The term leadership coaching may seem to be redundant, but unfortunately, many coaches do not lead or look to develop leaders. They have other more important (to them) objectives like winning or helping their child become a star. The term can be viewed in two ways as a type of leadership that people look up to and, secondly, to develop leaders for the future. Either way you think of it, the volunteers who believe in leadership coaching influence kids for a long time, or forever.
Nowhere is leadership coaching more critical than at the youth sports level, when kids are still forming their personalities and when they are readily influenced. Coaches may not know when their leadership is positively influencing others, but they should believe it does, and they may find out years later, as I often have.
It's a fantastic feeling to hear from former players who tell me about the valuable life experiences we shared years ago. Little did I know at the time that I was helping shape my players' lives for the better.
Legendary coach Amos Alonzo Stagg once answered a question about whether a team was his best one. He responded with "I won't know for 20 years or so." Stagg recognized that his leadership coaching was dependent on how players' lives would end up years after their time together. His response attests to just how powerful a coach's influence can be, not only for sports but for players' lives, too.
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I am very proud when I run into a former student, and they tell me that I helped them become a better ball player. I am even more pleased when a student returns and tells me that I was the reason or one of the reasons they went into coaching. That also is an excellent reminder of the influence youth coaches have in kids' lives. I always remind volunteer coaches that they make a difference in kid's lives so they must understand that responsibility. One way to meet the challenge is by reading about some of the great sports coaches. One can learn the best practices they use to help athletes reach their potential on and off the playing fields.
At all levels of the sport, coaches should provide the leadership necessary to make a lasting impression on players. Setting out to earn the respect of all players, opposing coaches, parents, umpires and league officials - on and off the field is the beginning of that process. Of course, the key word there is "earn" as respect doesn't automatically just come with being the coach it is earned. It is important to note that one doesn't have to change their personality to be an effective coach. Effective leadership comes from various personality types. Of course, the key to efficiency is always keeping the focus on the youth and not yourself. Making the games about one's ego is the way to lose respect.
So many aspects go into leadership coaching. Doing any one of the following can make a positive difference in a child's life.
When coaches display leadership qualities, players see first-hand how leaders behave. As mentioned, your behavior in every situation is the best lesson of maturity you can provide. By always maintaining self-control, consistency, enthusiasm, and pride, you provide gives an excellent picture of how to guide others.
As mentioned above, leadership coaching is about developing leaders, too. Some players have natural leadership abilities, and coaches can enhance those and more. With the timid players, you can help build communication skills in them as well.
People often associate leadership with the best player. But the star players who do not work hard will not be the team leaders, at least not for long. Without passion and a consistent work ethic, others will not follow. Leaders at the youth level do not have to be the best players. An athlete with an infectious personality may fill that role. Coaches should encourage players to be themselves, allowing characters to emerge, and helping others to follow those who display leadership.
You develop leaders with your attitude and actions. That should begin with honesty. Saying one thing and doing another is the quickest way coaches lose respect. Along the same lines, leadership coaching requires fairness - on and off the field. Rules should be explained, along with the resulting discipline that goes along with a break of the rules. It is vital that these are the same for all and that coaches enforce such discipline the same for all.
You must have an awareness and willingness to confront issues that disrupt team cohesiveness. Things like a lack of hustle, skipping practices, parental unhappiness, a lack of sportsmanship, and cliques on the team are some such issues. Coaches, who allow problems to fester, will see a quick deterioration of team unity and may loseany respect they earned.
As you can see, coaching youth is not just throwing the equipment out and setting up the line ups. However, the chance to influence kids positively for the rest of their lives is all the incentive one should need to follow the above guidelines. Of course, coaches negatively impact youth also, but that is a story for another day.
Finally, when you display leadership coaching by teaching and demonstrating sportsmanship, fairness, and a positive attitude through thick and thin, you become the role model kids deserve and a picture of leadership for their future.
After playing major league baseball, Jack Perconte has taught baseball and softball since 1988 and offered valuable coaching training too. He has helped numerous youth players reach their potential, as well as having helped parents and coaches navigate their way through the challenging world of youth sports. Jack is one of the leading authorities in the areas of youth baseball training and coaching training advice.All Jack Perconte articles are used with copyright permission.
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