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Breaking Bad Habits

All high school coaches want to form the best leadership habits possible. However, identifying the things that they’re doing wrong can be a tricky task, especially when the team is experiencing success.

Enter Dr. Alan Goldberg, a sports performance consultant, internationally known expert in peak performance, and Director of Competitive Advantage, a consulting firm that assists athletes of all levels overcome mental roadblocks that prevent athletes from performing to their true potential. In a blog on his company's website, Goldberg delves into the top habits coaches should break immediately.

“Your mission as a coach is to teach young people and help them grow as individuals so that they become better people in the world, both on and off the field,” says Goldberg. “There are far more important things at stake here than whether a kid wins or correctly learns the x’s and o’s.”

That leads to the first habit Goldberg urges coaches to break. “You’re NOT a good coach if you think that your most important job as a coach is to win games,” says Goldberg. “Good coaches use their sport as nothing more than a vehicle for this teaching. The winning and losing outcomes are completely secondary to the teaching of valuable life lessons (working hard towards a faraway goal, learning to believe in yourself, being a good sport, playing by the rules, etc.).”

Likewise, valuing the outcome of a game more than the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of the student-athletes should never be on the mind of a high school coach. “Encouraging your athletes to play hurt so that the team can win is reckless behavior for you as a coach,” says Goldberg. “When you do this you are directly putting your players at risk. You are NOT teaching them to be mentally tough! Instead, it’s completely ignoring [the] body’s early warning signs that something is very wrong.”

Another habit that will get coaches nowhere is treating players with disrespect. “Great educators don’t teach in this manner. They value their students and make them feel value, both as learners and individuals,” says Goldberg. “Good coaches earn their respect from their players on a daily basis, based on how they conduct themselves and how they interact with their athlete[s] and everyone else associated with the program.

“Good coaches create a safe learning environment,” continues Goldberg. “There is nothing safe about being on a team where teammates regularly criticize and yell at each other. There is nothing safe about being on a team when you are picked on or ostracized by your teammates. It’s the coach’s responsibility to set very clear limits to prevent these kinds of ‘team busting’ behaviors.”

When it comes to instilling these life lessons into student-athletes, Goldberg believes that teaching is just one side of it. “You’re NOT a good coach when you don’t ‘walk the talk.’ Your words have to closely match your behaviors,” says Goldberg. “Great coaches are great role models in that they teach through their behaviors. What you say to your players means nothing if it doesn’t come from who you are as a person.”

The most harmful habit of all, according to Goldberg, is the inability to take responsibility for the mistakes you make as a leader, therefore placing the blame on others. “The mark of a great educator is that they present themselves as human. They do not let their ego get involved in the more important task of teaching,” says Goldberg. “Therefore when something goes wrong, they are quick to own their part in it. Good coaches take responsibility for their team’s failures and give their team and athletes full responsibility for successes.”

Click here to visit Dr. Goldberg's website.

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