Athletic coaches as life coaches

My friend and colleague, Dr. Maggie Avedisian, a clinical psychologist, recently asked for some thoughts on what makes a good athletic coach. Since I work with a number of teenagers, I gave Dr. Avedisian this advice for a blog article she's writing for parents on identifying good coaches and for athletic coaches on how to improve their work with their students:

A good coach should recognize that winning is not everything and that the process of trying is where young people develop, build their self-confidence, recognize their talents and learn to cope with their weaknesses.

Coaching is a process of teaching skills, helping people develop intuition and self-awareness and building character. Coaches should seek to understand and motivate their players. In a one-on-one setting this is easier to do, but in a group setting coaches can teach people to lead and should help their players coach each other.

The best coach teaches life skills along with sports skills.
Motivating begins with understanding the kids you work with, putting yourself in their shoes and coming up with ways to help them accomplish their goals, see their potential and get to know themselves better. These are the tools that help them learn to motivate themselves.

The temptation for those who coach a large group of people is to focus on a few players, the most talented, their favorites and the ones who are most like them. Some coaches also fall into the trap of attempting to motivate players through yelling at them and putting them down. This is generally a failure in the coach at truly spending the time to identify what motivates their players. Intuition, analytical abilities, leading by example, being able to model healthy relationships and positive motivation are the most important skills for a good coach -- not to mention being able to laugh and have fun.

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