By Christopher Cudworth
The most important trait of people who are successful in athletics, and in life, is that they believe in themselves.
Which means that the most important job of a coach at any level of sport, from kindergarten soccer up to Olympic champions, is to teach an athlete how to believe in their ability and improve upon it in ways that help them achieve goals and transfer that knowledge to other facets of existence.
Transfer of excellence
You heard that right. The most successful coaches in sport know that while athletic success is wonderful, and can bring fabulous experiences to light, it is not the end product of participation in any sport. Very few people achieve professional status in sport (or athletics, the two are interchangeable) and even those who do succeed are prone to the same human failures that plague the rest of the human race. Sports can do a lot of things to prepare you for life, and frankly, that might be their most important value.
The facts about sports heroes that struggle outside of their chosen profession are startling. As outlined in an article titled “Why Athletes Go Broke: the Myth of the Dumb Jock” on CBSnews.com, “78 percent of NFL players face bankruptcy or serious financial stress within just two years of leaving the game and 60 percent of NBA players face the same dire results in five years.”
As the article outlines, the real reasons why athletes go broke have more to do with knowing how to believe in themselves than anything else. They need to learn who to trust and how to resist the temptations of sudden wealth. It’s not about being a “dumb jock” at all. The most important aspect of achieving and managing success and the money that sometimes comes with it is understanding the psychology of the individual, and that’s where coaches comes in.
There has now emerged on the scene an entire industry of financial coaches helping athletes learn how to manage their money. So it shows you that coaching is more than a one-dimensional occupation
The 10 Principles of being a good coach
The connections between the lessons we learn in the realm of sport and the business world are real. But how do we reliably make those connections, and whose job is it to translate those lessons into practical value?
It really does start with our coaches. Here are the principles of what makes a good coach in sport, and in life:
1. Guidance. A good coach does not presume to know what is ultimately best for us, but puts us in positions to learn how our minds and bodies work together to find success.
2. Counselor. A good coach is also a good counselor. Again, not with the presumption that they know you better than you know yourself, but with the intent to help you find the “sweet spots” in your performance, your mindset and your goals. That’s true in business or in sports.
3. Trust. A good coach earns your trust through collaboration. You know you can count on them to support you when needed but also test you in ways that raise your game. That is foundation of sports psychology. Learning to trust yourself and what you’ve learned. So that when you compete, you don’t have to second-guess your abilities.
4. Inspiration. A good coach knows how to look for opportunities to motivate an athlete. These moments occur in training and competition, and combined these form a foundation that not only motivates a person to succeed, but gives them confidence to try new things.
5. In Loco Parentis. A good coach must sometimes assume the role of parent, and that is true at all ages. In fact it is the parental or mentor relationship of a good coach that is vital to the development of so many successful individuals.
6. Personal Growth. A good coach perceives the signs of personal growth in an individual, pointing them out as progress toward a goal. These critical facets of sport are also the most important to transfer to success in life. Knowing you can set goals and achieve them is the best way to manage personal growth.
7. Measurement. A good coach teaches you how to measure success. That may mean they do not always focus on victory so much as improvement. There are so few athletes that can win every time they take the court or compete in a race that a good coach must learn to recognize and communicate those other, just-as-important victories as progress toward the ultimate goal.
8. Correction. A good coach teaches by correction. Attempting to perfect technique or improve the quality of one’s effort takes practice, which is composed of repetition, rehearsal and correction. A good coach writes out workouts that provide opportunities to identify areas for improvement.
9. Encouragement. A good coach knows that while correction is important, and can even involve criticism at times, encouragement is a vital component of keeping an athlete motivated and on task toward goals.
10. Congratulations. A good coach congratulates a protege for success without feeling the need to take full credit for the effort. A successful athlete (or employee, or intern, or volunteer…) should also be prepared to also give coaches credit where credit is due. This is the relational balance of congratulations. It is founded on mutual gratitude.
It all comes down to simple principles: A good coach helps you learn to believe in yourself. So that you can go on to coach someone else.