by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com
How’s your coaching? Having an amazing experience?
If so, then — bravo. Stop reading and get back to what you were doing.
For the rest of us, who at one time or another feel our coaching experience can be better, I offer a few suggestions.
Great homes are built on solid foundations. Same with great coaching experiences. There lies something rock-solid underneath it.
Y’see, coaching can be rewarding, but those rewards don’t come easy. Many coaches I work with have big hearts, big desires, and big energy. But often they haven’t taken the foundational steps so the rewards are accessible. They miss out — needlessly.
Up for an experiment?
In 7 steps anyone can build a solid foundation for their coaching experience. An experience that rocks. Rewards. Rejuvenates.
If you’re game, here are those 7 steps.
Step 1) Why Do You Coach?
I love asking new coaches “Why do you coach?” The answers range from “giving back,” to “unfinished business,” to “I was bored.” That is, when they have answers. Many have never considered WHY.
Here’s the deal: The statement of “why you coach” will be the foundation of your coaching. Everything you do as a coach — your decisions, your actions, your visions will derive from this one statement.
Start building: Steal 5 minutes of quiet time from your day, and answer this question, “What are NOT reasons why I coach?” Write as many answers as you can — as quick as you can.
Over the next six days, add to the list. On the 7th day, look at your list, and you’ll see some solid trends (such as: “I am NOT coaching to hurt people“, or, “I don’t coach to make a million!”).
Then finish this statement: The reason why I coach is … . It may not feel perfect, and it will likely change over time — that’s to be expected. Don’t be surprised by the power of what you come up with.
Step 2) 3-Word Philosophy
I’ve seen coaching philosophies which are pages long. Word after word after word on how they are going to create an amazing experience and blah, blah, blah.
Here’s the deal: Short, memorable, remarkable words will impact and engage. Long, forgettable, average words will snore and bore. Both you and them.
For example, here’s my coaching philosophy: Guide, protect, nurture. That’s it. Simple, memorable, and it’s open to interpretation, and is flexible.
Start building: Can you describe your coaching philosophy in 3 words? Yes you can. Then commit them to note cards, and carry them around with you at all times.
Step 3) Expectations
Coaching has a sneaky way of stealing expectations. If you’re not careful your expectations will become those of others. Last week a fellow coach commented on how she loves teaching the details of her sport. But everyone around her only seemed focus on winning and had little patience for learning. Needless to say, her experience wasn’t what she wanted.
Here’s the deal: You have three flavors of expectations to focus on. All three will impact your experience: (1) your expectations, (2) your athlete’s expectations, and (3) your boss’s expectations. Knowing each will make a world of difference.
Start building: If you don’t know your boss’s or athlete’s expectations — you must find out. This is a foundational step you have to take.
Schedule a meeting with the boss, or send an email, and ask, “What are the organization’s expectations of my coach and the program?” Then at your next practice, have your athletes answer those same questions on note cards.
The most important part of this entire step is the answer to this question, “What are you own expectations.” Ask yourself these three questions:
- What do I expect from my coaching?
- What do I expect from the athletes and the team?
- What do I expect from my boss?
As before, write them down, and have them someplace you’ll see them every day. Paper or digital doesn’t matter, as long as it works for you.
Step 4) The power of Pre-meetings
A pre-meeting can make or break an experience. For instance, you have a great practice planned. Everything is scheduled, equipment in place, weather is beautiful. But if you don’t do this one thing, chances are strong your practice will be a bust. That foundational thing is a pre-meeting. It’s a critical step many coaches miss.
Here’s the deal: People, especially athletes, love to know what the heck is going on. Gathering the team before practice for a quick meeting (might be only 60 seconds long) and telling them what the plan is, greatly increases your chance of success.
This works on a larger scale too. Before the season starts, have a pre-meeting with athletes, parents, support staff. Tell them why you coach, what your philosophy is, your expectations. (Also a great time to get a behavior commitment, see next step.)
Start building: Before your next event, practice, contest, have a pre-meeting. Leave the strategies and tactics for later — this meeting is about the overview of the event, especially the expectations.
Step 5) Behavior Commitment
Every person emits a behavior. It’s impossible not to. So does every team.
Here’s the deal: The tricky part, Coach, is you want the right behavior to be emitted. Bad behavior will destroy your experience, but good behavior can build something amazing.
Start building: First, set the standard for the behavior you expect. Second, get a commitment from the athlete/team that they will emit that behavior. Third (and super critical), respond accordingly and appropriately if the behavior is not what is expected.
For instance, if you expect athletes to be at practice on time, and Jack has committed to being there on time, you need to act if his behavior is not what he committed to. He’s late, and their needs to be action on your part.
If you ignore establishing a behavior expectations, getting a commitment to it, and then acting if it doesn’t happen, you are setting yourself up for a bad experience
Step 6) Boundaries
Coaching is a 24-7 gig. Doesn’t matter what sport you coach, where you coach it, and how old the athletes are. You’re their coach every minute of every day. That is where I see so many coaches make mistakes — we don’t have the energy of brain space to be coaching 24-7.
Here’s the deal: Good fences make good neighbors, and good boundaries make a good coaching experience. You have to find separation from the athlete/team/sport or you WILL get worn down, you WILL burnout, the quality of your experience WILL being to lessen. (Those are not optional — they WILL happen.)
Start Building: Be available only during certain times, and block off “your time.” Personally, my athletes don’t expect to reach me after 7 pm, and not prior to 6am, on days when in season. Out of season, its usually only during office hours.
Yet I know coaches who have their cell phones on all the time, even while they sleep — responding to calls, texts, emails in the middle of the night. Why?
Now emergencies are different. They happen, so the athletes can connect with me — but they know an emergency is at the serious-health level, not, “Hey Coach, I know it’s 11pm, but I’m stressed about my lack of playing time.”
Step 7) The Power of No
I’m a fan of James Altucher. Last year, he and his wife Claudia published The Power Of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness.
And gosh darn it, it can.
Here’s the deal: As a coach, you’ll be asked to do a lot with a little — that’s part of being the person called Coach. You’ll also be asked to do other things. Things that distract or disrupt your WHY, Philosophy, and Expectations. In those cases, you have to say NO!
Start Building: Here’s what you need to do. Each time you are asked to do something, like serving on a committee, helping Jack Bozo move, or break a rule — stop. Go to your note cards. Read your WHY, Philosophy, Expectation.
Then make a decision.
If the decision should be yes, well then, yes it is. But if the decision goes against those three foundational parts of your coaching — say no. Or NO!
Bonus Step) Liability insurance
You are at risk whenever you work with people, especially coaching. Your organization may have you covered, but are you sure? You need at least $1 million dollars in liability coverage. Ask your organization how much you have.
Here’s the deal: I’m not an insurance specialist, but I’ve been advised that I should have $1 million in extra liability coverage, because I coach.
Start Building: Contact your insurance agent, or one that you’ve been referred to, and find the price (mine is about $230 per year.) You might also check with your sports governing body. They might offer special insurance for coaches.
Action You Should (and need to) Take
The bottom line is that you cannot not have an experience. You’re going to have one — why not make it amazing.
Listed above are 8 foundational actions you need to take. Each will help you turn your coaching into that amazing experience. But reading about them is not enough. You need to take action and the more action you take, the better experience you’ll enjoy.
As always, thanks for being here. I would love to know what action you take on this information. Drop me an email and tell me what worked, or didn’t work. It’s the way we all improve.