Most coaches at the beginning stages of their coaching careers go through a
transitional period from playing and being “the guy” to starting over and having to work
back up again. This can be a tough transition for some and others fully embrace the
change from playing to coaching. Many coaches would argue that they learned more
their first year coaching than any other year. Young and/or beginner coaches will go
through changes and learning experiences that are generally beneficial and ultimately
help to mold them into the coaches they will eventually become. Coaching is always
changing but there are some principles in place that remain constant across all sports
and all levels. These are the three lessons that every young coach tends to learn rather
quickly as they venture into their new career.
Lesson #1: You Really Don’t Know It All
Whether you just finished playing or maybe never even played the sport you are
about to coach, you probably think you have a good understanding of the basic rules,
fundamentals, skills, etc… needed to coach your respective sport. While this is probably
true, there will be many things that you learn as a coach from other coaches that you
literally had no idea about. There will be topics of conversation that come up and you
may have no idea what the heck is being discussed, and that’s okay! Almost all
experienced coaches know that their younger coaches on staff do not know everything
and won’t know everything right away. Everybody had to start somewhere and even the
best coaches in the world had to start from scratch just like you. One of the biggest
piece of advice that a young coach can learn is this; it is perfectly okay to ask questions.
In fact, it is usually encouraged! Coaches want their staff members to be confident
about whatever it is they are teaching their players and because of this, questions are
absolutely essential for young coaches to feel comfortable coaching players directly.
One of the biggest pet peeves most coaches have about some of their young
coaches on staff is that they think they know everything when they walk in day one.
Know your role early on and ease into the staff as seamlessly as you can. Ask
questions, be open about what you know and what you don’t, and ultimately learn to be
a great listener because this will translate into making you a great teacher and coach!
Lesson #2: Different Players Learn in Different Ways
Young coaches will learn early on that all players learn better in certain
environments and certain circumstances. It is the old “carrot vs the stick” analogy.
Young coaches need to learn early on what motivates the players that they coach. Not
all players will respond or learn in the same way. Coaches have to be able to adapt to
different players and different personalities. There are always going to be “tougher”
players to gain respect from but if you learn what gets to them and what truly motivates
and moves them then you will find success in helping them reach their full potential.
A great tactic for young coaches to speed up this process is to have individual
meetings with all of the players that you will be in direct contact with throughout the
season. Set up these meetings and truly get to know your players on a personal basis.
This will allow you to create a solid base for the relationships you are about to build with
your players and it will also allow you to ask questions that will help you better
understand what kind of personalities you are about to encounter and also allow them to
ask you questions so that a trust is formed between you. Be honest with them when
answering questions and they will respect you to an even greater degree.
Lesson #3: Suck It Up: Stay the Course
The last lesson that all young coaches learn very quickly and early on in the
process is that some days you just have to suck it up. There will be days that challenge
you and truly will reveal your character. There are hard decisions that have to be made
as coaches and young coaches will continue to get better at making decisions quickly
and efficiently. There will be issues which will be time sensitive and will not allow you to
fully evaluate or research a perfect answer. Coaches learn to stay the course and just
trust their instincts. Coaches that are selfless and willing to do some of the dirty work
early on will reap the benefits of their sacrifices later on in their coaching careers. When
young coaches are asked to do tasks that they are uncomfortable with or unsure how to
do it, ask for help. Any and every new experience that is presented to you, you should
take advantage of. Coaches that can build a resume of varying experiences and skills
will succeed much greater than those who rely on a limited repertoire. On the days that
are tough, confide in your mentors and former coaches. Most of them have probably
been through a similar situation and will be able to help you through it. So just
remember, suck it up and stay the course!
Whether you are a young coach, an older coach starting a new gig, or someone who is
just thinking of becoming a coach, remember these three lessons and learn them as
quickly as you can to ensure that your career is started with your feet on the ground
running! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, get to know your players on a personal level,
and stay the course when things get tough!