Nobody has a greater impact on a kid’s athletic experience than a coach.
Not their parents.
Not the fans.
Not even the kids themselves.
A coach can make the experience one of great joy and positive impact or one of painful misery and hopeless dread.
How the coach treats the kids, the situations, and the entire experience plays the biggest role in how players feel about it and whether or not it is one that creates great memories and lessons that they draw on for the rest of their lives.
Unfortunately, coaches can also be catalysts for kids deciding that they have had enough of sports, that they no longer find enough joy and positive impact from them, or worse yet, that they are living through a nightmare that they just want to wake up from.
Some of you may be thinking that’s a bit melodramatic.
Just read some of the headlines in articles, social media posts, or news stories and see if you don’t agree with me:
Hockey Dad Beats Coach to Death
Woman Gets 1-Year Probation for Assaulting 11-Year-Old Fan at Little League Game
Little League Pitcher Throws at Teammate’s Head at Coach’s Direction
Girls’ Basketball Team Wins 100-0
You tell me if I’m being overly dramatic.
Yes, I know. Some of those headlines are about parents.
Of course, parents certainly play a role in their kids’ athletic experience, and they need to understand and take seriously their responsibility in helping create the best experience possible.
But the coach has the LARGEST impact on that experience because the coach is the one in charge of it.
A Coach of Significance
The best way for a coach to make that experience a positive one is to focus on becoming a Coach of Significance in kids’ lives.
The best description I have seen of what a Coach of Significance is and why it’s so critical that we strive to become all that the description shows comes to us from Bruce Brown, the founder & director of Proactive Coaching.
As many of you know, I have been a speaker on the Proactive Coaching speaking team for about fifteen years. Through the years, I have quoted Bruce often or described some of the ideas in our presentations and written materials that he has published.
However, this description of a Coach of Significance originally came from the Proactive Coaching Facebook page. I highly recommend you check out the page and join the approximately 950,000 people who have Liked it and who are receiving short, daily nuggets of wisdom about coaching, teaching, parenting, leading, and team-building.
Bruce posted this a few years back. The moment I read it, I thought it was the best description I had ever seen of what we should be trying to do when we take on the role of coach.
Coaching for Significance is intentional coaching. It does not mean you aren’t competitive or care about winning. It actually allows you to be more competitive and successful in every way including the scoreboard. It doesn’t mean that you don’t enjoy teaching the technical parts of the game (which gives you credibility). It means that you and the athletes are taking a shared love you both have for a sport and using that shared love and the word on the front of your name – “Coach” – to develop the trust necessary to impact those athletes beyond today, beyond the season and into their lives. Coaches of Significance have a style that works for athletes and success. They build purposeful team cultures, and they intentionally teach and model the character traits that will help young people become strong adults and citizens. They know their “Why” and their legacy lives beyond them in the lives of their athletes.
Every line in this description has impact. Let me explain why I believe the lines in this description of a Coach of Significance are as good as it gets.
First, we must be intentional about our coaching. Great coaches don’t leave things to chance.
Coaches of Significance are still competitive, and they want to win as much as anyone else. In fact, by focusing on significance you can be even more competitive.
You have to love learning, teaching, and coaching the specifics of your game—skills, techniques, & strategies. And while it may not seem to be 100% fair, how you handle this aspect of coaching is how you will be judged by others as to whether or not you are credible as a coach.
You and your kids love your sport; enjoy that shared love with one another.
You must take the name “Coach” and treat it with the respect and responsibility it deserves. Believe it or not, every coach in the world is impacted by how you handle your role as a coach. People who have had experiences with coaches like those in the headlines above feel far differently about coaches than people who have never had negative experiences like those.
Trust is the key ingredient for you as a leader, and it will allow you to impact your kids in so many more ways than if you only focus on winning some contests in a sports season. The trust you establish with your players will allow you to have an impact on them that reaches much further than this sport and this season.
The best coaches purposefully work to develop great team cultures. They understand that if they are going to create a positive, successful sports experience for kids, focusing on building a great team culture is far more important and impactful than focusing on winning contests.
They also realize that the most important element of their role as a coach is to focus on teaching and modeling character traits that their athletes can then take with them on into their lives that will help them become positive, productive members of society.
Finally, Coaches of Significance understand that they have a Why for doing what they do, they know what that Why is, and they live by it and teach their players to live by it, too, as members of their program. Their Why will be best understood and developed by establishing Core Values (Covenants) for their programs that they and their athletes will live by and that their athletes can then carry on into the rest of their lives and live by.
Do you focus on being a Coach of Significance in kids’ lives the way Bruce described it?
Do you focus on the impact you can have on your kids that extends far beyond winning on the scoreboard and even beyond this specific team experience?
I hope you do.
Unfortunately, far too many coaches focus first, foremost, and only on this moment and whether they can win games and championships.
Don’t get me wrong.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to win games and championships.
In fact, you should want to win games and championships, and you should work hard to instill a competitive spirit and fire that burns in your teams. This is a very important element of being a coach.
But if that is the only thing or even the main thing you are about, you are missing some of the most important parts of being a coach who can impact kids for the rest of their lives.
Bruce’s description of a Coach of Significance has helped guide me ever since I first read it. I hope it will help guide you, too. Make sure you check out Proactive Coaching and the Proactive Coaching Facebook page to see even more impactful concepts and ideas from Bruce and the Proactive Coaching team.
Thanks, Bruce for providing such a clear description of what we should all be striving for—becoming Coaches of Significance in kids’ lives!
** Don’t forget that last week I announced my new program called SlamDunk Significance as a way for all of us to help create the best experience possible for kids.
My goal is to provide funding for opportunities for coaches’ education for teams, schools, & leagues to help coaches become Coaches of Significance who work to create positive athletic experiences for kids.
The way I want to do that is to connect with professional athletes, professional/college coaches, and anyone with the financial means to help out who recognizes the importance of the athletic experience on the joy, growth, and development of young people.
I would love for you to join me on this mission. Here are a few ways you can do that:
- If you’re a coach, athletic director, or league director, and you would like to have us pay for a speaker to come to your school, fill out the application under the “Schools/Leagues & ADs/Coaches” section on the SlamDunk Significance page.
- If you’re a speaker/trainer and you would like to be connected with teams, schools, or leagues looking for professional development for their coaches, kids, administrators, and/or parents, fill out the application under the “Trainers/Speakers” section of the SlamDunk Significance page.
- If you’re an athlete, coach, or someone who would like to donate to help teams, schools, and leagues create positive athletic programs for kids by bringing in quality speakers and trainers, click on any button on the SlamDunk Significance page to be taken to our GoFundMe page.
- If you would like to volunteer to help out in any way, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- SPREAD THE WORD!! Tell anyone and everyone you know about what we are trying to do to help kids have great athletic experiences. And if you know anyone with the financial means to make a donation to our mission, please let them know about it.