Why we insist on 5 essential coaching skills at our summer camp in NHNovember 18, 2015
Yesterday, the head counselor at our summer camp for boys posted a blog about the 5 essential skills quality coaches use when communicating with their players. He actually wrote it on Friday, and I spent much of the weekend thinking about how insightful his ideas were. These 5 skills are a major reason that our coaches are able to help our athletes grow so much during our 7-week seasons.
Like so many other parents I spent my Saturday watching my kids play team sports. One of my sons was on a team that had made it to the championship for our town soccer league. All season long my wife and I have discussed how fortunate our son was to be on this team. Yes, he was grouped with some of his friends from school, and there were some really great players on the team, but more importantly, they had a great coach. He was knowledgeable, motivating, and above all else, kind. More than once this season we drove away from a game or practice saying to each other “he really acts like a Kenwood and Evergreen coach”. He really was the embodiment of what we call the 5 essential skills for successful coaching:
- Listening with curiosity
- Absorbing what you hear
- Reflecting with accuracy
- Questioning for exploration and improvement
- Providing Feedback for Development
During Saturday’s game it became abundantly clear how much of a difference these skills can make, and how quickly a team can break down when they are lead by someone who hasn’t mastered them.
In the days leading up to the match I heard more than once “wait until you see their coach. She never stops yelling at her players”. But I assumed that people were exaggerating a bit, since it was a league for 9-year-olds. And going into the match her team was undefeated so I figured that she used her voice to motivate her players, as opposed to something more negative.
The game confirmed why David’s 5 essential skills are so right on. Our team scored a quick goal, and from that moment on the opposing coach’s behavior grew further out of control. She yelled, she screamed, and she found endless opportunities to criticize her players. Our coach rotated his players effectively, and as they came off the field he paused with each to have a short, meaningful conversation about what they did well, and what they could do better when they were back on the pitch. You could see in their body language that they felt valued and understood by their coach, and how determined they were to make him proud. As players ran up and down the field one coach offered ideas and affirmation, while the other ranted and raved when a play didn’t go the way she wanted to.
It didn’t take long for the score to become fairly lopsided, and for the kids on the other team to show it. I was thrilled that my son’s team was winning, but I was pained watching this other group of kids start to fall apart. By halftime there was really no doubt which would be winning this match.
Parents often ask me “is your camp competitive?”. What they are usually asking is does your camp have competitive sports? We certainly have all of the team sports and quality coaching necessary to please the most passionate young athlete. But I think the more important question is when we play competitively, in tournaments against other camps or during our color war, what is the objective? Are the coaches instilling a “win at all costs” ethos and barking orders from the sidelines, or are they figuring out how to connect with every player and get the best out of each of them? Are they figuring out how to help each and every player master these skill sets, and exceed their perceived limitations?
That’s what we train our coaches to do, and it’s why our teams win as often as they do…without our kids feeling like if they lose a game they have lost their self-worth. This is fundamental to life at our summer camp for boys and summer camp for girls.
When your kids play team sports you obviously want them to have the thrill of the big win, but you also want their participation help them grow and mature. And a coach can make all of the difference here, especially when they work to build their players up, not tear them down.