Dear Coach, Please Use Your Powers for Good

Dear School Sports Coach,

I wonder if you even know your power.

Decades from now, you may not remember the kids who were on your team, but I can promise you, they will remember you. Your influence on their lives, one way or another, will continue.

Just a few reminders: You don’t make children do better by making them feel worse. The worse we feel, the worse we do. Simple. You do the math. You don’t build strengths by criticizing weaknesses.

When the focus is on building strengths, weaknesses improve naturally. Balls WILL be dropped. Shots WILL be missed. Off days, for all of us, are normal. We’re human, we all make mistakes.

We all make mistakes and with the right coach we can learn from them. (Photo by Pixabay)

We all make mistakes and we all feel badly about them

Mistakes are our greatest teachers. Every single one of us knows when we’ve messed up and we feel bad enough. Our kids don’t need to be made to feel worse. Encouragement, not criticism, is what helps us do better the next time.

You don’t produce a winning team by instilling fear into them. No one, absolutely no one, can do their best or improve any skill, whatsoever, when brains are operating in fear. We rise by lifting others, not by slamming their efforts to the ground, however inferior these may seem to you. Children do their best for a coach they respect and admire.

Focus on getting to really know the kids on your team and build a relationship with them. You’ll see amazing things happen on the score board. Sport is not just about winning. And when you keep hammering that skewed perspective to kids, you really take all the joy out of it.

We all love winning but that’s not what it’s all about

Of course we all love winning, but who wants to play a sport when there’s no fun in it. Winning is the by-product of a great team. Great teams are built through great relationships with great coaches. Try be great.

You don’t improve performance by sarcasm and cutting comments. There are only three reasons that anyone uses sarcasm- insecurity, social awkwardness and hidden anger issues. Please redirect these personal challenges. None of them should be directed at children.

It takes very few words to break the kids on your team. Your tone and body language are powerful too. Words can inspire or they can destroy. If destruction is your goal, you are definitely in the wrong profession. You don’t encourage high performance through shouting and belittling.

Build a relationship and a culture of kindness and encouragement

No one has ever walked past a room where someone is shouting and thought, “Wow, they’ve got this under control.” Shouting is only a sign of how OUT of control you actually are. Try building a relationship with your team first. I promise you, they’ll be far more likely to “hear” what you’re asking them to do in the first place.

Please, please, recognize your power as a team leader. A leader is so much more than a person in authority. If you absolutely can’t stop yourself from doing these things, then please stop working with children or work on yourself before you work with children. Breaking others down, especially children is only an indication of tremendous personal brokenness.

And to those phenomenal coaches, and there are so many of you, who lead by example, who teach mightily through encouragement, who understand that patience is powerful, who know that the most effective motivator in any situation is a relationship, on behalf of children and teens everywhere, thank you for the incredible difference that you are making.

A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.

John Wooden

More Great Reading:

The Moment This Dad Realized Youth Sports Were Ending, Forever

About Naomi Holdt

Naomi Holdt is a psychologist, author and speaker with over 20 years experience in education, educational psychology and psychotherapy with a special interest in the emotional well - being of children and young adults.

With an initial teaching background she has insightful knowledge on the role of both parents and teachers in supporting, nurturing and helping young people reach their potential. Naomi qualified cum laude with an MA in Educational Psychology from University of KwaZulu-Natal and is in private practice in South Africa. Naomi is a mother of two young children. You can find her here.

Read more posts by Naomi

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