Note From Adam (12/8/20): Throughout this year there has been a sense of instability and an obvious lack of “normal.” This extends beyond our day to day, however, and into how we conduct the more meticulous details of our lives – down to how we carry and conduct ourselves. I think it’s wise to add another item to this list – Understanding and Empathy.
These aren’t limited to just the patience I described below with the kids you’re coaching, but to everyone around you. People aren’t the same; struggles aren’t the same; experiences aren’t the same. Having empathy and understanding as a coach will take you a long way. Kid show up late to practice? Rather than make them take a lap or two, talk to them. Have a conversation with them and genuinely try to understand. Focus on developing and improving your level of empathy to improve your relationship with both those you’re coaching, and those around you.
Just ask Hue Jackson or Dave Hakstol, they’ll both be quick to tell you that coaching isn’t an easy job at the professional level. Even some of the most polished, professional and talented athletes on the planet, regardless of the sport they play, can present coaching challenges and make a coach’s life difficult.
As you might imagine, coaching kids isn’t a whole lot easier. In fact, it can be a lot tougher (in my personal opinion). Not everyone is built to coach a group of people, let alone a group that might be more interested in ripping off a shot every time they touch the puck or chatting with their friends than approaching the game strategically.
Coaching a group of kids – depending on their ages, of course – can take a lot, and certainly isn’t for everyone. You’ll need a litany of personality traits to make it work, just a few of which are covered below.
Part of a coach’s job, particularly as it pertains to youth coaching, is motivating your team and instilling the tenacity to win in them. The fact of the matter is, at a young age, not every kid is going to care as much about the game as his or her teammates may. As kids grow, the “playing because my parents made me” skaters tend to drop off and the more serious athletes remain.
Instilling in them a sense of meaningfulness behind playing like you mean it should be a priority of coaches. A tenacity for winning and pushing kids to be the best they can be is a necessity if you plan on coaching the sport for years.
Work Ethic (and the ability to instill it in others)
As I mentioned above, coaching isn’t easy – particularly not when it’s not your full time job (which is the case for most every youth coach out there). A work ethic that allows you to come home from your job, pack up the car and head to practice is not only a prerequisite for coaching a team, but also for playing on one.
An effective coach knows how to instill a strong work ethic in his or her team – finding what motivates the players they’re in charge of and enforcing it day in and day out. Without a strong work ethic and the ability to pass that along to those you’re guiding, you’ll be hard pressed to succeed as a coach.
A particularly important trait when you’re in charge of a group of kids, patience, as they say, is truly a virtue – and a totally necessary one. Kids aren’t always going to listen and they aren’t always going to care. If you’re able to motivate them to perform and find passion in what they’re doing, you’re halfway there. The other half might be having the patience for those who aren’t as enthusiastic or even effective as others.