Coaching provides unlimited opportunities to display and teach honesty. It also provides unlimited opportunities to teach youngsters how to be dishonest and how to cheat. If, at any time, a coach is involved in cheating, he or she should immediately resign from the position, regardless of the level of coaching. Honesty must be taught through the example of the coach. How well does the coach observe the rules? Does the coach work within the spirit of the rules or does he or she cut corners because a loophole was found? Through these situations, you can teach honesty, or conversely, dishonesty.
Never is this more tested than during play. When a game is on the line, and a situation arises that allows the coach to cheat to win, the will of the coach is tested. The coach with a great deal of integrity will not blink during that situation. Some players and coaches will do anything to win, then attempt to justify their dishonesty as good strategy. In sports, there is no justification for dishonesty.
Traditionally, coaches are looked at as having high moral standards. This quality is extremely important for any adult that instructs young people. The special role of a coach is one the fulfills the lives of many young athletes and is the moral standard the learned. Coaches should take great care to avoid being a hypocrite in the eyes of the athletes; don't one set of values and display an opposite behavior.
I talk about this more thoroughly in this link.
Interest in People
A coach should cultivate an intense and continuing interest in the overall development of each individual he or she ever coaches. The athletes must know that you care about every player on the team as an individual rather than as a piece of a puzzle that makes up your team. They must also clearly understand that everything you do, everything you ask, expect or demand of them is for one reason and one reason only - to help each of them realize their full potential as an athlete, and a man or woman.
As a team is a reflection of the coach, it is imperative the coach shows an excitement for the players' efforts and accomplishments, for the game and for the practices. Because enthusiasm is contagious, it follows that it should emanate from the coach.
It is also this trait that helps create the desire and willingness to spend long hours working to create goals, practice plans, attend coaching clinics, research drills, and create starting lineups. Without this quality, coaching would no longer be fun and it would be time to give up the job.
When coaches project a certain image (toughness, aggressiveness) the athletes and parents will eventually see through it. As opposed to pretending you're someone you're not, allow your true qualities to show. Qualifies such as empathy for individual athletes, concern, anger, sorrow, and tenderness if need be, as well as toughness and aggressiveness. While many coaches feel that letting their personal qualities show is a sign of weakness, not doing so often prevents the coach from being an effective teacher, and is a sign of insecurity.
Ability to Organize
If you plan to be successful, organization is critical. Firstly, you must be able to organize your own thoughts and ideas to determine the direction and goals for the overall program. You must be able to organize the coaching staff, practice plans, game schedules and lineups, meeting notes, financial statements, etc. Coaching is organizing.
Ability to Motivate
This cannot be overstated. It's one of the biggest challenges you'll face and it will fluctuate from day to day based on how you feel, how your athletes feel, and how your assistant coaches feel. It would be too easy if all of your players, year in and year out, responded well to the same motivation. Nope. While the best type of motivation is self-motivation, the coach finds himself in the position of motivational speaker more often that not. Motivation is the key to learning, growth, and development. If the athlete isn't motivated and ready, it's the coaches responsibility to get the athlete ready.
Coaches, if this is a problem, get out of the position. This means a dedication to becoming a better coach (which you're doing right now) and making the sport better. You need to have a desire to be the best, and to do whatever is necessary to get there. If you don't have such dedication, plan for mediocrity, at best.
Willingness to Make Hard Choices
When you are faced with a difficult problem it matters how much input and advice you get from your staff or anyone else. However, the final decision is yours as the head coach. If you are lacking in this quality, discipline will suffer and do will the athlete's respect for you. You must have the backbone to stand tall and do what you believe to be the best for individuals and the team.
Consider these steps when coming to a final decision:
1. Identify the problem. The problem is not always clear or obvious and might require some probing on your part.
2, Determine immediate goals. Don't be in a hurry.
3. List possible alternatives.
4. Make a final decision.
5. Consider possible repercussions.
Ability to Discipline
The ability of the coach to be a firm disciplinarian is vital to team success. Disciplinarian does not mean dictator and can be accomplished by producing simple guidelines and ensuring the players adhere to those guidelines. Making the games and practices entertaining and active is the best way to ensure discipline is maintained, as well as understanding the age and commitment level of the players.
Part of coaching youth is teaching them how to adhere to rules, work within a group setting, and how to respond to authority. Young athletes need to learn to follow the rules and understand the consequences of breaking the rules.
The keys to maintaining discipline are firmness, fairness, and consistency. If a coach makes a rule, and breaks it himself or herself, or does not hold players accountable, the opposite lesson is learned - we don't need to adhere to rules.
This allows the players to know what to expect. Once they players understand that, it's easier for the players to understand their role, and to develop within that construct. Remaining consistent with regards to discipline, using consistent teaching techniques and verbiage, and using the same standards for conduct allows for a comfortability necessary to a successful team.
Being fair and impartial when applying awards and punishment is critical. Maintaining the same standard for each member of the team shows fairness and allows every player to understand what needs to be done. As humans by nature mesh with certain personalities, having a favorite player or two is common. Don't show this. The coach must take great care to avoid the impression that certain athletes are teacher's pets. Fairness is a prime expectation parents and athletes hold for coaches.
Ability to Identify Goals
To understand the importance of goal-setting, click here. To be an effective teacher, you must outline goals for yourself and the team. Identifying specific objectives is a teaching fundamental. When made clear, goals provide direction for all facets of activity as well as outline a metric to grade against for success. Understand the difference between the types of goals and how the relate to each other; how some build into others, and how different types can compliment each other. All of that can be found in the link above.
Ability to Recognize Athletic Talent
It has been said that rarer than athletic talent is the ability to recognize that talent. Evaluating players and choosing the team should be a primary concern for coaches, if you're coaching in a league where you select your players. There is much more to spotting talent than meets the eye, and this ability should not be taken lightly.
Skills alone do not indicate a player's true talent, nor will a player's physical makeup, speed, strength, or relation to someone who was a great athlete. In sports where there is an outlined metric (track, cross country, swimming, etc), identifying this talent is not as difficult. In team-oriented sports, this assessment can prove quite difficult. Understanding the abilities of a player in a more subjective arena is not clear cut, immediately opens the door to criticism, and can be masked by those that perform well in practice, but crumble during games.
Drills will not display a clear cut winner with regards to talent in every case, although, provided they are organized well, they can identify many competencies or shortcomings in many desirable attributes. There is truly no way to achieve the desired results in every occasion. Understanding the capabilities and limitations of each player, and their personality when faced with pressure, will greatly aid your overall assessment.
Desire to Win
If you, as the coach, don't have a desire to win, you're in the wrong business. The level to which you are able to instill that desire into your players is the metric. It has to be contagious. Providing it's always in the best interest of the players' development, pushing them to work to optimal performance is the goal of the coach. As long as the effort to win is conducted within the rules of the game and the spirit of the league, go get it!
While the push to win is a goal of each coach and team in sports, understanding that a win or nothing mentality is not healthy is key. Losing is the best teacher. It's important to instill this mentality in your athletes and display this yourself. Remembering at the end of the day, the game is still a game is essential.
In younger ages, it's important to balance the effort to win and ensuring the development of every athlete should be the goal of the coach. Youth sports are filled with coaches pushing a team to win at the expense of the development of half of their team.
The desire to win must be held under control as this is the basis for rules broken and most conflict within sports.
Willingness to Work
If the coach is not willing to put in extra hours improving him or herself in the craft (clinics, YouTube, Books, podcasts, etc), he or she shouldn't be coaching. It's imperative that every coach continues to improve, learn more, and develop him or herself.
With that being said, take care not to create work for yourself just for the sake of working. A solid balance in the coach's life with regards to the sport, the family, other interests, and stress relievers is key. This balance will allow the coach to physically and mentally feel refreshed when the coaching responsibility hits.
Knowledge of the Sport
As obvious as this may sound, there's more to it. When coaching very young kids, a premium knowledge of the sport is not as essential as a temperament to work with children. It is important to be able to relay fundamental skills to these young athletes but the inner workings of a bunt defense or zone blocking isn't essential.
As you progress through the development zones, increasing levels of knowledge of the sport is expected. In order to coach at higher levels, a high level of playing the sport isn't' nearly as important as a high level of knowledge of the sport.
Proper use of Language
This is a mild debate in the coaching community. I've listened to coaches tell me they use some swear words at times to emphasize their point. From my point of view, an adult swearing at a child, is a display of ignorance of the language. Coaches should have enough command of the language to express themselves clearly, without abusing a young athlete with curse words.