Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Underestimating Athletes

As a coach I tend to be stern and set high expectations for my athletes.  I push them hard and expect them to give 100%.  My teams will tell you the same thing, but at the end of the season, they look back and are shocked at how much they accomplished.  When I meet with other schools there are mixed emotions from parents and coaches.  The coaches compliment me on my teams skills, attitude, and abilities.  They love how great they look and want to know how to get there.  Parents tend to say that I am mean and I expect too much from the kids.  

My question is this.  How hard do you push?  When are the expectations too high?  I let my teams answer that.  We start working on the first day and push for improvement each day.  When we reach a wall and find something they struggle with, I put it back on them.  They decided if they want to continue working the skill or step back a level.  There can be many reasons for the struggle.  Usually they were not quite ready to advance from the previous skill and simply need to step back and build confidence or technique.  Sometimes they are just having an off day. 

What many coaches do is start small and work too fast.  They try to push through to the bigger skills without building a good foundation.  Then when the team struggles with the advanced skills they are not sure where to go when the team is frustrated and defeated.  They underestimate the work that needs done at all levels.  Once the team starts to struggle, the assumption is that they don’t have the ability to perform the skill.  If they take a few steps back and start again to build up the strength and confidence the team will pick up and move past where they are stuck.

Is it too much to ask your athletes to give 100% at practice?  Is two hours a day too much time to be spent on working towards goal?  The answers here depend on what you want to accomplish in a season.  If your team focus is not to advance its skills, but to focus on school spirit and leadership, they yes it might be too much to ask of your team to put in 10-12 hours a week.  Those goals need to be set from the beginning and the vision needs to be conveyed to the team and parents so that they know what to expect and how much time is involved.

My highest expectations for my team are simply this - I want them to work hard and work everyday.  I want them to keep learning and not accept defeat.  When something gets hard, find out how to make it work.  I will advance my team as far as they are willing to go.  Once they start to see the potential of what they can do, the team tends to take the lead and want to be better.  I am there to teach and offer support.  When they get lazy, I’m there to motivate, when they are excited, I’m there to keep it going, I am what they need me to be because I know that they can be their own motivation if they see something they want.  That what we really are trying to teach.  Self-motivation and work ethic.  When you see something you want, you go after it and put in the work to make it happen. 

For those parents that feel that I am “mean,” don’t underestimate the strength of your little darling… they are not as fragile as you may think. 

To the coaches that have a dream, follow it.  Through discipline and communication, your team will reach the bar that you set.  Make it high and raise it often!  You will soon learn that the kids will hit and exceed your expectations, if you let them.


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