The Qualities of “Good Coach”

A coach can improve your game. But a good coach improves your life at the same time.” (Michael Josephson)

A good coach in any sport or athletic endeavor can make a huge positive difference in youths’ lives. Unfortunately, they can also do tremendous harm.  All coaches should take this responsibility seriously. Here are some tips to start with:

  • I firmly believe that when coaching youth sports (ages 5 to 12) that every member of a team should play every game.

When a child leaves Elementary school, ideally, they will have learned to play various sports, know which they prefer and which positions they are most talented at performing. In Middle School and High School team sports become more competitive and the size of teams must often be limited to the best players that try-out. Coaches at this level are often paid to do so and are expected to produce winning seasons to stay employed.

  • Safety First! The safety of every child under the supervision of a coach must be their most important concern. Every year, too many deaths and serious injuries occur because safety was ignored in favor of a “hard work-out,” “teaching them to be tough,” or just ignorance of basic health standards, like hydrating regularly.

Safety also requires each young athlete to be:

  • Fully uniformed with standard protect gear
  • Taught the rules of the game and the expectations of their responsibilities on the field
  • Instructed in fair play and good sportsmanship

A good coach should know basic First Aid and CPR. And a First Aid kit should be present at every game

  • Be a role model of proper behaviors: respectful, calm, and never critical but encouraging. A coach should also require this of all parents and spectators.
  • Understanding of gender differences. (Having been of coach for girls, boys and mixed teams for 46 years, I assure you that communicating effectively to boys versus girls takes sensitivity, and often a different use of words and emotion.)
  • Take time to know each member of the team individually in order to understand and motivate each in a way that best suits them.
  • Team Building: A coach will build a team spirit, an esprit de corps. This takes time and some creativity. (One thing I did for my teams was to have a team rallying cry: In the huddle just before the beginning of play, I always asked my team, “How are you going to play the game today? In unison and repeatedly they would begin chanting “With Smoke from our Nose and Fire from our Eyes!” Then they would break huddle and run out onto the field.)

I recall when I played Little League baseball that after every game each member of the team would get a hot dog, a coke and a candy. Even better, some teams went out to a pizza joint together with their parents and siblings.

Creating situations to stimulate friendships and camaraderie makes coaching and playing a much more enjoyable experience for everyone; and, it usually produces a more competitive team.

A good coach will make his players see what they can be, rather than what they are.” (Ara Parashegian)

(Coaching Americas Kids is a program of Patriotic Hearts, a 501c3 non-profit. (Our site provides a job board specifically for men and women coaches.) We believe that good coaching makes America a better place for us all to live, and prepares future generations to excel in every aspect of their lives. We encourage all adults to consider becoming a coach on any level. It is a rewarding and purpose filled avocation and career. We especially encourage US military veterans to consider coaching. The leadership principles they learn are particularly applicable to being good coaches for kids.)

Mark Baird / 760-730-3734

August 18, 2016