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Optimizing Your Coaching Mindset

Coaches are constantly evaluating the athletes entrusted to their care and developing ways to help them improve. Good coaches do the same for themselves.

In an article on the USA Volleyball coaches education site, http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Volleyball Corey Radford from the USAV’s Florida Region offers advice for optimizing your coaching mindset. Here are a few of the highlights.

Maintain perspective.

Radford says the ability to maintain self-control and perspective during practices and games can be the difference between being a good coach and a great coach. He goes on to offer a few tips for doing this. One is to always act as if a news crew is filming or that your mother is watching. Another is to have realistic goals and focus on improvement instead of just performance.

One of the most interesting is to remember the times in your life when you struggled to learn a new skill. He later suggests giving athletes plenty of room as they’re learning new skills. Correct any errors with short and concise instruction then let them get the hang of it. As long as they’re not developing bad habits and they’re making fewer mistakes as they go, that’s progress.

Before practice or games, take a few minutes to collect your thoughts.

He suggests putting aside 15 to 20 minutes to go over things in your head. The idea is to imagine potential problem spots and work out the best response beforehand rather than reacting in the heat of the moment.

He also uses this time to write down some of his key thoughts for the upcoming session so they won’t be forgotten in the flurry of activities that make up games and practice. “I have found that it helps me to compose a short list (1-4 items) of coaching reminders on a scrap of paper and then keep it in my pocket during the match. The list might be purely strategic in nature (i.e. call serves), purely mental (i.e. don’t yell at the ref) or a combination of both. I have found this strategy to be effective because I am emotionally collected and focused when I write the list and so it helps me regain focus during the match.” He also keeps a pen in the same pocket as the piece of paper so he’s reminded of these cues whenever he goes to make a note.

Exist in a state of constant re-evaluation.

Radford says he’s always excited after games to start looking at ways to improve before the next one. He explains that evaluation requires two steps. First, is knowing what is important and what’s not. In volleyball, for example, fixing a poor service game is more important than correcting defensive footwork. Second is knowing how to spot what is being done incorrectly during games.

He also reminds coaching the evaluation isn’t just for players. He regularly writes down his own list of weaknesses and prioritizes that are most important to address.

Develop solid principles.

Principles can vary from coaches to coach, but Radford says “coaching without a strong set of written principles is like hiking in the woods without a compass--you may eventually get where you’re going, but the trip won’t be easy and there’s a really good chance you’re going to get lost.” He explains that some principles, such as morals and ethics, come from the heart. Other will come from science, such as why you choose to teach a certain skill a certain way.

Be more organized than even the best coaches. 

One of Radford’s biggest tips here is to work hard on your practice plans. Even though it takes a lot of time and effort to write out a posted plan for everyone to follow before each and every practice, he says it will pay enormous dividends in the development of your team and you as a coach.

Have fun and be positive.

Radford wraps things up with a directive for coaches. “Laugh at your mistakes, then get up and do it better. There will be times when you’ll laugh because something happened that was funny and there will be times when laughing will be the only thing you can do to keep from being angry or just outright crying. Have a soft, easy going nature, and remember that you LOVE what you do and it should be evident.”

Click here to read the full article.

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