It’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “the coach has lost his team” when it comes to unsuccessful college and professional sports teams. When this assertion is made, it’s largely because the players lose their interest, pride, and motivation toward being successful, and instead go through the motions with very little effort. The characterization of “losing the team” also implies that the team isn’t buying in to what the coach is selling, making it even that much more difficult to win games.
Can youth & interscholastic coaches lose their teams?
While the stakes may not be as high, amateur coaches can also lose their teams if they aren’t careful when it comes to building strong, meaningful, interpersonal relationships with kids built on trust, honesty, and respect. Youth coaches need to take the time to get to know their kids and place them in the right positions in order for role acceptance, identity, and strong team chemistry to develop. Like the old saying goes, “your players don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” meaning that taking the time to get to know and work with kids will allow you to better coach them for future success.
How to avoid losing a team
Successful coaching is about leadership, and leadership is built upon the foundational pillars of trust, honesty, and respect. While you might not win every game — or even win a majority of them — you can still help kids grow together and maximize their individual talents, allowing you to get the most from your team. How do you do this? The following tips can help:
- Get to know your kids. More specifically, get to know the kids you coach as people, not just athletes.
- Solicit from them where they can best help. Engage in conversation that includes where each kid thinks he or she can best help the team, rather than you making this judgement without considering their interests and motivations.
- Explain your philosophy and how they fit. Take time out to teach your team about how you coach, the strategies you use, and the goals you have set for both the team and individuals. Next, ask your kids how they think their skill set most helps toward the overall success of the team, and the commitments they are willing to make in order for the team to be successful.
- Develop a communication system for feedback. Things can change over the course of a season, and they often do. Make sure your kids know that they can communicate with you whenever they need, and create an anonymous way for kids to report issues that might be stealing from team chemistry.
- Encourage players-only meetings from time-to-time. Sometimes kids can better work out issues when it’s just them without coaches present. Talk to your team leaders and captains about players-only meetings, and provide assurance that you support the idea.
Remember, teams with strong team culture often supersede expectations and enjoy sport success, while otherwise talented teams in disarray can quickly morph from “team” to simply a collection of individuals not interested in one another, or the coach. Teaching the X’s and O’s of sports is challenging enough with a team that buys-in, so you can only imagine how difficult it is to teach kids when they already have one foot out the door and have become tone-deaf to your coaching.
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