In my opinion the most important trait for a coach to understand is confidence. This includes both self confidence and the ability to help players find confidence within themselves. When a coach is confident in him/herself and what he/she does that confidence will be transmitted on to others. Think about how often you have seen a coach working with a group of players and you can immediately tell that he/she is not confident in their approach.
- Building self confidence as a coach know your stuff. The game continues to change and you need to keep up with those changes. This is everything from rules, to tactics, to technical skill, to mental training and psychology of the sport and the modern approach to developing players physically. If you don’t have a good understanding of the necessary elements involved, how do you expect to teach your players?
- Watch others. You can learn so much by watching others, this includes both experienced coaches and even coaches who don’t have as much experience. By watching others you begin to learn what works well and what doesn’t. Watch how the coach interacts with his/her group, how much interaction takes place? When is it too much? When is it too little? When observing other coaches you should focus in on body language and response. Slowly you will begin to realize little ways to keep players engaged, what gets them intrigued and little ‘tricks’ of the trade.
- Research and Reading. This includes everything from books to videos to articles online. There is so much information out there that it has become nearly impossible not to have the necessary information about anything. It’s not just books on soccer or coaching that you should read either. I am talking about researching everything you can about the process of teaching and learning and more. Just like when observing others, you can learn so much by reading what they have written as well. Topics like sport psychology, building mental strength, physical and biological development of athletes and leadership are some of my favourites.
- Get on the field. You need to be on the field and you need to learn firsthand from experience. Just like players discover by doing, you do as well. It is important that you are out there coaching. You will make mistakes and this is fine, we all do. The important part is that you are learning from these mistakes. Reflect on your sessions and think about what worked well and what didn’t. Make notes of different games or exercises that the players enjoyed. Recognize how the players respond when you interact with them, see what works and what doesn’t.
- Be open to feedback. Listen to what others have to say. Being open minded and receptive to what others have to tell you is a key part of coaching. I always listen to what others have to say, it doesn’t mean that I will always agree with it but taking the time to listen will often help you to learn.
Helping others find confidence
- Allow players the freedom to learn. This is another trait that is often not understood by coaches. We are too inclined to micromanage our group of players and worry about the mistakes that take place. Instead these mistakes are the best things you can have happen, because without them we would never evolve. It is important as a coach that you learn to perceive mistakes as positive learning opportunities. Once you begin to recognize this your players will begin to perform with a sense of freedom and less worry and in turn make less mistakes.
- Having fun is a good thing. I’ve seen it and I’ve heard it, people who feel that everything needs to be taken seriously. I can appreciate that there is a level of seriousness involved and discipline is a key factor in the development of an elite athlete. However, this doesn’t mean that there is no room for a joke, a laugh, or moments of fun. At the end of the day we are involved in sport, and the element of fun needs to exist if you are to build a long lasting love for the game.
- Be Positive, all of the time. Offer praise and encouragement when a player or the team merits it. And when you do offer this praise or encouragement, make sure it is well known that you are happy with the progress made. If it’s a player you are dealing with, praise them in front of the group, use the players name so they feel well recognized and good about themselves. This type of praise in front of an audience will boost your players confidence drastically and will let the others know that if they do well to accomplish goals or objectives they will receive the same recognition. As the saying goes, “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.” Athletes realize when they’ve made a mistake, they don’t need a coach to highlight the mistake in front of others, this will often cause them to be humiliated.
- It is often best to correct mistakes by speaking to the player 1on1 rather than in front of the whole group. You can quietly pull the player aside during your training session and offer the advice, or, if you feel that the mistake needs to be highlighted in front of the group there are ways of communicating your coaching point and keeping them positive so that players feel good learning from them. An example would be this: Negative Coaching point = “Stop, Johnny that’s not the pass we’re looking for, I want you to do it this way,” becomes Positive Coaching point = “Stop, Johnny that was a good attempt, here is another way we can make that pass.” This is a small example but learning to turn feedback from negative to positive while still offering the same advice is a skill that will come with time, practice and experience. When you learn to turn to put a positive tone on the messages you are trying to get across you will soon realize that players will become more receptive to what you have to say.
- When its game time, let them play. If you have prepared well, then you should be confident in your teams upcoming performance. We have all seen that coach who is constantly yelling from the sideline. This behaviour suggest to me that the coach has not been able to prepare his/her team for the match and is insecure about how the team will perform. There is a major difference between the coach who may need to make a coaching point or give some tactical instruction from time to time, and the coach who is constantly up and down the sideline giving ongoing instruction. By yelling consistently over the course of a game, you are most likely firing your players up with nerves to start off and then becoming noise in the background as the game goes on. Realize it, and find ways to control your nerves and prepare better for next time.
I want to make it clear that when I began coaching I was not necessarily practicing the advice given above. Only through research, reading, observation, experience and most of all by keeping an open mind have I been able to realize the effects of each point made.