehead of a team that oversees several aspects of development. This process grew exponentially when teams with coaches managing these aspects began to outpace the older model of coaching. Through this evolutionary process, certain pivotal elements have emerged in successful coaching toolkits across the globe. The pivotal elements identified and discussed include; listening and observation, feedback, communication, reflection and motivation. These key terms were identified through various articles, books, and scientific journals through the sheer volume and importance stressed on each of these terms in all the researched sources. The scope of these terms is compared and discussed while drawing the best aggregated and most consistent definition from all relevant sources to establish a fundamental guide to the pivotal elements of coaching.
Introduction: The Emergence of Coaching Strategies
Sporting events have been a pastime since the beginning of recorded history. From early military training, to the rise of team sports such as soccer in Meso-American cultures, on through to Monday Night Football, people have competed against one another on athletic fields to establish dominance or to simply pass the time. Sports and coaching would seem to go hand-in-hand. In reality, coaching as a specific position didn’t gain popularity until the last 500 years (Lake, 2017). Originally, the role of a coach would typically be occupied by the most experienced or talented player on a team. We can even see this trend on through to the early 1900s in collegiate sports (Lake, 2017). With this in mind, it can be easy to see why the profession of coaching took so long to establish key elements. As experienced and talented players retired and were replaced, the philosophies and tenants of any given sport would change dramatically in only a couple of lifetimes (Gilbert, 2008). However, this has been rapidly changing with the growth of professional sports and the desire of having a tactician and motivator leading a team.
After a steep learning curve, the pivotal elements of coaching began to emerge. Through all of the researched sources, there was a trend of certain terms that would be constantly defined and expanded upon as pillars of a successful coach. After examining these pillars, it was important to narrow the group down to concise list of five of the most frequently occurring terms. This led to the first term, ‘listening,’ which may seem mundane, but it was one of the most reoccurring terms throughout all sources. This includes listening in all forms, such as noticing tones or body language. Similarly, ‘communication’ was defined and while listening is a large part of communication, in coaching I believe that communication deserves its own classification as the players need to understand what you are teaching. Communicating with the players effectively is important, but the content of the communication is equally relevant. This leads to the third pillar of ‘feedback’ to players in coaching. More than just a dressing-down, effective feedback fosters an environment of development that will allow players to vastly improve their skills and understanding. Being able to look back at one’s action and see where things were right and wrong is the concept of the fourth pillar, ‘reflection.’ The ability of a coach is directly correlated with a coaches ability to look at themselves and evaluate their successes and short-comings. The final pillar, and what many sources deemed the most important, was the aspect of ‘motivation.’ This is the most complex topic and provides the most conversation and division between the researched sources. Each term will be identified and its context in the articles and journals, a definition will be established and its and applications to coaching will be discussed, along with examples. Providing definitions, applications, and examples for all four of these pillars will flow into a clear purpose statement that will be beneficial to the understanding of coaching.
Listening and Observing
Players and students have complicated ways of communicating their skill, understanding, and trust in figures (Evangelos, 2017). Seemingly, the further the age gap between players and coaches, the harder it can be to effectively communicate and understand each other’s nuances. Several sources have taken different ideas and approaches to the concept of listening to their players. Frequently, they will feign understanding rather than take possible criticism from coaches or teammates. Several other situations may arise, but research suggests that having players feel heard and understood will greatly improve the bond between player and coach. The act of effective listening, use of body language and affirmations to confirm effective listening, and observation of behaviors will all yield the most positive results for the athletes and allow a better bridge to the wider concept of communication.
One of the key elements of listening to appear to be listening. If the speaker or player believes that they aren’t being heard or understood, it doesn’t matter how well the coach is paying attention. This can best be achieved through body language. The study of effective body language is used in several professional fields (Jowett, 2007). The President of the United States even has a body language coach that instructs how to best appear to be understanding and make a speaker feel understood. When listening to a player, it is important to face the player and maintain eye contact. It may be difficult for a coach to take their eyes away from the action, so consistent eye contact for brief periods of time can also be effective. While listening, it is also helpful to keep an open posture. Crossing arms or making harsh faces or reactions may make a player feel uncomfortable or foolish. This can cause a player to cut off their explanation in order to save face. Additionally, nodding or smiling will make them feel more comfortable and open to further conversations as well as feeling more trust in their coach.
The most common flaw effective listening is misunderstanding or misinterpreting a player’s words or problems. A common problem seen when a player is addressing their coach is the coach interrupting to offer solutions (Godbout, 2017). In many instances, a player may be frustrated with a situation or their lack of understanding and a coach jumping in to interrupt with a solution too early, may actually not have gotten to the root of the problem. Additionally, it can make a player feel like their problem was easy to solve and that you think less of them for having this problem. When a player has a fundamental misunderstanding of a subject, all of their other assumptions that it is based on will also be incorrect. Allowing them to fully voice their problem will allow a coach to follow the line of logic back to the basis of the misunderstanding and correct that problem, creating a domino of understanding through to all the original problems. A helpful tactic can be to repeat back the problem to the athlete, which accomplishes two major goals. It shows that you were actively listening to their situation and it also helps you to know that you correctly interpreted their problem. Once the situation is understood, it is easier to move on to the next step in establishing the listening process of taking the specific player into account when giving the solution. This is typically defined as having empathy.
Empathy and understanding are critical in understanding the thought process of players and preventing future problems. When seeing players for a few hours every day, it can be easy to fall into the trap of forgetting of their life outside the practice field. However, this life is what shapes all of their behaviors and decisions. Knowing a player means more than just understanding the position they are best suited for, but it is knowing their lives and experiences. When listening to these players talk about problems or misunderstandings, it can be highly effective to try to understand what they are feeling (Messner, 2011). By a coach putting themselves in their athletes’ shoes, along with an understanding of their environment outside of sports, a coach can effectively listen and comprehend the player and their problem. An effective way to show that a player that you are understanding is to wait for pauses in their speech. At this point, asking questions for clarification can make the speaker feel like you are actively following along. These questions can even be questions you know the answers for, the purpose is not necessarily to clarify, but to establish your own understanding of the player’s problem.
In many cases, the issues faced by players can be traced back to some of the major issues young adult athletes report across the country. Most notably, the pressure to achieve and not disappoint. Having knowledge of what the typical problems are, can help a coach apply insight from their own experiences or teachings. The major pressures of young adults and children today are not too different from problems faced through the last few generations. Living up to expectations, a fear of failure, and social pressures exist at all levels of education and athletics (Fledderous, 2012). It can be much easier on a coach to try to identify with the player. Thinking back to how they handled similar problems in their youth, or how they would have handled them differently. This can create a link between understanding the problem and understanding the player’s environment that will contribute to a full understanding of the situation, setting up for a concise and efficient line of communication.
‘Observing’ is considered by several sources to be more important than simply hearing the words a person. Observing a practice means more than just watching strategy and results of different ideas and applications. Keeping an eye on how players are acting on the sideline or bench can give valuable insight into their state of mind, physical and mental health, along with their understanding of concepts (David, 2015). Most of these insights will change depending on the sport, but some are universal. Noticing whether players are being social with their teammates, or off to the side by themselves can signal social problems or possible inter-team issue. Some players may mask injuries in front of your watchful eye, so looking out for limping or covert massaging of arms or legs and grimaces may show that players are attempting to fight through intense pain. There are countless small nuances that can apply to several different sports. The main takeaway is that it is important to be on the lookout for things that appear out of the ordinary.
Along with understanding a coaches’ own body language, it is important to be vigilant in identifying the body language of players. It is a commonly held adage that almost all of what we say is done through nonverbal communication. A coach has several irons in the fire during a practice, and it can be hard to maintain a constant focus on watching the players and analyzing their body language. Research suggests several easy identifiers to understand a player’s actions quickly. Similarly to above, crossed arms or closed off body language shows that a player in uncomfortable. Past research believed that this was a sign of aggression or agitation, but it may not be so cut and dry. It is a comforting stance that the mind is trying to implement to sooth itself. Seeing this sort of reaction while giving instructions should tell a coach to think about their tone or their message and see why it is causing this reaction. Another body language type that is easy to identify is players placing their hands on their head, often accompanied by frequent rubbing or pulling. This is linked with anger or frustration with themselves or their environment. In sports, it can be easy to get angry at one’s self when making an error, which would illicit such a reaction. With this in mind, it is imperative to understand the important of mental health of the player, and offer an effective piece of feedback for a player to focus on, rather than their blunder. This will help build trust. A sunken or downward angled head can signify shame or disappointment. Often seen from athletes’ the reaction to this gesture is directly linked to helping their confidence. Reacting quickly to these bodily displays of emotion will allow players to feel understood by their coaches on a deep level. This trust will be seen in one or more of the positive examples of body language; eye contact, smiling, and nodding (Sonesh, 2015). If a coach looks out into their team and is greeted with any of those three responses, they can rest assured that their players trust, respect, and have faith in their abilities and leadership.
Listening and observing are far more important than they may seem at a surface level. Coaches will tell players far more through body language and nuances than they will with their words and vice versa. Using effective body language and noticing the body language of their players will assist a coach in knowing the temperament of the players (Solstad, 2015). Allowing a player to fully explain and detail their misunderstandings will help define the origin of the problem and the best way to squash the entire issue. Interrupting a player’s speech could lead to an ineffective conversation that only fixes a small part of an issue. Additionally, exercising empathy of a player’s situation and emotions by ‘walking a conversation in their shoes,’ can lead to both better trust and comprehension. This is also accomplished by identifying with players and their problems with past problems experienced by one’s self to apply the best line of thinking to a situation. Just as important, observing how a player reacts to certain statements or stimuli can show a coach how their message is being received. Coaches who can effectively listen to players and understand them will be able to foster efficient communication and allow themselves to be in the best position to train and develop their athletes.
Several sources have identified the old-school style of coaching and its preference for static coaching. This was one of the contributing factors for the slow change of coaching styles over first half of the last century. Embracing change and differences of players and their personalities and learning styles can make all the difference in establishing a healthy and efficient level of communication. One of the most common complaints of coaches, at all levels, is that they simply can’t get their players to listen to their instructions (Kemp, 2012). The research points to several reasons why this problem may arise. It even stresses that the players might actually be trying to do as they are told, but the message is being relayed incorrectly or in a confusing manner. Roadblocks in communication can stifle any attempts at improvement as both sides struggle to understand and comprehend larger messages. The research showed different ways to bolster communication throughout a team or organization, and common problems that may arise and how to address them properly through streamlined communication.
What may be obvious to some player, may not be obvious to others. In all sports, there are some players that just seem to have a natural instinct for certain aspects. This may be because of their upbringing, their past experience, or just a natural athleticism that may come from their genes. This can create a frustrating environment for developing players. Seeing their teammates excel can cause them to second guess nearly all of their actions. As a coach, it is important to not stress that the problem is obvious, but to explain aspects. There may be some instances where there is not enough time to explain every detail of a certain strategy or decision, but a player being able to understand why something should be done can be far more valuable than just understanding that something should be done. The deeper understanding of the mechanics of a game will allow a player to adapt to a new situation and apply past strategies to overcome change.
A problem typically identified in business is the problem of too many messengers. Some sports may have several coaches for different positions, or a number of team captains, or even intrusive administrators or assistant athletic directors. When a head coach or figure of authority relays this message to the intermediaries, it can almost be assured the message will not reach the desired source unchanged. At each point where the message is relayed, that is a source of interference. When interference occurs, small or large parts of a message are distorted or forgotten entirely. Finger pointing ensues and people begin blaming one another for not receiving the correct instructions. The goal of any coach should be to limit interference as much as possible. A more hands-on approach to addressing a team can help solve this problem. Large and complex issues should be addressed to the team as a whole, not passed on to position coaches or team captains to be relayed to the rest of the players. With the rise of technology, it is not easier than ever to mass communicate with a team and be sure that each person receives identical messages. Assuring that the players or coaches fully understand the message is addressed later, but without properly relaying messages, the rest is rendered useless.
An obvious source of a breakdown in communication is a lack of clear and unified message. It is common to be on the receiving end of an unclear message, and being unsure of how to act or respond. These situations lead to several different actions from several different players, which is waste of both time and resources. If a coach establishes a goal or idea, the players and other coaches need to understand the message fully, and know how to act. This is accomplished by clearly defining what is expected of them in the message along with the intended purpose of a message. By defining what the message hopes to accomplish, it gives the receiver something to refer to with questions, seeing if what they are doing is in line with accomplishing that goal. When a coach additionally describes what is expected of the receivers, it gives a clear list of what needs to be accomplished and how they should go about doing it. If a coach feels like the process of defining the expectations of the different receivers and the goal of the message to be too long or cumbersome, it may be necessary to modify the message. The longer and more complex a message, the higher the probability of misinterpretations.
When dealing with athletes, especially young athletes, emotions can play a heavy role. Mixing the heat with intense workouts and other stresses can bring out heavy emotional responses from both players and coaches (Nash, 2003). This is often a catalyst for a breakdown in communication as the message between the sender and receiver is blocked due to insults or insensitivity. This is why it is important to try to apply logic in most situations. Acting emotionally can permanently scar a relationship with players and coaches. There are several ways to assist in logic based decisions and arguments. Slowing down and thinking about a situation and trying to remove yourself and be objective is invaluable. It allows a perspective of neutrality and may assist in the overall communication by calming the other person. A coach is in a position of authority, so keeping a logical and level-headed mind can help in showing a firm attitude and retain the respect of the players. This can be best achieved by placing yourself in the position of the receiver. By considering how the message will be taken by the receiver, it can give better insight into how to best communicate the message logically without stirring up emotions.
Assuring a message is delivered is important, but delivering it in the correct method can be just as cohesive to effective communication. In the last twenty years, we have seen an explosion in technology that allows players and coaches to be in nearly constant contact. Each of these modes of communication should be viewed as a tool in a toolbox, each having its own purpose. Certain messages are better relayed over email or a written letter, such as long correspondence that may require thought or time before answering. Messages can be easily misinterpreted over these modes, so it is important to remember that when choosing this type of communication. Texting and group messages are a rising trend in high school and college programs. These two can be excellent in receiving quick responses to simple questions. Complex issues or important decisions should not be relayed over these modes because it inherently encourages quick and less thoughtful responses. However, the value of in-person communication can’t be downplayed. The face-to-face interaction can be used for more emotional decisions, or to better understand and instantly have feedback on how the message is being portrayed. A flowing conversation can accomplish the same in five minutes that a chain of emails or texts could achieve in several hours (Gréhaigne, 2014).
The most important aspect of proper communication is having confidence in what is being communicated. Choosing the correct mode of discussion, delivering the message properly, and making it clear and concise may mean nothing if the message isn’t delivered and backed by confidence. This confidence will keep a coach from deviating too much from the message and causing confusion in their players. Additionally, players will recognize the confidence behind the message and this will make them far more likely to support the message themselves. Confidence breeds confidence, and the players will follow that message and make it their own.
Efficient communication can make or break training, development, and coach-player relationships. Avoiding simplifying an issue may help players with less instinct or knowledge of a strategy feel more confident and increase their ability to adapt to other situations. This can be achieved by not explaining just the act of something, but rather the how and why of an act. Having too many intermediaries relaying messages may create a ‘telephone game effect’ and muddle the meaning of a message. For this reason, it is a good idea to streamline communications and relay large and important messages to the group as a whole directly, rather than passing it off to others. When giving the message, it is important to be sure it is clear and concise. The message should include an explanation of the purpose and expectations of the receivers. When the message is relayed, it should be done with logical thought and not done quickly and emotionally. Pausing to think about how a message will be perceived can make all the difference in communicating effectively and retaining a healthy relationship with a player, and improving the communication of the message. Furthermore, choosing the correct mode of delivering the message is nearly as important as the message itself. Using texts or group messages for less thoughtful responses and emails or letters for more complex issues can reduce useless responses and foster a better environment for communication. Most importantly, have confidence in the message being given. Confidence in the message will show that a coach is in control of a situation and understands it. This confidence will trickle down to the receivers and they will feel more comfortable in asking questions and ultimately completing the goal of the communication. Understanding the pivotal element of proper communication will allow a coach to seamlessly transfer ideas and effective feedback through players and coaches. By the athletes and coaches understanding and properly receiving the message, it will allow for the greatest opportunity for success, on and off the field.
It is nearly impossible to improve or learn from past mistakes without feedback. We have seen the results of feedback in both professional, recreational, and even personal relationships and its positive effects. Practice and feedback could be considered two of the most important parts of the player development process. It is often said the, “practice makes perfect,” but I believe a more apt statement would be, “perfect practice makes perfect.” This same logic should be applied to feedback. Poor feedback will breed poor development. Feedback must have certain elements to be able to give the players understanding of what they did wrong, how to change it, along with being notified when they have successfully made the change or development. Effective listening and communication are important for relaying the feedback, but the actual content of the feedback must be properly delivered to the players, without falling into to the common pitfalls of lost or irrelevant feedback.
Before addressing the content of the feedback, it is important to know when to give feedback. If too much time passes between the mistake and the feedback, the feedback may be rendered useless altogether. Once a player takes an incorrect step, it is important to deliver the feedback as close to the action as possible. It may be difficult to give extensive feedback in the middle of a practice. In this case, it may be helpful to mention a small part that can be easily referenced later when watching film or evaluating a practice or game.
There is a certain process that is recommended to give appropriate feedback. Once a mistake is made, it is important to reflect first on how you will give the correction. Upon approaching the athlete, it is important to first describe observed behavior. Walk them through their previous actions. It may help to even have them explain their process of what they believe they did. If it differs from reality, explain what was observed. Once the observed behavior has been identified to the player, question why the actions were taken. This can serve to see the thought process of how the incorrect action was brought about, possibly curtailing future issues. After the player understands the actions that were taken, the coach should explain the preferred behaviors. This is best done in a step-by-step manner to fully explain how something is supposed to be done. It can also help to explain why these steps are taken to accomplish a certain goal. Understanding the ‘why’ of the behavior may lead to the player having a firmer grasp on the process. Once the preferred behavior has been established, the player should repeat back the steps to accomplishing the task correctly, possibly even explaining the importance of each step. At this point, the coach should encourage reflection from the player after practice. This will keep the thought relevant longer. Then, the player can be free to give it another try and see the effectiveness of the feedback. If the feedback was not effective, it is important to look for ways that it could be improved or how certain pitfalls could have been avoided.
One of the common mistakes seen is by bringing up past negative actions. When a coach brings up past failures, it makes the athletes’ mind stray away from the current mistake (Morgan, 2014). This can happen even when the mistakes are identical. It is important for a coach to focus on the present and fixing the problem in front of them. Avoiding the mention of past mistakes will keep the feedback positive. The more positive the feedback, the more likely it will be to take hold in the athlete (Rocchi, 2014).
Another mistake made when giving feedback is overloading the athlete with corrections. Research shows that it is better to not overload. Focusing on two or three key changes or points result in better corrections from the athletes (Rezania, 2016). Understanding the mistake and changing it can be difficult enough, trying to understand and correct several mistakes is exponentially more difficult. A coach may be better off by slowly making fixes that will make a better impression and thus, be longer lasting.
Perfect feedback makes perfect results. Feedback needs to be given as close to the misstep as possible to ensure the athlete understands when they took the incorrect actions. When giving the feedback, the coach should explain the observed behavior. Once the reason for the player’s behavior is identified, the coach can then explain the correct behavior and the reasons for these steps. Once reflection is encouraged, a coach may then observe the results of the feedback. A coach should keep the potential pitfalls in mind. These include focusing too much or mentioning past mistakes, and overloading a player with too many desired changed. This process of effective feedback allows a player to easily follow and understand their own actions, along with what they should be doing. Once they know why and how they should perform an action, all they have left to do is find the drive to change.
The most consistently debated topic throughout all the research was the concept of motivation. This is a struggle that is seem in people in all aspects of life. There are countless videos, books, speakers, and programs dedicated to motivating yourself and others. A large portion of people believe that they would be much more successful if they had more motivation. This is often linked with laziness or the act of being apathetic. Coaches wish to harness the ability to motivate their players to be the best and succeed both on and off the field of play. To understand motivation, it is important to understand where motivation comes from, how it works in the brain, what we believe it is capable of accomplishing, and how to best motivate our players.
Scientists have been hard at work to understand the exact operation and function of motivation in the brain. So far, we understand that motivation is linked to a release of dopamine (Brophy, 1999). Dopamine is what makes us feel good when we make a choice or decision. The brain can be forced to produce dopamine for a variety of reasons, and it can actual be counter intuitive to us. For example, several unhealthy activities such as eating fast foods, watching TV, or playing video games may release dopamine (Gearity, 2017). This can obscure the idea of motivation and ultimately lead to the brain releasing less dopamine for more productive activities (Brophy, 1999). The theory of conquering the motivation problem lies in figuring out the best ways to manipulate this dopamine release in yourself and your players. Research offers several ways that have been shown to result in effective motivation.
Sports teams are often focused on big picture type goals. This could be winning a championship, winning a conference, or even just achieving a single win. Players have similar personal goals for their own performance that take the same long-term process. However, research suggests it is far more productive to try and make incremental goals for teams and individuals (McLean, 2015). Rather than focusing on a bigger goal, focusing on smaller goals and celebrating small successes can lead to increased confidence and motivation. This can be broken down to easy tasks in a practice environment. For example, stressing the completing of a single drill or rep, over the idea of completing the long-term goal of running a perfect offense. This idea of stringing together incremental goals will eventually snowball into accomplishing long-term success.
With all the variables that can come into play on a team, it is easy to have several different interferences that may disrupt motivation. It can be easy to get sidetracked on issues that, at first glance, may seem to be related to the overall goal, but aren’t related. A coach should make sure all actions taken are in direct service of the overall desired team goal. This can achieve wonders for motivation. Players not understanding their role in a system causes a more individual approach to a team (McLean, 2015). However, if all their actions are directly related to their goal, that provides a shift to an individual mentality, to a team based mentality. Each member of the team and coaching staff will feel like they are a cog in a well-oiled machine that is heading in the same direction, chugging forward.
A large portion of feeling confidence and motivation to improve yourself and your team come from the results of the team as a whole. As a coach, one should try to share results with their team to show that the effort is producing something. This is achieved through showing the short-term goals and how they were accomplished. This all serves to acknowledge the success of the athlete’s and it provides the dopamine releases that will spur them to continue to exert effort. Sometimes, the results may fall short of the goal or desired outcome. In these scenarios, it is important not to ignore the failures. Instead, players should still be notified of the results and address how to best approach the situation. This can inspire insightful discussion that makes the players feel like their contributions are directly related to the mind and body of the group. Having a solid investment in the success of an organization is key to long-term goal accomplishments.
The cornerstone of the motivation is the dopamine releases. An extremely effective way to keep the dopamine effective is to encourage healthy diets (Gearity, 2017). Coaches should encourage players to avoid foods high in sugar or salt, particularly fast food. Studies have shown that fast food releases dopamine in the brain, giving them the feeling that they are doing something good, which can lead to addiction and worse health habits (Cope, 2016). Coaches are encouraged to have their athletes log their eating habits to be able to effectively advice the best nutrition tactics. By keeping the artificial dopamine releases to a minimum, the natural dopamine releases from healthy activities will be stronger and help boost motivation (Consterdine, 2013).
All of these motivational tools can be excellent for inspiring motivation in a team. In my view, I have looked at the research and seen that the best way to motivate a team is to attempt to instill self-motivation. Schools may hire motivational speakers, put on music in the weight room, or even have incentive programs, and all of these can be great temporary motivators. The problem with temporary motivation is that is causes the player to be striving for success for the benefit of others. A truly influential and passionate coach should attempt to have the players understand why what they are doing will help them in the long-run. To accomplish this, a coach has to focus on a broader picture than just winning a few games. This breaches into territory of character building.
The message that should be taught to the athletes is the concept of working hard and resisting the urge to quit, to accomplish a goal. A young adult needs to want to succeed for themselves. Even team based motivations are temporary. When the player moves on from that team, they will feel like they need to be a part of a group to be motivated. If a coach is going to pursue the task of self-motivation for their players, they must first be certain their players have certain values in place. Self-confidence is one of these values. If a person doesn’t feel confidence in themselves or their abilities, then they are destined to fail. They won’t be able to self-motivate because they will genuinely believe they are not capable of completing the task at hand. Coaches need to encourage positive thinking in their players to be able to instill both self-confidence and a sense of self-importance. Players must also understand how to make strong goals. This can be achieved by coaches similarly showing them how to make strong goals, both short-term and long-term. Most importantly, they need to be prepared for failure. This is why coaches need to acknowledge all results with their team, positive and negative. They need to understand that is falling short is a part of the process. A coach stresses that truly failing, is only not getting up and continuing after the last failure.
Motivation is one of the hardest aspects of coaching to nail down. In the brain, we understand that motivation is linked to the release of dopamine. Using different motivational tools to induce this dopamine release can help increase overall motivation. One typical way is to create incremental goals. This allows for small successes and builds player confidence. Additionally, making sure all actions are taken in accordance with a goal with help increase not only the individual player’s motivation, but the motivation as a group. This will allow players to feel like everything they are doing is contributing to a larger process. Once they all feel a part of the process, a coach should share the results of the team and individuals. This acknowledgement of their successes will give them boosts of dopamine and make them strive to do more. A focus on a healthy diet is imperative. This can result in a vast improvement in player’s dopamine levels and will help keep them motivated long after practice. With all of these considered, through research I have concluded that the best strategy for motivating players is to teach self-motivation. A coach can’t be constantly present in their lives. If a player can learn self-motivation, they will achieve success in all aspects of life, which should be the main motivation for a coach; a molder of young men and women.
There is a saying when discussing the filming of practice or games, “the eye in the sky doesn’t lie.” This is to say, that no mistakes make it past a film camera at practice or games. The reason so many sports teams film practice is to be able to look at a situation from every angle, and see how it can be improved. Coaches should apply this same practice technique to their career. The ability to reflect on a performance and figure out the positives and negatives are what allow coaches to change and grow.
The only way to properly evaluate one’s self is to have an effective means to look at their performance. A coach could compile several lists of accomplishments or shortcomings from the past season or year and reflect on why they think each turned out the way they did. They could also ask players or fellow coaches and family for outside perspectives on how they handled certain aspects of the year. How it is done can change, but establishing a mode of evaluation is the first step in the reflection process.
Before even reviewing the progress, a coach should understand that there will be negatives. Making note of missteps may be difficult at first, but it will be easier if the assumption of mistakes is there before the review. When reflecting, noticing why the mistakes happened and ways to fix them will ultimately lead to a more successful future. This is basically creating a list of things that should be avoided in future endeavors. In the same vein, a coach should not be too humble. All positives and successes should be expanded upon. These are what provide a guideline for an easier future. Keeping things too similar could easily result in the problem of static coaching and more long-term shortcomings. However, trying to change too many things at once will lead to confusion and may yield worse results.
Reflection shows humility. A coach should establish an effective way to lay out all the performances in a given period of time and be able to effectively evaluate themselves. The ability to accept that mistakes will be made and identifying those mistakes is important. Mistakes will be made, and acknowledging them will make changing them even easier. Conversely, one should also acknowledge successes. This provides a guideline of things that should be done similarly in the future. It is recommended to change two or three aspects at once to avoid having too many new additions causing a stir and taking away effort from the things that were already being done well. If a coach can continually evaluate their performance each year through reflection and understanding of their mistakes, they are destined for constant improvement.
Coaching is not an exact science. Elements may change between difference sports, different levels, and different players or coaching styles. Despite this, after my research I have concluded that there are five pivotal elements in successful coaching that should be understood and practiced. Using the definitions established with help from various research sources and past experiences, I have a deeper understanding of what these terms mean and what makes an effective coach. My purpose statement does not include words such as winning, or victory, or championships, because being a coach means more than that.
An effective coach can listen and observe player behavior to better understand their personalities, motivations, and misunderstandings. These understandings are used to effectively communicate the goals of a team, organization, or life to the same players. If these athletes fall short, the coach will give clear and concise feedback to help them understand how to improve. Once they know how to improve, they will be taught how to motivate themselves to achieve the best version of themselves. An effective coach will then reflect on their own methods and offer themselves feedback on how to be a better mentor and molder of character to prepare his players for life outside of their sport.
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