Friday, March 25, 2011

Coaches Who Used to be Great Athletes and Deep Practice

As the saying goes "If I had a nickel...." for every time someone talked about a coach who is great not because he's a great coach but rather, he used to be a professional athlete. *All power to them for using that as a great marketing technique*

Buyer beware however. They are selling you on their previous ability to perform at a sport, not their ability to make an awkward, growing, uncoordinated kid into a focused, consistent, athletic machine. This goes especially for youth sports, and the younger the athlete, the less you must care about previous experience.

Often the best coaches at any level were those who were less talented but found ways to make themselves better and analyzed skill development. At the youth level, some of the best coaches might have not ever played the sport but understand communication, skill acquisition, and a long term athletic development approach.

Does this mean a great athlete can't be a great coach? No, but being a great athlete shouldn't not be the reason why they are coaching.

Things to look for in youth coaches.

1. Do they understand the art of learning?
Before you teach kids any skill, you must read, ask questions, read some more, and ask even more questions on how people (especially a growing young mind) actually acquire skills. Having a 7 year old just repeatedly shoot jump shots, practice PK's, etc might not be the best route. Learning how small sided games, and different ways to develop skills is a little more complex than watching a youtube video of a drill. Research a talent "hot bed" see here, and you'll learn why some learn faster than others. It has nothing to do with the fact the coach played division 1 ball in the 80's.

One of the best sports for young athlete to play.....Futsal

2.Do they understand the importance of love for the sport? The most important step for any new skill being learned is developing a love and a passion. That is the #1 job for a coach with prepubescent athletes. Without the love, forget about developing any sort of drive that can propel them to outwork the absurd amount of competition they will face.

3. Do they praise effort or ability?
Are they teaching kids how to respond to failure or praising the fact that they never should fail? Believe it or not you will see more youth coaches with a Bobby Knight approach, thinking that it's making the athletes mentally tough. When in actuality, the kids will probably hate him and the sport before they even reach a competitive level. One of the greatest gifts we can give a young athlete is resiliency. You do that by praising the effort they put forth and the improvement that is made.

Deep Practice:
This goes along well with the above post. This is off the website of author Daniel Coyle who wrote The Talent Code which is a must read.
See what score you get.

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