Tips To Help You Start Your Coaching Career Off On The Right Foot
Here 6 pieces of advice that I wish I had received early in my coaching career:
1. Find a Mentor
Mentoring should be mandatory. It should be compulsory for newly-accredited coaches to match up with a mentor.
I wish more sports organisations would pair beginner coaches up with mentors.
The benefits to both the mentee and the mentor are extensive.
If you are new to coaching, find a mentor that:
- Is approachable and welcoming
- Shares information and experiences openly
- Has good communication skills
- Is someone you trust
- Provides accurate and appropriate feedback
- Is motivating, encouraging, positive, empowering
- Allocates appropriate time to mentoring
- Is sensitive to your needs
2. Keep a Reflective Coaching Diary
Progress only occurs when we combine practise with reflection.
Consistently recording your coaching reflections can be a difficult but very worthwhile task. We ask athletes to keep a training diary. Imagine the benefits if you kept a coaching diary. Think about the amazing coaching resource that you would create for yourself.
What do you record? Whatever you want.
How do you do it?
You want the self-reflection process to be as easy as possible while being as effective as possible. To give yourself the best chance of consistently and effectively reflecting on your sessions:
- Choose an easily accessible medium where your records are simple to capture, store, manage, search and retrieve.
- Try using a template. It won’t be for everyone but a template will simplify the process for some.
- I suggest you include what you have learned and what actions will result from your learnings.
3. Document Your Coaching Philosophy, Standards & Beliefs
Clearly articulating and recording your coaching beliefs requires some deep thinking.
This will help you clarify your coaching identity – the coach you are and the coach you want to be. It will help you determine how you want to coach and prioritise what is and what isn’t important. It will give structure, purpose, and consistency to your coaching.
Your philosophy, standards, and beliefs are likely to modify and develop over time, but having something solid into which you can anchor your coaching practice and onto which you can fall back for guidance and direction is significantly helpful to coaches at all levels.
In the book Coaching Better Every Season, Wade Gilbert suggests that some of the questions you can ask yourself include:
- Why do I coach?
- What types of experiences do I want my athletes to have?
- What is the definition of athletics success?
- What is the purpose of sport?
- What are my responsibilities to my athletes?
4. Don’t Expect You Will Be Perfect
No one is perfect. The kids don’t expect you to be perfect.
They just want you to be passionate.
We learn from our mistakes and if you are not making mistakes you are not making progress or pushing your learning boundaries vigorously enough.
Be prepared to show some vulnerability. Accept and admit your mistakes. Coaches are role models for their young athletes. What better trait to demonstrate than the ability to accept, admit and move on from mistakes?
Giving athletes the freedom to make mistakes is thought to help create an environment in which athletes learn and perform best.
Why not coaches too?
5. Accept Your Real Education Starts After Your Accreditation
Entry-level accreditation is important but it is just the start of your development. It opens the door. It is one piece of the progress jigsaw. Your certificate doesn’t signal the end of your education.
The pursuit of lifelong learning is a trait of great coaches. Embrace this right from the start.
Further accreditation, workshops, books, videos, podcasts, webinars, subscriptions, social media, conferences and mentoring are all possible components of ongoing coach development.
But most importantly . . .
6. Know That The Best Way To Get Better At Coaching Is By Coaching
it is not uncommon for some newly-accredited coaches to delay beginning coaching until they have the chance to: “just learn that little bit more”. I understand the trepidation they feel.
However . . .
“If you want to learn how to ride a bicycle, don’t watch a video; don’t read a book.”
– Seth Godin
Don’t delay. You can’t gain momentum without moving.
Get on the coaching bicycle and start pedalling.
You might wobble. You might feel unsteady. You might even fall down. Don’t be deterred.
Get back on and go again. There will always be bumps and obstacles and changes in direction.
Just keep pedalling.
Advice to new coaches:
- Find a Mentor
- Keep a Reflective Coaching Diary
- Document Your Coaching Philosophy, Standards & Beliefs
- Don’t Expect You Will Be Perfect
- Accept Your Real Education Starts After Your Accreditation
- Know That The Best Way To Get Better At Coaching Is By Coaching
Over to you!
If you are early in your coaching career, start putting the above tips into practice. I would love to hear the results. You can let me know by leaving a comment/reply or by using the contact details below.
Coaching Better Every Season by Wade Gilbert
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Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Anchor or via email.