Coaches at all levels of sports are regularly challenged to develop team chemistry, maximize the talents of players, and ultimately win as many games as possible. Along that pursuit are the other, less visible things coaches do including teaching kids athletic transferable skills, working successfully with parents, and all the other parts of the job that often go unnoticed (like giving a kid a ride to practice, or helping a kid do better in the classroom). Leadership skills, therefore, are of the utmost importance to coaches and can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful season.
2 types of leadership
Sport psychologists often talk about two types of leadership that most impact coaches. Task leadership is involves organization, developing standards, and setting team goals. Social leadership includes team building, mediating conflicts, and offering guidance and support to players.
Successful coaches not only study the game and teach players how to excel on the field, but they also use countless psychological skills to empower players (as well as other coaches on the team). These coaches allow for team input of new ideas, delegate responsibilities when needed, reinforce core values and principles, and allow the team to “think outside the box” when problem-solving. Through these efforts they create a fun, enjoyable, success-driven culture and environment that allows for maximum human growth — on and off the field.
Excel in BOTH types of leadership
It is not unusual for coaches to be stronger in one type of leadership and not the other. For example, a coach might be an expert in the “X’s and O’s” of the sport, but struggle when it comes to team-building. Conversely, some coaches are really good with the people skills side of coaching, but not the best when it comes to developing game plans. If you find that you are stronger in one aspect of leadership than the other, try to set new goals to develop in the weaker area. Fortunately, you can “teach an old dog new tricks” when it comes to being a coach, and there are plenty of great resources out there to help you improve your coaching abilities if you put in the effort.
Finally, an old saying might provide comfort to coaches who deciding whether to develop their leadership skills:
“Your players don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Leadership skills can be developed and strengthened every day, and the return on investment for coaches is not only measured through success on the field, but the ability to teach kids the countless life skills and lessons learned by playing sports.
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