Maybe one of the best quotes to portray what being a coach is all about was said by legendary Tennessee Women’s Basketball coach Pat Summitt. She once stated, “Most people get excited about games, but I’ve got to be excited about practice, because that’s my classroom.” A great coach should see themselves as a teacher, not only of the game, but of life as a whole. Being a superb coach is no easy feat. The countless number of factors you must excel in and strive to improve on never ends. It can be a thankless job and usually when you need to be cut some slack is when people are the least forgiving. If you are a coach, give yourself a pat on the back, because you truly have one of the most challenging jobs out there. If you happen to be a parent of an athlete or are an athlete, next time you see your coach, thank them for all of the hard work, time, and dedication they put in day in and day out.

There isn’t just one aspect that makes a successful coach. It takes a variety of traits to become a phenomenal coach. It may be a cliché but winning really isn’t everything. There are plenty of ineffective coaches out there with a roster of talented players who win consistently. Some people may view a coach that wins as an awesome coach, but the role of a coach is immensely more influential than the team’s record.

Grow the person, not just the athlete

Whether you’re a coach of an individual sport like tennis, a team sport like baseball, or are a private coach who works with one player at a time, your responsibility of mentoring athletes doesn’t just pertain to improving them at their sport. While the job description of a coach is entrenched in teaching techniques, skills, strategies, and anything else that comes with the territory of learning a sport, the great coaches always find ways to extend their teachings into real life and educate their athletes on how to improve themselves as people, not just players. A coach can be one of the most influential figures in a young athlete’s life. The fantastic coaches realize this and own it. They look to help their players in any form or fashion on and off the field.

Finding ways to instill confidence in young athletes and their teammates is a vital part of coaching. Good coaches teach their players how to be resilient. Frequently challenging them and pushing their limits will not only help when competing in a game, but in every facet of life.

Understand every player

It doesn’t matter if you are in charge of a large or small team; every single one of the players in the group is different. Being strict and pushing buttons might work on one athlete, while another needs more positive encouragement. Under no circumstances should a coach ever use embarrassment and humiliation as tools to try and motivate athletes. A one size fits all approach to coaching never works in the long term. Interactions need to be tailored to each player individually. The best coaches focus and make time for everyone. They don’t give the star treatment to the starters. Successful coaches know that the team as a whole is what’s important, not specific players within it.

Communication is a necessity

One of the most important characteristics of being a successful coach is having the ability to communicate effectively. That doesn’t necessarily mean a coach has to be on the sidelines screaming his or her head off for the entire game. Different people communicate in different ways. Find what works for you and your team and stick to it. Having the coach and the players on the same page is essential and communication is a huge part of accomplishing that. The coach shouldn’t be the only one doing the talking though. Encouraging athletes to voice their opinions and concerns is equally as important. Communication between players during games should be promoted as well. If you’ve ever watched a great basketball team play, you’ve heard constant talking while players are on the court. Communicating is vital in every aspect of sports, for both the coach and players.

Mistakes & loses are valuable lessons

Every player and coach loves to win. It’s what teams strive for and why they spend so many hours practicing. Winning seems to solve every problem, at least temporarily. But sometimes, losing offers a more valuable lesson to players and coaches. There are times when a loss can be exactly what a team needs to improve and grow. The worst thing a team can do is wallow in a loss. Identify what issues contributed to the loss and work to correct them before the next game or competition.

Keep learning

The best coaches are avid learners and students of the game. They never stop studying and learning more to improve themselves. Strive to learn and develop faster than your athletes. Coaching is all about having the answers. Subsequently, you should do your best to learn and develop quicker than the other coaches and teams you compete against. Staying ahead of the curve typically yields positive results.

Set expectations at the start

The earlier you set the expectations for the season, the smoother things will run. Start out by going over rules and expectations right off the bat, so players and parents know exactly what they need to do throughout the season. Lay out all of the guidelines to eliminate any uncertainty among players. Everything functions easier when people know what is expected of them.

Make it fun

It can be easy to lose sight that sports are supposed to be fun in the heat of competition. One of the main reasons people start playing sports is because they’re fun! Make sure you keep things exciting whenever you can, either in practice or a game. It’s easier to stay invested in something when you enjoy doing it. Just like how the team morale is always higher when the team is winning, the morale is better when players and coaches are having fun.