Anyone can give you a job and the title of Coach, but there is one thing no one can give you – the respect of the young men and/or women you are tasked with coaching. The only people that can give you the respect of your team is your team.
There are very few teams that will ever function well, let alone achieve a winning record, without having a respected leader leading them. Therefore, for any team you Coach to truly be successful, you have to gain the respect of your team and to do that, you must become a great leader.
Here are 7 tips for Coaches on how to become a great leader.
1. Great leaders lead from the front: Too many times leaders – including coaches – think that “leading” means sitting behind a desk issuing orders or standing on the sidelines issuing commands. Great leaders are hands-on, they show rather than tell. Being a great leader involves putting in twice the work you are asking your team to put in.
While it’s not necessary for coaches to be in excellent physical shape, you will have a much easier time getting your players to work out if you show a commitment to physical fitness as well.
2. Great leaders take the fall: Too often, when a team loses, it’s easy to point the finger at them and blame a loss or failure on all of the mistakes they made. One of the primary jobs of a coach, however, is to get a team working and functioning together as a team.
More important than any skills drills or exercises, more important than spotting, nurturing or promoting great talent is the importance of building a great team – and that is on you. When loss or failure happens, great leaders take responsibility. They own their own part in allowing mistakes to be made.
3. Great leaders are generous:Most teams have a budget for equipment or equipment is expected to be provided by parents or the players themselves. While buying anything for an entire team can be expensive, it can mean the world to a team if their coach buys something for them personally out of his or her own pocket.
It might be something small like ice cream cones after a big victory or something more substantial like personalized stadium blankets, but buying something for the team shows a coach is invested in the team on every level. Even if you can’t afford to buy something for the team, you can arrange to have someone cook for them or invite them over for a meal – either in small groups or as an entire team.
4. Great leaders set high expectations and give lots of grace: Human beings are often capable of accomplishing far more than we think we can just by having someone believe in us. When a coach doesn’t think much of his or her team, they don’t think much of themselves – and that doesn’t tend to lead to a lot of victories.
Great leaders set very high expectations for their teams, but also give them a chance to meet them. Few people accomplish great things the first time they try. Generally, the road to success is paved with a lot of failure. Give your team a high bar to aim for and lots of room to fail on the path to getting there.
5. Great leaders praise in public and criticize in private: Whether you are addressing the entire team or a specific individual, no one likes to be publicly reprimanded. Often, when that happens, the shame level is so high that the critique you are giving gets lost amid the shame.
On the other hand, most people long for public praise and respond positively when it’s given.
Praise doesn’t need to be offered overly lavishly or it can lose it’s value, but it should be given often for genuine accomplishment. If you have a criticism to make of the entire team, take them into the locker room or other private area, don’t give them a loud “dressing down” on the field via a bullhorn or other method of broadcasting.
6. Great leaders know their business and are open to innovation: There is possibly nothing worse than being coached by someone who knows almost nothing about the sport they are coaching. Coaches need to be well-versed in a wide range of subjects, from leadership to strength conditioning to what skills drills can help the team improve the most in their areas of weakness to great offensive and defensive strategies.
At the same time that coaches need to have almost encyclopedic knowledge of their sport and the rigors of coaching, they need to constantly be learning and open to being taught new methods of improving on a 360 degree level.
It’s hard to imagine the 1986 Chicago Bears doing yoga, but Coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks incorporates both yoga and meditation as a part of player training and conditioning
Great coaches have to always be learning, evolving and developing new strategies for player development.
7. Great Coaches let their players shine: Great coaching is integral to almost any great victory and it’s not hard for any coach to take credit for the success of their team. What’s harder is to step back and give the team the chance to shine.
Poor coaches stand in the spotlight and bask in the glory, great coaches step back and push their teams forward into the limelight. Never miss an opportunity to allow your team to shine.
Great coaches are not born, they are made – through years of hard work, self-discipline and personal sacrifice. Being a great coach is as much about character as it is about knowledge – but a truly great coach must have both. Great coaches are a rare blend of personal integrity, humility and an almost Einstein level of knowledge about their particular sport.
Like the old saying goes “If you think you’re a leader, but no one’s following, you’re just out taking a walk.” Anyone can give you a job, but only your team can make you a leader.