The longer you coach, the more you see.
The more you see, the more you learn.
The more you learn, the more you have to teach.
As a veteran coach I am asked all the time how I figured out my coaching style and what to do in certain situations. My answer is always the same… Time. When I started out coaching that first JV team, I had so many plans and dreams of what they would be. I quickly learned that my dreams and plans are directly related to what they want to do. There is a saying “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” This is SO true with coaching youth and teens! As adults we tend to forget that teens don’t have the same plans or dreams that we do. They do not see the world as we do. We see the potential in our athletes when our athletes see sleep and food.
A long time coach will tell you that they start each year with those same plans and goals that they did the first year. The difference is, the longer you have been coaching the better you get and motivation and getting the team to buy into what your trying to do. You have to change the way you coach a little bit each year to motivate the different types of students and different types of athletes. You don’t change your expectations, you simply change the delivery.
I have former athletes that come back, watch practices, and say to me, “Man! You have gotten so soft! We would NEVER have gotten away with what these guys are doing!” Also, some come back and say to me that I have gotten mean and they are glad they cheered for me when they did. At the end of the year, the teams all accomplish the same goals. They all learned what they needed to learn and participated to the best of their ability. Very rarely do we have teams that finish a season a disappointment. The teams learn to work hard every year their own way.
Some years I am mean and some years I am super nice. I have learned how to read my team and know how to motivate them. There are still some years or some seasons where I miss the mark and the teams are not as good as they could have been. Sometimes it is my coaching and sometimes it is the kids. Sometimes you get cheerleaders and sometimes you get girls that want to be called cheerleaders. You learn to do the best you can with what you have.
At the beginning of every year, I start practices with the same basic plan. We review or learn motions, jumps, basic tumbling, the fight song and our stunt progressions. I learn about the team while they are mastering these skills. If they have the motivation to get through their basics, I know that they are a motivated group and I can push them a little harder. If it takes the full three weeks of summer practices to learn the basics, I know I have a playful team on my hands and if I push to fast, they will push back. The teams that learn slower are not bad; they just have a different focus. This theory works most of the time. I am always evaluating and re-evaluating my team, taking the motivational temperature of their skills. I have also learned to pay attention to their school schedules. Major school functions have a direct impact on the athletes. I know that if we are coming up on Homecoming week that I am going to lose their focus for a while. We have to be solid in our routines at least a week before any major school function. If not, we will not have a stellar performance.
For those coaches who have been coaching a while, please reach out to the new coaches around you and share your experiences. They are going to need advice when their vision of what those first seasons fizzles before them.
For the coaches that are new and have all the dreams and goals and plans, please keep those dreams! Listen to the coaches around you that have been there. They can offer advice and guidance to make sure your dreams are realized!
We are not alone in our coaching. We should never have to reinvent the wheel! Listen and learn from each other! There is a lot of knowledge and experience around you.