Coaches sharing with coaches
Posted by Dean Holden at June 24th, 2013
by Doug Abrams, 6 April 2013
In secondary schools and youth sports associations alike, coaching today presents both unprecedented challenges and untapped opportunities. Ability to teach the game only begins the coach’s job description. This column discusses ways in which coaches can share ideas about how to meet the challenges and maximize the opportunities. Problems can be prevented, and worthwhile goals can be achieved, when a coach maintains open lines of communication with other coaches in the school or association, with opposing coaches, and with experienced coaches outside the local area.
Communication With Colleagues and Opposing Coaches
Sharing of ideas begins within the school or association itself as coaching colleagues bounce ideas off one another. The athletic director or coaching director should schedule early training sessions, complete with free exchange of ideas, and then should maintain a culture that encourages individual coaches to seek advice freely from the director or from one another throughout the year. Periodic coaches meetings may also be a plus.
Sharing ideas, however, can also extend to coaches whose teams oppose one another on the field. In any league or division, the coaching ranks are marked by seasoned veterans, relative newcomers, and many coaches who fall somewhere in the middle. Coaches owe it to the athletes to maintain open dialog with one another and freely provide advice that comes from experience.
Coaches naturally refrain from sharing their strategies or playbooks with opposing coaches in the league or division because, within the rules of the game, strategy helps define athletic competition. No coach, however, should resist sharing ideas and resources with opponents about such matters as how best to enforce discipline, or how to instill teamwork, sportsmanship and other positive values to players and their parents. Nor should any coach resist sharing ideas and resources about such pressing concerns as how to maximize player safety, how to cope with the social media, or how to maintain healthy relationships with parents. Coaches in a particular league or division oppose one another on the scoreboard, but coaches play on the same side when it comes to serving the best interests of the athletes – all the athletes, and not just their own.
Like everyone else, coaches learn from their own mistakes and successes, and from the mistakes and successes of others. Coaches from various schools or associations may share ideas with one another during coaching seminars that many leagues now require. Coaches may remain available to one another on the phone. Conversation may even take place informally after games, at backyard barbecues, or elsewhere in town. The key is not the place, but the stated willingness to keep the lines of communication open.
Communication With Coaches Outside the Local Area
With the growth of technology, communication among coaches is easier today than ever before. Beyond telephones and the written word, easily accessible videos and interactive blogs and websites such as this one may provide the vehicles. (For years, I have learned plenty from watching and listening to other coaches in winter leagues and at summer hockey camps. I also learned from reading their books and magazine articles, from listening to their seminar lectures, and simply from asking questions of coaches who remained willing to talk. After years on the receiving end, this weekly column is a modest effort to contribute from the delivering end.)
When I was a young youth hockey coach years ago, Dave Snyder, my hockey coach at Wesleyan University, encouraged my questions and always seemed to have the right answers. Talk about a great resource only a phone call away!
A longtime high school coach from another part of the state once told me, “Very little can happen during the season that I haven’t already seen somewhere.” I did not take his remark to be an idle boast, perhaps because he quickly added that younger colleagues had also taught him a thing or two from time to time. The coach, and a few others like him outside my program and local opponents, were great sounding boards who helped me avoid mistakes. I don’t know whether I ever said anything that helped them, but I do know that they had a great sense for what works and what does not.
Conclusion: “After You Know It All”
Every secondary school and youth league coach — veteran and newcomer alike — can learn from fellow coaches because President Harry S Truman was right: “The only things worth learning are the things you learn after you know it all.” Without diminishing competition on the field, coaches serve the young athletes best by sharing advice and insights with others who also navigate the eddies of coaching.