Winning games and championships will many times help coaches retain and advance in their jobs, but in the long term, what will mean most to their players is whether the coach made them better people. Here is an outline that will help coaches achieve both goals.
- Do I understand the components of my sport well enough to teach my players how to get better every day in a clear and simple manner? (studying video of your players frame-by-frame from multiple angles really helps!)
- Coaches ask their players to work hard to get better every day. In what ways are you learning, adapting, and changing to get better every day? Coaching for 20 years does not mean you have 20 years of experience; it may mean you have 1 year of experience 20 times.
- Have I learned from coaches at higher levels in my sport as well as coaches in other sports?
- Do I teach the mechanics in a progressive, building block and efficient manner which sets my players up for success and includes tools for all learning modalities?
- Which of the three learning modalities (auditory, visual, and kinesthetic) applies best to each athlete you’re coaching and in what ways are you adapting your coaching methodology to be consistent with it?
- Coach process and execution, not results. Good process and execution will lead to good results. When coaching process-oriented thinking, remember that most players today are not auditory learners. If you are yelling out to a kinesthetic learner, you better have some kinesthetic cues in the instructions, e.g., “land softly” to a pitcher.
- When coaching the fundamentals and mechanics, everything starts with posture, balance, footwork, angles and rhythm. If these are wrong, what is done with the glove, bat, and ball, for example, are doomed from the beginning.
- When considering faults and fixes, always start from the ground up. Problems with mechanics in the upper body are probably caused at least in part by problems in the lower body, e.g., pulling your front shoulder or your head when hitting is usually caused by the spinning open of the stride foot, i.e., poor weight transfer.
- Teaching Process
- Stationary “Dry Mechanics” – no glove, bat or ball – simply working on posture, balance, footwork, angles and rhythm (proper position of body parts, e.g., feet, hands, etc.);
- “Dry Mechanics” with movement – no glove, bat or ball, but working on same things with movement;
- Stationary mechanics with glove, ball, and/or bat;
- Mechanics with easy, comfortable movement;
- Mechanics with game speed and intensity;
- Mechanics with game speed, intensity, and competition with significant outcome consequences (usually positive) – getting accustomed to pressure
- In games, always coach forward. Get the team to focus on the moment. If you are telling players what they should have done, you should be yelling at yourself and your coaches for not teaching them properly. Coach backward at time outs and at the next practice.
- Let your players play. Stop micro- manage your players’ every step. Teach them well and let them learn to think and communicate the game amongst themselves.
- Adapt methodology to personality of players and team – the coach sets the bar of excellence for the players to adapt to, but the coach must adapt to the personalities of the players on each team.
- Teach leadership, accountability and establish team chemistry by:
- Provide opportunities for everyone to lead and be team “captains”
- Teammates working in pairs and being held accountable for process and execution meeting your standard of excellence.
- Were my players inspired by my enthusiasm and example to be better people as well as better athletes?
- In what specific ways did I coach the whole athlete not just the player and did I coach the whole person, not just the athlete?
- The key to motivating players is to catch them doing something right. As much as possible, give praise publicly, and individual constructive criticism privately. Motivate by inspiration not intimidation. Constructive criticism is always about the behavior never about the person – do not make it personal.
- Was I an effective communicator? Did I give clear instructions with players stationary, giving me eye contact, and using active listening skills?
II. General Practice Design Evaluation
- Consider what do I want my team to be able to do by the end of the week and by the end of practice? In other words, practices are designed from the end of the week and the end of the day backward.
- A – Action all people engaged all of the time and that includes you – “Coach” = verb (Do I have sufficient equipment & help to use multi-stations of same drill or multiple drills?) If you have players standing in a line waiting to be “served” your practice plan has a flaw in it!
- R- Repetitions (Multi-tasking. e.g., 3 ‘n 1’s, effective use of equipment, did the players get at least 20 quality (game speed, game intensity) position reps today? 20 x 5 > 100 x 1 (20 reps in 5 consecutive days will be more productive than 100 reps in one day)
- C- Competitions (Ind., pairs, teams, - targets & relays) with significant consequences (usually a positive reward) younger players love to compete for points leading to a reward; older players need measurable goals
- F – Fun (e.g., Games, Competitions, Creative Handshakes, Hi-Jinx Skits)
- Flexibility – have contingencies for weather changes, player absences, field unavailability – weather damage or competition from other teams
- Is practice plan written and posted with timed segments incorporating general athletic, sport and life skills
- Does it end in a game simulation or scrimmage during which the coaches simply observe to see what the players have learned?
- As a result of my practice design, are the players better athletes not just better players in my sport?
- In summary: After every practice and game, the team should ask themselves :
- Did we inspire others to be better people by our actions before, during and afterward?
- Could we have defeated our best competition today?
- Did you see your players and assistant coaches smile and laugh? Did they see you do the same?
- Were your players and coaches comfortable enough to share something from their heart during a team huddle?
- Did someone new step up to demonstrate leadership skills?
- Was everyone committed to and held accountable for the TEAM getting better today?
- Did everyone attempt to "practice perfectly" at every phase of the practice?
- In what ways did you and your coaching staff push your players out of their comfort zone to be mentally and physically tougher?
- Was there a consistent high energy from beginning to end?
- Did the execution of the practice plan in its flow and progression match its design?
- Were YOU better today than yesterday?
- Did everyone act excited to come back tomorrow?
III. Drill Design Evaluation (applies to every part of practice!)
- Use A-R-C-F as described above!
- Dry mechanics (e.g., no ball just footwork or body movement) – stationary first, then with movement
- Regular mechanics (e.g., add glove, ball and/or bat), easy, comfortable movement first, then work up to game speed and game intensity, and finally to competitions with significant consequences
- Be sure to use all Learning Modality Cues – Auditory, Visual, Kinesthetic
- Progressions – Set your players up for success by using gradual progressions; the process of the drill should be the same process as in the game for every drill