Thursday, May 10, 2007

Coaching Today's Players:  How can coaches create lasting relationships?
Jerry Kreber, Assistant Coach, Council Bluffs (IA) Abraham Lincoln HS

The player/coach relationship has changed dramatically over the years.  With existing societal problems, players enter athletic programs with new attitudes that did not exist previously.  These feelings have challenged coaches to create inventive ideas on how to reach players and form lasting relationships.  

When analyzing how these relationships form between the player and coach, many different methods can be used to create stable connections.  Over the years, I have identified four areas coaches can apply to help improve relationships with players.  In my experience, these methods have been instrumental in helping players accept feedback, value team concepts, and form lasting relationships with teammates and coaches.      

1.  Salesmanship
Like it or not, today’s players often question the validity of specific movements in practice and games.  This attitude was not present in past athletic climates, but is an existing hurdle coaches must jump to be an effective teacher.  This skepticism is not only present in sports, but throughout our educational landscape.     

To combat this dilemma, coaches must be up to date on the latest research.  By researching ways to improve, coaches can inform players on why their methods are important to apply in competitive contests.  Even though this questioning attitude has led to confrontations between players and coaches, it can serve as a great learning tool for the entire program.  

2.  Parents
Parents play an important role in the player/coach relationship.  With unlimited access, parents shape the coach's image in their child’s eyes.  If parents use a lot of negative comments, the player may perceive their coach as inadequate.  These types of interactions do not help create healthy relationships.    

Communication is key to building these relationships.  There are several ways coaches can communicate with parents, while keeping a professional distance.  Coaches can mail written quarterly player evaluations to parents.  These reports allow parents to view areas, which their child needs to improve to gain playing time.  Also, behavior concerns about a player can be noted.  By informing parents, coaches are including them in the player development process.  

4.  Peer Relationships
Players crave the acceptance of their teammates.  That is why young people are guided heavily by peer pressure.  If players do not find acceptance, they will never feel comfortable or supported.  Experiencing feelings of rejection will enhance the chances of players quitting the team.       

Coaches must immerse players in a supportive environment.   By creating an atmosphere of support, coaches challenge players to do the right thing all of the time.  That way, positive actions are valued and not looked at as "kissing up" to the coach.  With constructive relationships players not only succeed in athletics, but in the classroom as well.      
5.  Outside Influences
Today, players face difficult choices that could sway their futures.  Gang violence, drug use, and alcohol assumption are a few harmful activities players can get involved in.  In fact, according to a 2004 study by the University of Michigan found that 70% of all high school seniors polled used alcohol in the last year.  Also, 34% of the seniors polled used marijuana in the last 12 months.  These statistics offer proof that today's players must engage in activities that promote good health and encouraging outcomes.      

Finally, coaches have unique chances of influencing the lives of young athletes.  This influence can only be transferred if a connection is made between the player and coach.  The positive lessons players learn through athletic competition and training can help develop other practical problem solving techniques, which players can apply during their entire life.                   

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