In this section, The Center for the Study of Sport in Society will feature weekly tips and best practices for coaches and professionals involved in sport based youth development. Sport in Society values collaboration within the field and hopes to unite knowledge and resources, so please send feedback, suggestions for future articles, and questions here. Browse past articles in the Coaches’ Corner by clicking through the links to the left.
by Diana S. Cutaia
Just like our athletes, we must provide our coaches with the appropriate skills and resources to be successful. We can do this by taking the time to familiarize them with organization and ensure they understand the expectations, have access to the resources they need, and see where they fit in the larger context of the program. Most of this will happen when they begin, but following an appropriate supervision process will ensure that you are meeting their needs through the year.
When I was an Athletic Director at a small college, all my coaches where part-time and I had two full time administrative staff. My charge to those two was to take care of as much logistics, paperwork and other administrative tasks as they could for the coaches so they could spend time with the athletes on supporting and teaching. If you have the luxury of having full-time staff then the same mandate should be made. Coaches should know how to find the resources they need but you are more likely to retain them when they are not overwhelmed with administrative tasks. If it’s a necessary that they perform those tasks then try to set up systems that are turn-key so they can spend the majority of their time building and sustaining relationships with their athletes.
In all programs there should be an orientation or initial training that takes place with the coaches to familiarize them with key information that will be central to their success. We have outlined a few of them below.
• When coaches first begin with the program they should be provided with an up-to-date written manual on polices and procedures. It should be simple to understand, but take the time to review it with them so you can answer any questions right away. Part of this manual should be dedicated to emergency procedures, not just at the home venue but also at each away venue and during transit.
• Manuals and polices are important but sometimes situations present themselves that you just don’t anticipate. Ask them if there have been other situations or issues based on their past past experiences, and always makes sure they know who to reach out to if one of those were to occur. This is also a great opportunity to gauge how they might respond in emergency situation, which will help you know what type of support they may need throughout the season.
• Included in your manual should be a mission statement and set of core values. At the start of the season all coaches (new and returning) should be reminded of these so that they know how the work they are doing fits into the larger context of positive youth development. By highlighting that it drives home the point that although they may coach different teams, they are all part of one organization with one mission.
• Often, coaches leave programs because they didn’t understand what was required of them (time, effort and energy) prior to the season. Sometimes in fear of scaring them off programs will downplay the level of commitment that is required. This is a mistake. Create and review the calendar of commitments so that each volunteer knows where and when they need to be certain places and can plan other work or social activities around that schedule. Be very clear with them about what is expected and make sure they agree to them commitment before they begin the season.
• Probably one of the more important skills coaches need to know is how they should address and manage behavioral issues. This isn’t just limited to how they handle the athlete who may be having difficulty but this is also being clear about what type of follow up is needed, and who is responsible for that follow-up. This can alleviate some of the stress coaches may have and also helps them to understand that they are not alone and are supported by the entire organization.
• Finally, provide the coach with an on call list so they know who they can reach out if they encounter a situation they are unable to handle.
These are just a few tips to employ to create systems and an environment that supports and empowers your volunteer coaches. We’ll be exploring more of these topics and providing tips on a few of the above points in further articles, so check back next month!