3 Things Every Sports Organization Should Start Providing for Coaches

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When I got my first job as a coach in Ireland back in 2007, I had to do a simple FIBA Foundation Course on a Saturday morning that lasted 90 minutes and covered how to teach some fundamentals of basketball. No extra training was required. When I was hired as a high school basketball coach in Tennessee in 2012, I went through a background check and had to complete a child protection course. Again, no extra training was necessary or provided. The only coaching course I was ever required to take was in the first year, after I was ejected from a game for harassing the referee. 

When I reflect on my coaching journey, my club and athletic directors were almost always supportive of me as a coach. I was fortunate enough throughout my career to have had administrators who mostly encouraged me after losses and celebrated with me in our wins; other coaches aren’t so lucky.  Still, I received little to no feedback, training, or guidance. My practices and team events were never observed, and no feedback was provided on my coaching or leadership. Like most coaches, I was only observed and assessed on gameday and by the number of complaints they received in their email inbox. 

When I speak with coaches around the world, I realize my experience is typical for the majority of coaches today. Coaches receive limited training, feedback, and support. The trainings they are forced to attend or evaluations they receive at the end of a season feel like the organization is simply checking a box to comply with their school, league, or association policy.

I, like many coaches, liked the freedom to operate my team as I saw appropriate and was relieved not to be required to attend worthless trainings. Yet, I needed and wanted practical training, feedback, and support for my development and the challenges I was facing. And what I've found since starting to work with coaches in 2017 is that most coaches need and want it as well. Especially given the changes in sports. 

The most significant change in coaching over the last 20 years has been in the increased demands and expectations of coaches by athletes, parents, and administrators. Coaches (including those who are not full-time and volunteer) are being asked to do more than ever.

More practices.

More workouts.

More recruiting.

More fundraising.

More communication.

More games and longer seasons.

On top of all that, people now expect coaches to be able to:

  • Support athletes' mental health.
  • Develop character and leadership.
  • Maintain high standards on the field and in the classroom. 
  • Foster a strong team culture.
  • Get players recruited.
  • Adapt their coaching style to the players' and parents' preferences
  • Create a positive experience for each athlete.
  • And win more games each season.

Failure to satisfy these objectives will generally result in players transferring, receiving poor end-of-season reviews from administrators, and potentially losing their job. While the demands, pressure, and expectations of coaches are greater than ever before, the process of training, supporting, and developing them has largely remained the same. If we expect more from our coaches in today's high-pressure atmosphere, we must provide more for them.

3 Things Every Organization Should Start Providing for Coaches

  1. Practical Training: While there is more "coach education" available than ever, it rarely prepares coaches to fulfill the demands of their jobs. Our coach education system frequently acts as a money maker for governing bodies and organizations, or as a checkbox for league compliance, while doing little to benefit the people it is intended to serve. Coaches grumble about mandatory trainings, but not because they do not want training; rather, they want practical tools and strategies to help them with the challenges they face, such as mental health, athlete motivation, accountability, team culture, and sports parents. 
  2. Community: We study in rows but grow in circles. Simply providing coaches with tools and strategies is insufficient. Far too many coaches feel alienated during their journey. Coaches need a network of peers who face similar issues, can learn from one another, and can provide support. Every organization should offer periodic discussions and spaces, such as group chats, for coaches to learn from each other, discuss their issues, and explore potential solutions. 
  1. Mentorship: Whether it's the athletic director or one of the organization's mentor coaches, having someone provide feedback and serve as a sounding board when you confront problems throughout the season is extremely valuable. Dumping feedback on a coach at the end of the season in the form of an anonymous player and parent survey isn’t helping develop coaches, it’s just driving them out of the profession. They need feedback throughout their journey, and when problems arise, they need a trusted source to turn to for help. 

These three needs for coaches have motivated me to spend the last three years developing the Transformational Coach & Culture Certification Program. The training program provides practical tools and strategies for coaches to help them address their biggest issues. Since we’ve released, we’ve been working with organisations to create cohort and study group plans so they can bring their coaches together and build community and alignment through the content. We recognize the challenge of providing mentorship and guidance to coaches at scale, which is why the training program has expert coaches providing feedback on coaches' reflections and culture plans throughout the course and a group chat where they may ask questions throughout the season.

Your Experience

What do you believe coaches require in terms of support from their organisations? I'd love to hear your comments on what's missing in terms of support or how your organisation has helped you grow as a coach. Send me an email to [email protected].

Provide Training, Community, and Mentorship for Your Coaches

Interested in learning more about the TOC Transformational Coaching & Culture Certification. This is more than just another online coaching course; it offers practical tools and resources to help coaches succeed. It provides a sense of community among other coaches undergoing training both within and outside of your organisation. It offers a sounding board from expert coaches during the season. It's the key to long-term, sustainable change in your organisation. Complete this Google Form to set up a call to discuss implementing it within your organization. You can also email [email protected] with any questions.

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