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Evolution of a Successful Coach

To be successful, coaches must evolve and grow over time. Not only do sports change, but there are also countless lessons to learn from athletes, other coaches, and experiences that you have. As you add new pieces to your coaching philosophy and develop your own style, you will graduate from one stage to the next. Recognizing where you are in your coaching evolution will help you understand what you need to do to keep moving forward.

According to an article written by Sam Snow on the U.S. Youth Soccer website, the first phase of coaching is about validation. For those just starting out, the goal is usually to look for proof that you can actually coach, whether that’s by looking at the win-loss record or getting feedback from players, parents, and peers. This can be a difficult time because many people want to have success right away. Getting over some of the initial hurdles is key if you are going to continue coaching. Eventually the validation will come, but you have to be patient.

For those who continue coaching, the next stage involves education. That’s when you start to recognize where you can do better and you take steps towards improving, such as going to camps and clinics, watching tapes, and reading books and helpful articles. The goal is to gain as many coaching tools as possible so that you can help your team be more successful. Coaches in this phase are often still very concerned with validation, but they are excited about the prospect of getting better. For many successful coaches, this desire to remain educated and continuously improve has proven key to their longevity.

Explanation comes next, according to Snow. As coaches improve they will start to feel more confident as an authority figure. They will speak up and instruct players and peers more than they did before. Much of this comes from being able to recognize what isn’t working and explaining to others how it can be fixed.

The edification phase is similar to the explanation phase, with the difference being that coaches are no longer concerned about validation but are mainly focused on instructing others just for the sake of helping them. When coaches get to this point, they are happy to help those around them, regardless of whether they’re a kid or coach on another team or someone in their own program. They are more open to sharing ideas even though they still have a competitive edge. They also shift their focus from pointing out what others are doing wrong to encouraging others to do things right.

Another major step in a coach’s growth is the realization of their true mission. As a coach starts to recognize how sports can impact athletes in all aspects of life, they start to emphasize developing character traits, treating every athlete on the team equally, and teaching life lessons. They are still very competitive and still want to win, but now it is done by developing people before players and training the mind as well as the body. This is when coaching becomes much more than just a job. 

With the right opportunity, coaches will move onto implementation. This is when you get to truly build your own program and develop a culture that fosters the type of people and players you want to develop. It can be difficult to get to this point and it might take a while for the right opportunity to come along, but Snow assures that he has seen many people build their own systems after starting with humble beginnings.

According to Snow, the final step on the evolutionary ladder is compensation. He doesn’t mean money, though. Instead, he is referring to the compensation coaches get when they have been around long enough to see players they have mentored grow into successful adults. That’s when you know that you have truly contributed to the bigger picture and have passed on important lessons that will continue to be taught.  

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