How to succeed:
I have had the pleasure of coaching some great athletes over the last ten years or so, and it has given me a window into what makes them tick. I will outline briefly what some of my findings are. I hope you enjoy them.
1. Plan and spell out what you are going to do with them day one.
I like to start the year by laying down the law in terms of disciplinary matters and what actual program we will be using and why. All athletes love to know why they are doing what they’re doing. Yes: it makes perfect sense in your head, but it often makes no sense to them. I don’t think you can over-educate your athletes.
2. Be beyond professional and have a presence about you .
Within mere nano seconds an athlete will suss you out. Look like you don’t have a clue? Arrive late? Mumble around a drill? You’re sunk. Remember, if you are standing in front of a team, they will judge you against the very best coach they have ever had; if you don’t measure up, their response will be lukewarm at best toward you. Take no shit, but never punish and never jeer, be emotionally intelligent.
3. Never Side with the players.
It’s quite common for the head coach to do some mad stuff with a team; players like a whinge, and they may come to you as a shoulder to cry on. Don’t let them; your loyalty lies with the head coach. If you are out the door because you are seen as a threat to the head coach, you can’t exactly help many players anyway.
4. Don’t socialise with the team.
A mistake I made with teams was to socialise with them far too often; I was too young and stupid to know this isn’t the best way. I will say the exception to this is when your team wins a trophy. Celebrate as they are a rare thing in sport.
A few separate texts, calls, meet-ups or emails goes a really long way to the players not hating you; this sounds harsh but remember you don’t pick the team, so ultimately you don’t have a tonne of power. If you genuinely care for your players’ welfare, you’ll have less bad mouthing behind your back. Get to know the real Alpha males/females on the team and really connect with them. If the star players hate you, it could be curtains.
6. Don’t get too emotionally involved:
Another major mistake I made early in my career. When it all boils down, you are a paid professional; do your best: if you lose, you lose, move on. I have seen plenty of coaches invest everything in a team, and one staff change, county board change, or a couple of bad losses maybe, and they are gone. Sport is a big boys game and cruel, so get used to it. Whilst I’m on this topic, make sure you get any promises of pay, expenses or equipment etc in writing, otherwise you won’t get it.
7. Make training fun:
All the best coaches’ sessions are on some level fun. Fun can come from many things: a PB, a great hard session, music, team bonding etc., but you have to allow some level of fun. This is not an excuse for nicknames etc; I like my teams to show the utmost respect at all times, but all the athletes I have trained would never call my sessions boring. No one likes a boring session.