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The Nine Mental Skills of Successful Athletes
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Traits of Successful Coaching

Traits of Successful Coaching

By Bill Olson

Head Baseball Coach

Omaha Northwest High School

1996

Contrary to what people might believe, a

consistently successful athletic program

does not just depend upon the skills of

its good athletes, and successful pro-grams

are not always composed of

superior players. Although skilled play-ers

are certainly a key factor to success,

it is evident that there are common traits

shared by coaches who oversee suc-cessful

programs. Over the years, I

have informally identified some key traits

possessed by coaches who run consis-tently

successful programs. My obser-vations

are outlined below.

KNOWLEDGE SEEEKER

Everyone would agree that good coach-es

are knowledgeable in their sport.

However, great coaches will continue to

pursue additional insights. They often

continue to improve their sport-specific

knowledge by reading, observing,

attending clinics, holding clinics, and in

general, exposing themselves to a vari-ety

of new ideas. A coach who thinks he

has nothing more to learn will generally

not help his program to grow.

GOOD ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS

Organizational skills are also an impor-tant

coaching trait. An effective coach

will have practice plans for the day, the

week, the year, and beyond. Details

regarding equipment, schedules, trans-portation,

and other seemingly ordinary

concerns are also the domain of the

coach of a smooth running organization.

Players find it frustrating when a coach

is unprepared to meet unexpected con-tingencies,

and good coaches prepare

for everything.

HARD WORKING

Having a strong work ethic is a quality

that can not be overemphasized.

Coaches must be willing to put forth as

much time and effort as they demand

from their players. Being prepared to

outwork opponents by putting in addi-tional

time will pay off for a team. Being

persistent and tough minded, a quality I

call the bulldog attitude, is also part of

a solid work ethic. A coach who pos-sesses

this quality will never give in to

failure, and can serve as an inspiration

to his players. The players believe they

can trust their coach to help them to

find a way to succeed.

GOOD COMMUNICATOR

The ability to communicate effectively

with the coaching staff, players,

parents, and fans is also a trait that most

successful coaches possess. The coach

must transfer knowledge and technique

to his players and staff. He needs to let

them know what is expected of them

and how they can accomplish their

goals. The successful coach also needs

to communicate and generate support

for his program. The ability to communi-cate

intangible qualities, such as a posi-tive

attitude, enthusiasm, concern, and

humor are all keys to success.

Enthusiasm is contagious and can rub

off on players, coaches, and fans. A

team is a reflection of the coach and you

cant afford to lose the spark that keeps

things moving.

APPROACHABLE & CARING

Showing players that the coach has a

human side is also a good idea. A

coach should find time to laugh with the

players and show them he has a sense

of humor. Being too serious can kill

players enthusiasm for a game. We all

know of potentially good athletes who

get burned out too early because coach-es

forgot that sports should be enjoy-able.

We need to show that we care

about our players as people and not just

as athletes. It is good to acknowledge

our human qualities, to show that we

can make mistakes, but we learn to

bounce back and overcome them.

Players need to believe they can also

overcome a bad play or a bad day, and

they will, if the coach is willing to demon-strate

the same quality.

HONEST & FAIR

The last and most important trait for a

coach to possess is integrity, which is

comprised of several components.

Loyalty is critically important. As coach-es

we are part of a big fraternity, and we

must stick together, especially in public.

Problems and concerns that exist among

a coaching staff should remain behind

closed doors. We owe our players this

same loyalty if we want their respect.

Being honest and fair are also compo-nents

of integrity. Coaches should be

up-front and honest with their players.

Players should know their role, and

where they stand with the coach and the

program. Players might not always like

what they hear, but they and the pro-gram

will benefit in the long run if expec-tations

are spelled out early.

The most important commodity the

coach possesses is his reputation.

Coaches should not comment on an

opponents calls, ethics, or coaching

ability unless it is in a complimentary

manner. This goes beyond loyalty and is

an integral part of a coachs philosophy.

Overall, it is the coach who sets the tone

and leads by example for their players.

It is how the coach lives and what he or

she stands for that players will remem-ber

in the future. An athlete may not

remember a certain play or call, but he

will remember how the coach handled it.

All young people need positive role mod-els,

and coaches are often placed in a

position to lead by example. It is a large

and rewarding opportunity.

Bill Olson is head baseball coach and

former assistant football coach at

Omaha Northwest High School, where

he has worked for over 23 years.

During his tenure as head baseball

coach, his teams have won over 70%

of their games, six state high school

championships, one national high

school championship, and three other

top ten national rankings.

The Coaches Corner is a service of the

Gatorade Sports Science Institute .

For more information, contact:

Gatorade Sports Science Institute

617 West Main Street

Barrington, Illinois 60010

800-616-GSSI (4774)

http:// www.gssiweb.com/

email:gssi@gssiweb.com