My Take on Coaching
I didn’t want to write anything about coaching until I had ‘proof’ of success. In hindsight, I realize that notion shows a lack of confidence in my abilities. I realized that the thing with coaching is sometimes you will be successful and win a game and sometimes you won’t. But no matter what, you have to stick with your plan and agenda so the team will always have trust, purpose and security on the track, especially on game day.
The first thing in being successful at anything is to determine your standards. What you expect from others and what you expect from yourself when giving to others.. the quality of your leadership will equal the quality of your players.
As a coach, a captain, a skater coach or even a skater, you have to sit down and list your standards of performance. For me, this is how I looked at it:
1. Attendance. No matter on or off skates, your face on the floor (no pun intended), listening to your leaders and your fellow skaters, watching the strategy, asking the questions, participating with your team, watching the transformation and adaptation unfold is irreplaceable. However, never place a number on how much attendance is expected or the skaters (at least some) will do just the bare minimum, and use that as justification for play time. “Attendance expectations” is how I stated it to my team. I didn’t want girls to be disqualified, or even more so, qualified based on that aspect alone.
1. Attitude. (yes, two 1’s) This will make or break a team. One player can ruin a practice for the whole team just by displaying a sour face. This is an extremely sensitive subject, or at least in my experience it has been the toughest to deal with and tackle. How I look at it, negativity is like a virus, the really bad stomach virus that is spread by simply breathing in the face of another person. That is how poisoning negativity can be to a team. There are no miracle pills to rid your body (or team) of this, so the only thing left to do is quarantine it, tell it to get it‘s skates off and go home. Your focus should not be on what is being quarantined, but rather on the other 15-20 skaters that are healthy and positive who are ready to learn and skate. This, by far, is what turns a practice from being average to being orgasmic!
2. Support and trust. Having a co-coach/captain that is 1,287% supportive is imperative. I was extremely lucky to have this when I was coaching last quarter. I had a partner that was bluntly honest, always on the same page, willing to trust and do any crazy ass idea I came up with, and if she didn’t agree with it, she had the strength and confidence to say so, instead of going along with it. This was also reciprocal. I showed her trust, support and honesty. That is how any relationship withstands and survives any kind of turbulence.
This same concept goes with the skaters. In order for me to have them comply with our goals and our strategy, we had to show them we could be trusted with teaching them effectively. Trusting the potential in every skater under your leadership yields an environment that is comfortable and trusting. Showing that the intentions behind our actions and words were to better the skater and the team, not to blow hot air and inflate our egos, made the practices sooo much more effective. Some leaders lose sight of this and become extremely greedy, burned out and bitter with this kind of power. That, too, shows in the skaters they train.
3. Feedback. This is where honesty comes in. You HAVE to be able to be honest with the skaters, no matter if it hurts their feelings or not. When giving skaters feedback, you need to find the seed and root of the problem. In most cases, this will eliminate a lot of other issues that skater may be having. Try to bring it back to basics and work from there. You have to also keep in mind that all walks of life play derby. Every type of childhood imaginable is present in derby. As a leader, you only cater to that for so long. You’ll quickly find out how you can approach some skaters and how not to approach others, or better yet, when not to approach others. I feel, personally, listening to when to approach a skater is important. I’m not going to stroke your hair and read you a bedtime book while I give you constructive feedback, but I will wait for the heat to be released from the moment and then approach you.
4. Education. Reading any and everything you find relevant to coaching is extremely valuable. Reading basketball blogs, soccer blogs, hockey blogs, other derby blogs.. anything you find relevant is education. Anything that grabs your attention and you can relate to and use in your coaching is education.
My personal favorite book is The Score Will Take Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership by Bill Walsh. That is my coaching bible.
I will leave you with an excerpt of his greatness.
“When you stand and overcome a significant setback, you’ll find an increasing inner confidence and self assurance that has been created by conquering defeat. Absorbing and overcoming this kind of punishment engenders a sober, steely toughness that results in a hardened sense of independence and a personal belief that you can take on anything, survive and win.
The competitor who won’t go away, who won’t stay down, has one of the most formidable competitive advantages of all. When the worse happens, as it did me, I was helped by knowing what it took to be that kind of competitor- to not go away, to get up and fight back.”
Categorised as: Coaching