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Teach Character

For many coaches, teaching character is just as important as teaching the skills of the game. Yet, when it comes to instilling these values, there isn’t often a simple guide to follow. Luckily, Steve Jordan of akcoach.com provides some useful advice.

Before you can help others build character, you first have to define your own values. What’s important to you as a coach? What’s important to you as a person? Are these values aligned? If they are, it will be much easier to build off them and instill them in your athletes. Knowing yourself and what you deem important is essential to building character in others. Jordan recommends writing these values down so you don’t lose sight of them. This also gives you something to look at when things get tough or you start to question your methods.

The three concepts that are most important to Jordan are strength of spirit, teamwork, and respect. He spends a lot of time outlining these different areas so that he can clearly explain them to his coaches and players. Having a detailed understanding of what these concepts mean and what it looks like when athletes adhere to them helps Jordan teach his players valuable lessons about life and athletics.

Jordan believes that if coaches are truly concerned about the intangible benefits of athletics they need to make a point of consistently talking about these things with their team. By explaining what values are important to them, coaches can give their team a direction and clear expectations to follow. This will also help any rules about conduct make more sense and have more meaning for the athletes.

Many coaches don’t truly address these expectations until something bad happens or the need arises. Jordan admits that this type of approach may save time and planning, and that many coaches might not feel comfortable talking about sensitive issues such as character building. The downside, however, is that athletes might not be sure what’s expected of them and might not learn much more than how to play their sport. Athletics can inherently teach athletes some life lessons, but when coaches make a concerted effort the amount of teaching opportunities grows exponentially.

Waiting until a problem arises to talk about values and character means that it’s coming in the form of discipline. This often isn’t the best way to get your point across. It might be an essential part of enforcing your rules and expectations, but athletes should also have a clear understanding of how they should conduct themselves before they get in trouble. This means going beyond the big speech at the beginning of the season. Many coaches give a speech where they talk about all of their expectations, rules, and penalties, but rarely reinforce these concepts as the season progresses.

Jordan recommends including the parents in the process. When you outline your expectations at the beginning of the season, either include the parents during this talk or have a separate meeting with them where you outline the same expectations. If the parents buy-in then they will become advocates for your approach. This means that the values you want to see in your athletes will be reinforced at home, which can make all the difference.                              

Coaches can also draft a contract for players, parents, and themselves to sign. Spelling out all of the rules and expectations makes them more real and provides a document that can be revisited if needed. This is another way to get everyone dedicated to working towards the same goals and upholding the same standards. Just be sure that you are also willing to hold yourself accountable. If coaches don’t honor the contract then how can they expect players and parents to do the same?

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