We all get smarter as we get older, but wouldn’t it be great to start your career again knowing what you know now?
For those of you that are new to coaching, here are 8 coaching lessons that will take you far!
I remember my first college coaching job. I was fresh out of college and found myself the assistant coach at Arizona State. I’d had zero training to be a pitching coach other than I’d just been a college pitcher. I was still playing Travelball (women’s major) with many of the players on the ASU team and was only about a year or 2 older than most of them. On top of that, my sister Sue was also on the team! I’d been a player my whole softball life and suddenly I found myself a coach. Needless to say I was miserable at it at first, not knowing what things I should do and shouldn’t do – since most of us don’t get any real training to become a coach.
Well, thanks to a stern discussion from my Head Coach, Mary Littlewood, I learned my main role and worked hard to stayed lazer focused on being a good assistant. I went on to become a head coach and then eventually teach people how to coach, but I still go back to that coaching-entry process. Too many of us enter it by simply being willing, as if that alone was the sole criteria. Granted, at the youth level, many coaches are qualified simply because they are the only parent willing to take on the job, so willingness is certainly one VERY important quality. But, while that might get you in the coaching door, it alone won’t help you be successful.
There are many things that go into being a successful coach – and while a great deal of time is spent focused on learning the various nuances and details of the skills – too little time is spent on the bigger issues that can cause your demise. I see coaches hired for their knowledge of a particular skill only to watch those coaches get fired for issues like loyalty, poor work ethic, poor decision-making, etc…
So, after years & years in and around the coaching profession, here’s my list of the 8 things young coaches need in order to be successful:
- Be Loyal
– One person is in charge, if that’s you then be loyal to everyone under your watch. If it’s not you, then you must be loyal to who is in charge. Part of loyalty is respect. Show it always and often. Telling people you could do it better than the person calling the shots doesn’t make you look better – it makes you look like a person no one would want to follow when the day comes for you to be in charge. Learning to be loyal teaches you how to spot loyalty as you grow in your coaching skills, and it also teaches your players on a daily basis what loyalty to each other and the program looks like!
Be a Sponge – Learn everything you can anyplace you can learn it! Knowledge is the main skill of our profession. Knowing the different skills, knowing how to reach each of your players, knowing how to market your program, knowing how to identify talent and persuade recruits, knowing how to interact with your administration, knowing how to properly handle the rigors of a long season. Knowing is everything. So be obsessed with learning. Learn from other coaches in your department or from your players or from your coaching friends. Read and watch, and listen more and talk less. Make it your goal to learn something new every day.We offer TONS of instructional products that can improve your knowledge in lots of different areas. Check out our eClinics and learn something today that might be different, or more detailed, or simply said in a way you’d never said it before. Or take our Coaching Certification Program and learn more specifics about 11 different skills. Sure, they aren’t filled with earth-shattering nuggets, but if you truly are committed to learning then if you learn 1 thing you’ve helped your players!
Be Hungry – Hunger burns in the belly. It drives you to out-work, out-think, out-play your opponents so as a young coach, you’ve got to be hungry to learn and do anything you can that allows you to keep growing in your knowledge, experience and skills. Thinking you know it all is a sure sign that you don’t!! Your role as a coach is to do anything you can to help your players improve. That means it’s your obligation to do anything you can in order to help your players. That might mean learning 1 new thing a day, or attending a course, or watching some instruction online. ANYTHING to help just 1 of your players get better!!!Take notes, write stuff down. I’m a ridiculous note taker. I have notebooks all over the place crammed with things I’ve learned over the years. Maybe you take notes on your laptop, or tablet or phone or you’re old fashion like me and simply write them down – whatever and wherever – just take notes. You might not need the information right now, but you’ll be amazed at how often you go back through your notes finding that one piece of info that helps that 1 player!Keep track of your notes, thoughts and discoveries in your Softball Excellence Softball Journal.
Be Willing – Opportunities multiply as they are seized so be willing to seize your opportunities. They may come in the form of throwing batting practice, setting up practice, cleaning up after a game, going out early to catch bullpens, or cleaning equipment. All of those things are important to get done, so why not you doing them? Learn how to do everything, be willing to do anything and one day, you may earn the chance to do that One Thing you’ve always dreamed of!
Be Ready – Nobody should ever have to ask you twice. If you’re really ready, they shouldn’t even have to ask you once. Be ready – to move, to work, to learn, to sweat, to sacrifice, to put in your time, and mostly – to be a part of the process we call TEAM.
Be Supported – You’ve got to surround yourself with people smarter than you – people that have your best interest at heart. It might be family, or friends or co-workers but you need a strong and positive support system to succeed in any endeavor, let alone the competitive world of softball coaching! If you’re a young head coach fight the temptation to hire your friends as your assistants. Sure, it would make your work day fun, but you’re not running an ice cream parlor so “fun” isn’t your main goal. If you want to make yourself better as a head coach then surround yourself with assistants that are smarter than you, or that are tough to your nice, or talkative to your quiet. Your support staff shouldn’t be more of you – they should support you and make you better!
Be the Big Time – I heard Steve Spurrier speak once and he told a great story about his coaching journey. He’d been a great college quarterback and had won the Heisman Trophy. He then found himself in the NFL on the Tampa Bay Bucs, that didn’t win a single game the entire season. He tried his hand at coaching only to be fired as the quarterback coach at Georgia Tech. This taught him that he needed to apply himself to learning how to coach. When he felt ready to be a head coach NOBODY would hire him except Duke. Back then, Duke football was horrible and surely wasn’t what anyone would call the “big time”. But as Spurrier said, they wanted me and they were the only ones who did, so I went there. They sure weren’t the Big Time, but I decided to make wherever I was the big time! And he did, he took that Duke program from worst to first in the ACC and went on to win a national championship and 6 SEC titles as the head coach at Florida and is the former head coach of #9 South Carolina!
Every coach dreams about being in the “big time” but those that actually make it there do so by making wherever they are the Big Time! Help your players feel like the Big Time, support your head coach, or be the head coach that lets everyone associated with your program feel Big Time! Instead of gripping about where you are or dreaming about where you wish you were, start today making wherever you are the Big Time – and watch what happens!
Be Professional – Dress and act and behave professionally. Too many young coaches dress like they’re still players hanging out in the weight room. Just because you’re a young coach doesn’t mean you can’t act like the most veteran coach you know. You might not yet coach or win like that person, but you can sure act like them. Join your professional organization (like Softball Excellence and the NFCA) and start acting like a professional – whether you get paid or not, that’s irrelevant. The term “professional” has come to describe how a person behaves more than whether or not they’re paid. We all know plenty of pro athletes that don’t have a clue how to act like professionals. So remember, you are constantly representing your team, your sport, your school (or team) and your family in everything that you do and say. The question is – how’s that representation going?
And finally, remember that every single coach in the world started out as a young coach. Everyone goes through the stages of being young in their career path. Age and experience doesn’t mean you can’t be good at those areas of your coaching skill that you have control over. Do your very best, every day to improve yourself and your team and to represent everyone with class – and one day, you’ll be passing down advice to the next generation of coaches looking to be just like you!
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