Coaches play an important role in the sporting life, but also the everyday life, of the participants they coach. Coaches influence the development of sport-specific skills and sporting performance, and also the participant’s development as a person and their approach to other aspects of their life. While at times it can be challenging, coaching is also a very satisfying role.
To be an effective coach, you will need a number of skills. A coach needs knowledge of the sport, but more importantly, they need to know how to pass that knowledge onto the participants they are coaching. To do this, a coach needs skills in:
be a good role model for the participants
show enthusiasm and enjoyment for the task of coaching – make it fun!
be self-confident, assertive, consistent, friendly, fair and competent
ensure the safety of all participants
behave ethically and dress appropriately
maintain discipline throughout the session
be very organised, not only for each session but for the entire season
be able to justify, if necessary, why things are being done, or be ‘big enough’ to ask for suggestions when not sure and to admit and apologise when they make a mistake
treat everyone fairly, and include participants of all abilities and disabilities, ages, genders, and ethnic backgrounds.
Do you have a coaching philosophy?
A coaching philosophy will include aspects such as:
how the coach communicates
will the coach encourage athletes to ask questions and take some responsibility?
will the coach seek to remain up to date and improve their coaching knowledge and skills?
how behavioural issues will be dealt with
will the coach include everyone, irrespective of ability or background?
the coach’s emphasis on winning, losing and cheating
promoting respect for others
Working with officials
Officials (referees, judges, umpire, scorers, etc.) are often placed in the unenviable position of alienating 50 per cent of the crowd and players at any given time, and can be subject to criticism, abuse and harassment. It is important to remember that officials have the same needs and motivations as others involved in sport and that they have a critical role to play in ensuring the safe and fair management of competition.
Coaches can have a positive influence on minimising the abuse of officials and maximising the standard of officiating, by developing positive and supportive relationships with officials.
It is important coaches are good role models to the participants regarding how officials should be treated. A coach who verbally abuses or berates an umpire is giving the message to participants that this type of behavior is acceptable. Coaches should display professionalism in their behavior towards officials, and encourage participants to do the same. The coach should warn and/or counsel a participant who displays abusive behavior towards an official.
Tips for working with officials
A meeting with officials at the beginning of the season is a good idea. The coach can use this opportunity to introduce themself and any support staff, to get to know the officials (get to see the human side) and to start developing open lines of communication away from the heat of competition.
Invite officials along to pre-season team functions or meetings, where appropriate, in both formal (explain any new rules, how competitions will run) and informal capacities so that athletes and others involved in the program get to know them as people and not just as the face on the other end of the whistle or flag.
Maintain open and positive lines of communication throughout the year — discuss any issues as they arise in an open and non-threatening manner away from the heat of competition. In this way the coach can help reduce the risk of small points of contention becoming major issues, minimise the abuse of officials and help ensure that any competition is played in a safe and fair manner for the enjoyment of all involved.