Sportsmanship: The most important aspect of being a coach.
Coaches have a significant impact on each player of his/her team and are very influential life figures. A good coach can make or break a team as a whole and even a player on an individual level. It is important for coaches to set good examples for players and demonstrate exceptional character on and off the field.
Desired traits of a good coach:
Whether coaches know it or not, they are teachers to their players. Coaches are responsible for teaching their team's good sportsman conduct when interacting with teammates, opponents, coaches, and referees on and off the fields.
Examples of good sports conduct:
Congratulating an opposing team on their effort whether that team won or lost the game.
Accepting a losing score and using it as a learning opportunity to better yourself and the team.
Encouraging less skilled teammates regardless of their performance.
Helping an injured opponent if possible, showing your concern, and/or kneeling until the injured player has been removed from the field.
Professionally consulting with referees about decisions or calls that may be unfairly or illegally made.
Accepting all referees’ decisions or calls that may seem unfair but are legal.
Examples of poor sports conduct:
Cheating in any form.
Blaming the team’s loss on teammates, coaches, or referees.
Making fun of opponents, teammates, coaches, or referees in any way.
Yelling or arguing with or at opponents, coaches, or referees.
Intentionally harming opponents.
Like any teacher, it is important for coaches to also set and enforce guidelines or a code of conduct for their teams. These guidelines or codes should be conveyed to each team member at the start of the season and periodically throughout the season. It is also important for coaches to convey to the team any consequences for breaking the guidelines or codes and to equally enforce the consequences upon each team member.
Examples of guidelines/codes and consequences for each:
Each team member will conduct themselves professionally on and off the field. Should a team member act unprofessionally in any way, he/she will be not be allowed to participate in one game.
Each team member is expected to encourage one another and not belittle or demean a fellow teammate. Should a team member be caught bullying, he/she will be suspended permanently from the team.
Each team member is expected to perform at his or her best during every practice and game. Should a team member show lack of performance, he/she will sit out one inning at a game or run five laps around the field at practice.
Coaches are looked up to by their teams. Team members trust their coaches to protect them and always keep their best interests in mind. How a coach acts towards or around his/her team members will significantly shape the team member’s perspective on life, how he/she should be treated, and how he/she should treat others.
Important tips for coaches to remember:
Sports are supposed to be fun! While discipline should be shown during games and practices, it’s important to incorporate as much fun into each as possible.
Do not yell at team members or degrade their performance. Team members should never be talked down to or belittled, especially by coaches. Show patience and work with team members to strengthen their weaknesses.
Winning is not everything. While every coach loves to win, he/she should be reminded that the lessons team members learn from losing are more important than the glory of winning.
The physical and emotional well-being of each team member is most important. When team members are hurt, physically or emotionally, their performance is likely to reflect that hurt. Coaches should ensure physically injured team members receive the care and rest they need, and emotionally injured team members receive the support or counseling they need. Never push an injured player beyond their capability.
Never neglect less skilled team members. While some team members may perform better than others, coaches should not allow better-skilled team members to see more field time during practices and games. Less skilled team members deserve to be treated equally and worked with more to enhance their performance.
Own up to your mistakes. Going against one’s moral compass is not only detrimental to oneself but also to those surrounding them. Once a mistake is made, a coach should always apologize to his or her team as a whole and to the individual harmed if necessary.
Coaches should also focus on building a relationship with his or her team as a whole and with each team member on an individual relationship. Building this relationship early on is very important to ensure that each team member feels included and accepted.
Examples of how to build a relationship with the team:
Learning every team members’ name at the very beginning of the season.
Greeting every team member at the start of every practice and game and saying goodbyes at the end.
Conversating with team members regarding how they are doing, activities outside of practice and games, and concerns they may have on and off the field.
Ensuring each team member of their importance to the team and the strengths they bring to the table.
Giving positive feedback during every practice and game.
Giving credit where and when credit is due.
Practicing what you preach. Being a model of the behavior, you desire your teams to conduct.
Building a relationship with team members’ parents is just as important as building relationships with team members.
Examples of how to build a coach-parent relationship:
Having a coach-parent meeting at the start of each season.
Discuss expectations of the team and parents.
Explain coaching styles, values, and the importance every team member has to you and the team.
Encourage parents to come forward with questions, concerns, and suggestions.
Explain a no-tolerance rule for unprofessional behavior at practices and games.
Meeting with parents periodically throughout the season to rectify concerns and receive feedback to better the team.
Parents can sometimes become irate at practices and games. They may do this out of good intentions. However, coaches should ensure these situations do not arise frequently, and when they do, are defused as quickly as possible. According to the American Coaching Academy, there are “5 steps for dealing with an irate parent”