We are big believers in building strong foundations and focusing on the development of the youth rather than winning at all costs. That’s what great coaches focus on and they are willing to wait in order to see the long term development. That’s the joy they take because miracles don’t happen over night.
At the college or pro level, winning is the main focus and losing is hardly acceptable. Now, what you should look for in a top program? The coach and the club’s philosophy. Who is the coach, what kind of style the club is trying to play, what’s their culture like, location sometimes is a factor and so on.
For me personally, the coach is the single most significant factor for your players. Why? Your son or daughter will spend a great amount of time at training with their coach. So you need to make sure they are in good hands so they can enjoy themselves, be safe, have fun and make progress. I will outline some important characteristics of top quality coaches who look at the bigger picture and don’t focus on winning right now.
1. Engage and show them that you care
Great coaches know how to engage with their players and get the best of them. Once coaches have build the trust with their players then everything becomes easier. It doesn’t matter how knowledgeable a coach is, if s/he shows no feelings or that they care for their players the foundation won’t be strong.
Great coaches often ask players how was their day, anything new in their life and so on. At practice is no time to really socialize but there is always time to show that you care. People care in their own way, just make sure the players truly know that you are proud to coach them and that you really care for them. It will go a long way.
2. Try to suggest and not demand
Players learn best when the message is clear, concise and most importantly transmitted in a pleasant way. If you are demanding them to do something, chances are they won’t have fun doing it.
Great coaches use their words wisely in a nice and encouraging tone so players feel comfortable trying to succeed in a different way. Instead of saying: Do it this way, you could say: Can you try to do it differently? You may want to try this next time.
It’s not what we say but rather how we say it. And players are smart. They sense your mood or frustrations in the tone of your voice and gestures. Great coaches have an unbelievable ability to connect with their players. It’s hard to explain but if you ever saw one, you know what I am talking about.
3. Paint the picture
As coaches we often try to explain and expect that the players really understand us. Wrong. It’s always best when coaches paint the picture in a short team demonstration so players can visualize what’s expected of them. Great coaches help the group understand the information so easily and with just a quick demonstration players can quickly move on ready to train.
During training time is very important and as coaches we try to use it as wisely as possible. A few quick demos can save a lot of time form talking. Less talking and more doing works better with players when it comes to training. Tactical sessions are different and more dialogue is encouraged.
4. Assign homework for players
Homework is no fun but if you give the right assignments it could become more enjoyable. I give my players homework to work on a specific workout that I feel they need most improvement on. Also, I ask players to write in their journal so I know how they reflect on themselves, what are their goals and how accurately they assess themselves.
Just reading thru a journal can tell you so much about a player. Great coaches take their time and they often go over the journals with the players. Open communication helps so much because the message becomes clear. As there is not enough time to work together, it always helps when players work on their own. The purpose of the homework is to help players improve and become the best versions of themselves.
5. Always be honest
Honesty is the best policy. If a coach is not honest with the player, the team will suffer, the coach will get frustrated, and most importantly the player’s confidence will go down. No matter what the truth is, it has to be said. Great coaches always say it the way it is. It’s a competitive industry and there are many dishonest coaches who often promise you more training, more games, more tournaments, more GK training or whatever. If they can’t deliver, they are not honest.
Great clubs and coaches will keep their promises to you and you will hear it the way it is. Clubs that are organized know their budgets and they can tell you way in advanced what they will offer you. So many players and parents get cut into big lies and promises. Look for honest coaches who you trust and if you have second doubts about a coach just do more research.
6. Don’t over coach and just let the players play
Players enjoy the game because they are in charge. That’s their time to showcase what they have been working on during the week. Great coaches never over coach because they allow players to make their own decisions and are constantly encouraging them to embrace their mistakes and learn from them.
A great coach can find the balance and coach just enough to help the players to figure it out on their own. No player likes a coach who yells or gives constant directions during games. A great coach chooses the right moment and time in the game to really get his point across. When something important needs to be corrected, a great coach will do it.
7. Teach and instill good values into your players
A great coach will teach players lifetime values and lessons that will shape and form their character. It’s important players become a fan of the sport and learn about character, attitude, respect, commitment, sportsmanship and leadership. Those are important values great coaches will model and instill in their players while teaching them about the skills and tactics of the game.
8. Be the best role model you can be
Great coaches know that their players look up to them and they don’t want to disappoint. Some players don’t have a mother or a father so they look up to their coach. That may be their only role model so they will get highly influenced by their coaches’ actions and behaviors.Players look up to those people that show that they care for them and want them to do well in their sports journey and life. Players are constantly seeking for role models without even knowing. So when they go home and tell their parents what a cool coach they had or what the coach did, that’s the beginning of a healthy relationship.
Players need to trust their coaches so they can work together more effectively. Great coaches prepare for training and ensure their players that they will do their best to help them succeed. At that point players will feel like they can trust their coach even more.