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Gary's Newsletter 378: Coaching the Coaches

Posted by Gary R Collins on April 7, 2010 Comments 0


Within the United States, and probably elsewhere, about half the young people between 6 and 18 participate in athletics. Most of them have athletic coaches, the majority of whom have never been trained to coach effectively. Often these coaches are parents, teachers and adult athletes who have good intentions but who assume that the best way to coach is to be tough, demanding and inclined to shout like the coaches we sometimes see on television or in the movies.

That doesn't work well according to Ronald E. Smith and Frank L. Smoll, two psychologists profiled by Monitor on Psychology (April, 2010) in an article titled "Coaching the Coaches." The most effective coaching is not built on fear, conclude these researchers who have trained (coached) more than 25,000 coaches in the Seattle area. What works best are "techniques that foster motivation and effort, develop athletic skills and reduce anxiety." Known as the Mastery Approach to Coaching, this assumes that the "best way to maximize performance is by creating an environment in which athletes are having fun, highly motivated, trying to improve, giving maximum effort" and involved in such good relationships with their coaches that there is a willingness to listen and to learn.

Everybody agrees that winning is extremely important but the researchers have demonstrated empirically that reducing anxiety and improving performance gives a team the best chance for success. Often these coach trainers use what they term "the positive sandwich." Instead of getting angry and expressing frustration when somebody makes a mistake, effective coaches find something positive to say about the play, follow this with specific technical instruction for improvement, and end with encouragement. I don't know if this would work with Tiger Woods or within the NBA. NHL or NFL but does it have relevance to life or executive coaching? Consider this:

  • In coaching never forget the importance of encouragement and building trusted relationships.
  • Coaching often involves giving direction and refining techniques. The answers are not all found within.
  • Compared to criticism, the Mastery Approach significantly reduces dropout and keeps people involved in the game.

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© 2014 Gary R. Collins, PhD.
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