May 19, 2010
Your Legacy as a Coach by Jim Thompson
I sometimes open coaching workshops by asking coaches to write or talk about the best coach they ever had and what made him or her so terrific. The stories that come out of this experience are wonderful and poignant. Often these adults are remembering things about coaches who are long dead. They describe coaches who are wise, encouraging, gentle, disciplined, great teachers, and wonderful human beings who cared about them as individuals, not just athletes who could make them look good. These stories speak to the power of a positive coach.
Unfortunately, most of the participants also recall less pleasant experiences with coaches who failed to live up to those standards, coaches who made playing sports a miserable experience. Coaches, both good and bad, matter. At their best they make a lifetime of difference. This begs a question worth considering: what impact will you have on the kids you coach?…When I began coaching, I found out that being positive with players caused them to try hard, rapidly develop new skills, and be flexible and open to new ways to accomplish their goals. Furthermore, we won a lot on the scoreboard and all of us - players, coaches, and parents - had a lot of fun. Parents wanted their kids on my team because they saw the results of a relentlessly positive approach. When I coached high school basketball, the pattern repeated. Positive got results. Negative made things worse.
Later I found that research validated my personal experience that, for example, individuals who are treated positively solve problems better and more quickly than individuals who are not…. But my positive approach went against the norm of sports where negativity, against all the evidence, reigned.
We know that negativity tends to narrow attention, restrict the flow of information, and cause "threat rigidity," the tendency to become inflexible in making decisions. Negativity also poisons relationships on teams, in organizations, in families, and among friends. Regrettably, negativity by coaches transforms what should be the source of a lifelong love affair into a joyless experience that drives many kids out of sports. In fact, studies indicate that the highest rates of participation in sports occur at age 10, and that nearly 70 percent of youth sports participants drop out of sports altogether by age 13.
Nonetheless, unrestrained expression of negativity by coaches — exemplified by the "screamer" coach — is accepted, justified, and even lauded.
I started Positive Coaching Alliance partly to counteract this wrongheaded and harmful approach. I learned that by remaining positive and constructive with players through rain or shine a coach will get more from them. A coach who can have hard conversations with kids while remaining positive and optimistic will be more likely to help them improve. And a coach who establishes a positive team culture will help young people develop a passion for the game and be remembered by players long after they have moved on to other things.
Whether you coach pee-wees or high school varsity, in rec leagues or elite clubs, the research-based tools and frameworks and best practices in the following chapters are designed to help you become the kind of coach whose players can't wait to come to practice, who work hard and encourage each other, and who are sad when the season is over. You'll learn unequivocally that Double-Goal Coaching and winning go hand-in-
I can think of no more powerful legacy than helping young people realize their potential as people as well as athletes. That is the essence of Double-Goal Coaching. Sports can be one of the greatest teachers of life lessons and character, particularly when coaches do things the right way. I hope you will be the kind of coach your players will remember with gratefulness for the rest of their lives, even long after you have passed on.
Check back next week for another great coaching article.