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Spot the Rookie Coach

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In one of my long car rides with a good friend of mine and a veteran lacrosse coach, we talked about poor coaching. What is it that makes some coaches “bad”? And we were not talking about the coaches who have losing records rather we were looking at the coaches who just don’t “get it”.

The coaches that have this negative aura around them. The coach creates a lot of tension around his players and their parents. The coach who just can’t explain/teach fundamentals. The coach that gets little respect from the players.

We agreed that some folks just don’t have the experience to be good coaches; it’s not for lack of effort; it’s for lack of experience. Of course, 25 years ago, the coaching culture was still very much a coach-centered mindset; a one-way street. My friend never talked about winning and losing, but rather about building relationships w/ the players. He got me to realize the bigger role of sports and coaching…being a mentor and teacher to the players.

The good thing about “rookie” coaches, we hope they learn and improve. What we need to watch out for are the “veteran” coaches who still make the “rookie” mistakes that cause them to be “bad”. So what are those “Rookie” mistakes? Those habits of poor coaching?

See if any of the following apply to you either when you first started out coaching or heaven forbid, they still apply to you.

  • The Rookie talks about winning. The Veteran talks about playing the game the right way.
  • The Rookie talks about their win-loss record. The Veteran talks about their players.
  • The Rookie takes credit for wins and blames players for losses. The Veteran blames himself for the loss and gives players credit for the win.
  • The Rookie tends to allow players to blame others (players, refs, coaches), while the Veteran teaches accepting responsibility and the meaning of “my fault”.
  • The Rookie wants to do everything and be the one in charge of everything. The Veteran develops and trusts their assistants.
  • The Rookie micro-manages his assistants. The Veteran oversees his assistants.
  • The Rookie hires less knowledgeable assistants, the Veteran surrounds himself with the best people.
  • The Rookie wants to control everything. The Veteran will ask the team to design uniforms, choose footwear, and even contribute to practice and game plan strategy.
  • The Rookie coaches through intimidation. Will yell and scream at players. The Veteran has a sense of humor and has developed a relationship w/ each player. The Veteran knows that each player is motivated differently and knows how to motivate each player.
  • The Rookie corrects players negatively. The Veteran attaches something positive with the comment of correction.
  • The Rookie is more apt to bench a player immediately for a mistake, while the Veteran will not embarrass the player but even use the situation to build the player’s confidence.
  • The Rookie focuses on the starters. The Veteran also works with the “role players”.
  • The Rookie talks to the media about their star players, while the Veteran talks about their role players and the contribution of their subs.
  • The Rookie tends to hand out MVP and high scorer awards. The Veteran believes in “practice player of the year” and “defensive” awards.
  • The Rookie hopes their team has good leadership. The Veteran teaches and develops excellent leadership.
  • The Rookie hopes players understand their roles. The Veteran constantly explains individual roles.
  • The Veteran uses both captains and seniors to communicate the importance of their contributions. The Rookie takes this responsibility totally upon themself.
  • Half-time and pre-game talks are intense with the Rookie. They always try to cover every aspect/situation/possibility and their talks are long-winded and ineffective. The Veteran is focused, clear, concise, and simple.
  • During practices, the Rookie has drills with long lines of players waiting their turn; lots of standing around. The Veteran has players in constant motion, getting more touches, hits, and reps, and are usually in game-like situations/activities.
  • The Rookie runs drills. The Veteran understands that calling out players’ names during drills helps players feel wanted and needed.
  • The Rookie teaches x’s and o’s. The Veteran teaches “whole-part-whole” and how the x’s and o’s fit into the system.
  • The Rookie will argue every call with the referees. Will blame the loss on the refs. The Veteran goes with the flow and realizes that officiating is part of the game.
  • The Rookie thinks they know everything. The Veteran knows he needs to keep learning.
  • The Rookie tends to have numerous rules. The Veteran simplifies with one rule such as “Respect yourself and others at all times” which incorporates everything under one easy-to-understand rule.
  • The Veteran enjoys coaching and being there for the players.

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