Coaches are regularly challenged to be successful leaders and get the most out of their team (Sport Success 360). When their team is “loaded,” they have to make sure they keep the team focused and playing up to their abilities. On the other hand, when they coach teams with average or below-average talent, the challenge is to lead the team so that they believe in themselves and play over their heads (and over-achieve). How a coach leads his or her team is important in both of these situations, and there are a few general rules all coaches can benefit from in order to help the team reach its full potential. Getting the team to “buy in” to the coach’s philosophy is key — listed below are a few quick sport psychology tips to help:
- Set appropriate, realistic goals. Studies consistently show that when people set realistic, challenging goals (rather than goals that are too easy or too difficult) people are more likely to persevere and remained motivated toward the goals. Set goals that challenge your players, and then with every accomplished goal try and set another tier of goals that are even more challenging than the first.
- Generate enthusiasm. It’s no secret that when we are excited, we are more apt to be motivated to play hard and win. Coaches who show positive enthusiasm almost always benefit by the team picking up on this energy, and as a result the team usually plays with better focus, motivation, mental toughness, and resiliency.
- Be consistent. Coaches who treat all players as fairly as possible usually build the best team cohesion. While it is important to motivate players as individuals, when it comes to team rules and protocols it is important to be as fair as possible in order to improve team chemistry and cohesion.
- Praise often. People are much more likely to reach goals when they are praised and shaped in positive and instructive ways. Rather than embarrass, berate, or humiliate players into performing better, find creative ways to praise for effort and encourage players to do a better job the next time out.
- Prepare to deal with losses. While it might sound strange to prepare for tough times, it actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it. The reality is that most teams will lose (some will lose a lot), so preparing for dejected players and a negative locker room is very important. As a wise man once said, “it’s not how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get up.” Coaches need to think about how to regain the team and move them quickly through the sadness and sulking stage and back toward the focus and motivation needed to play at a high level tomorrow.
Being a successful coach at any level is a challenging task when you think about it. Getting a team to buy into a coach’s philosophy can be a tough sell, and then keeping a team motivated throughout the season can be an equally difficult task. Coaches who learn about leadership techniques and work on their interpersonal communication skills put themselves in the best possible situation to create a great team environment, as well as win more games.
Check out Sport Success 360 to help improve the overall culture of your team, athletic department, or youth league – get started today!