By Bill Olson
Head Baseball Coach
Omaha Northwest High School
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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