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Guest Post: 3 Things Every Coach Can Improve

Brad Stoffers is interested in coaching athletes AND coaching coaches. We asked him what he thought EVERY coach could improve. Below is his answer. 

Whether a 20 year veteran or a first year coach, youth to professional, there are specific things every coach can improve upon, and if we are constantly preaching athletes to improve themselves, I believe we are obligated to do the same for ourselves.

If you are struggling to realise something you need to improve upon take a look at the list below and note 3 ways you will expand upon each of the following. These are attributes effective coaches have used over time to become successful in their craft and it doesn’t matter if you coach the U8 team in your town or your country’s national team.

1)   Organisation and Planning:

“Give me 6 hours to cut down a tree and I’d spend the first 4 sharpening the axe.”

Abraham Lincoln

Coaching typically involves many moving parts. There is a group of athletes, coaches and other staff, facilities, equipment, and agendas that need to be executed in a specific time period. The more detailed a coach can be in their approach, the better the execution will be, meaning more improvement from individuals and teams!

The quote above from Abraham Lincoln speaks volumes for the importance of preparation. Here are some basic questions to ask yourself as a coach:

  • Do you know the time associated with the beginning of each activity in a practice plan?
  • How will you describe each practice activity?
  • Where will Assistant Coaches stand and what will they say during each practice activity?
  • What equipment will you need? When? Who will place it and remove when necessary?
  • Who is responsible in an emergency situation during a game? What will be done?
  • What is your week-long plan for player development? Month long? Season long? Year-long?

These are basic questions that need to be answered in advance to be most beneficial. The more detailed and organised you can be the less chaotic and more productive you will be in your coaching.

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Make the investment beforehand to be prepared in the moment.

2)   Teaching:

Teaching is the heart of coaching, therefore every great coach should pride themselves in their ability to teach! This is the name of the game and needs to be on every coach’s short list for improvement.

You can become a better teacher by learning a new way to describe a particular skill. Perhaps you want to incorporate a whole-part-whole method of teaching a skill and will break down your description differently. Maybe you have thought about a new analogy to reference a particular movement that could be helpful in your description. Finally, you may want to use a                 different description altogether.

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Like a comedian carefully constructing their words and reading the audience to perfect the punch line, every great coach knows how to use their words to their maximal potential. This does, however, take time in the trenches working and trying new things while coaching.

Other ways to become a better teacher you may explore include:

More effective ways to use a demonstration- Who? What? When? Where?

Using feedback to your advantage, again- Who? What? When? Where?

Learning different drills for specific skills and the details to teach within each.

3)   Reflection:

When asked in a recent interview for a singular point of advice for others, billionaire and extremely successful investor Warren Buffet simply said “Invest in yourself”.

While you spend the majority of your day teaching athletes, providing feedback on specifics of their actions, encouraging mistakes, connecting the dots for learning, and searching for ways to improve the smallest of margins, think about who is coaching you.

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Although there are more resources for professional development than ever before, reflection will be your most important (and easiest, cheapest, and most personal) method of development.

I believe reflection is absolutely instrumental for improvement in coaching. Whether it be a coaching journal chronicling each day’s events with a record of your thoughts and opinions, video analysis, outside observation, mentorship, etc. being able to objectively reflect on your practice as a coach and think critically about your actions and experiences will markedly improve your coaching.

When using reflection think about things that happened with positive results and ask yourself why they were successful for you or the participant. Then do the same for the negative outcomes.

Remind yourself why you chose a particular intervention or set of words and record the consequence. What could have been different and what will invariably change next time around?

Reflection challenges you to think critically about your coaching and will provide invaluable learning opportunities for yourself to continue your development as a coach.

By improving these 3 areas you are setting yourself up to be a better coach and more instrumental in what you do every day in your profession. Be a professional and take it upon yourself to improve these areas regardless of who you are.

Brad Stoffers is a hockey coach in Nashville, TN and has been coaching for over 7 years with athletes from youth to professional. Follow him on Twitter @CoachEducation.

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