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!