This article was written by Alexus Jimson-Miller, Product Designer at Upper Hand.
From little league to the pros, sports bring an excitement that is truly unparalleled. The athletes that play these sports are some of the most recognizable and admired people on the planet. But, where would these athletes be without their coaches?
The truth is that some athletes would still be extraordinary, however, there are an even greater number of athletes that may not have learned vital life lessons, received unwavering support for the first time in their lives, or felt like they were part of something bigger than themselves if a coach didn’t uplift and push them to their full potential. These are the unforgettable coaches, the ones that remind us that we can do anything we put our minds to.
Are you this type of coach? If you aren’t sure, keep reading to learn about the 5 characteristics that make a great sports coach. If you already know you’re a great sports coach, keep reading and maybe you’ll learn something new that you can add to your coaching toolbox.
1. You’re in it for the athletes
It’s a great feeling to be the coach of hard working athletes. Their success feels like your success and can bring a host of positive emotions for everyone involved. While some coaches may just be in it just for that winning feeling, one of the things that makes you a great coach is being in it for a little bit more than that.
Great coaches combine their competitive edge with a passion for teaching and mentorship. Great coaches also take pride in helping others reach their goals and work to create environments that teach lifelong skills. When you’re in it for the athletes and relieve yourself of the winning as the only measure of success, it opens the door to so much connection between you and the athletes you coach. It may only take one heart to heart conversation, one training camp experience provided by your staff, or one team bonding experience that changes the life of an athlete for the better.
2. You’re patient
Patience is a valuable skill to take into any career or passion. Practicing patience is especially important when it comes to coaching. We live in a complicated and sometimes unpredictable world that can throw challenging things our way. Whether you’re dealing with internal team obstacles such as a losing streak or external obstacles like weather delays, it will always be up to you as the coach to set the tone for your athletes as you respond to these challenges.
Modeling and teaching patience can translate on and off the court for your athletes. Displaying patience when athletes make honest mistakes can help them understand that not every misstep in life deserves a meltdown. Setting aside practice time for athletes to work on specific skills shows them that progress often takes perseverance. And putting a calm and collected foot forward during a weather delay shows them they can handle tough situations with grace. These are just a few examples of the ways that great sports coaches incorporate patience while continuing to nurture athlete success.
3. You’re knowledgeable about your sport
You don’t have to know everything, but a great sports coach is knowledgeable about the sport they’re coaching. It’s key to understand the rules of the game and the skills athletes must master to win, improve, and reach their goals.
Sports are always evolving. It seems like every year there’s a new technique or new technology that is transforming training. The cool thing about great sports coaches is that they know there’s always more to learn. As a forever student of the sport, you study everything from tykes to professionals to find the right drills, game prep, or workouts to prepare your athletes for greatness.
4. You’re an expert in effective communication
Great coaches know that communication goes beyond just calling plays or showing up for practice. A great coach understands how to break down difficult concepts, provides correction without humiliation, and makes certain that they’re on the same page with their athletes. If there is any miscommunication a great sports coach always takes responsibility and improves their methods as needed.
Taking the time to learn the best ways to relate with the athletes you coach also makes it easier for them to focus and commit to training. This could show up as learning common terminology your athletes use so you can speak their language or encouraging them in ways they find supportive. As you better understand your athletes and they better understand you, the lines of communication remain open and honest.
5. You understand winning
There’s truly no feeling like winning. But, winning isn’t just crossing the line first or scoring more points. A great coach knows that winning can be so much more.
Winning may be defined differently as you coach new athletes and guide new teams. For some athletes, winning a state championship, improving free throw percentage, or learning a new position may be the highlight of their season. For others, it may be sticking it out through a tough personal situation and showing up everyday ready to compete. Great coaches take pride in helping athletes figure out what winning looks like for them. They encourage athletes to reach higher and push through roadblocks to get to their desired goals. And lastly, great sports coaches know that winning is fun. Both the journey along the way and the win itself can be made better when coaches incorporate fun activities and prioritize celebrating athletes as they grow in the sport.
Ready to elevate your coaching game?
There’s no such thing as a perfect coach and there’s so many more qualities that make a great one than we listed here. What we know for sure is that great coaches are separated by the positive impact they leave on their athletes and their unwavering passion for their sport.
We hope you see yourself in the qualities above, but if you struggle with one or more of these skills you always have time to improve or learn something new. Don’t be afraid to pick up a book or connect with a coach you look up to as you explore more ways to help athletes succeed.
You got this, coach!