If you really want to be successful as a coach, if you really want to motivate and inspire your players to take their game to the next level, if you really want to build mental toughness in your athletes and have them perform under pressure, then you would be wise to follow these very simple, yet critically important, coaching guidelines.
Far too many coaches mistakenly believe that the best way to build mental toughness in their players is by being hard on them, continually yelling, withholding praise when they do well and jumping all over them whenever they mess up. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!
The following 5 guidelines will help you achieve more success as a coach.
1. Continually catch your athletes doing things right.
When a player does something well, you want to make a big deal of it! You want to clearly acknowledge that athlete and let the other players on the ice hear it! When you do this, you build a player’s self-esteem and self-confidence and fire up their motivation. You will never weaken a player by praising them, unless the praise is unwarranted! Simple things like “Good job!” and “Nice effort!” or “Great pass!” will do the trick and go a long way in helping your athletes learn faster and perform better.
2. When kids mess up, help them understand not just what they did wrong, but how to correct the mistake.
Too many coaches expend far too much energy focusing on the mistake and not enough on the correction. In the learning process, it’s the correction that’s most important! We always learn best from our mistakes, and what your players really need to hear from you is what they need to do differently next time to correct the mistake.
3. Create a safe environment for your players to learn and excel.
Your attitude towards your players’ mistakes and failures is absolutely critical in determining whether you get the very best from them or shut them down completely. This means that you have to understand that kids learn best from failing and messing up. When your athletes make mistakes, you must remain calm, supportive and positive. Every athlete on the ice “experiences” you talking to them whenever you call out a specific player for something they’ve done wrong. When you are kind, patient and supportive in your response to one player’s mistake, then everyone on the ice senses that, relaxes and feels safer as a consequence. However, when you’re impatient, angry and demeaning to one player when they mess up, then all of your players will experience that and feel less safe! Kids who feel unsafe around you will NEVER perform to their potential!
4. Make practices and games fun.
There is a myth that in order to build a mentally tough player, the coach must be serious and always demand the same seriousness from his players. However, when athletes are having fun, they will learn and perform better. Having FUN is the secret to playing your best when it counts the most. When athletes have fun, they stay loose and relaxed — two critical keys to peak performance! So as a coach, smile, chill out and enjoy the journey so you can help your kids do the same!
5. Remember, you’re the adult here and you’re working with kids.
As the coach, you hold all of the power. Don’t ever underestimate the tremendous influence that you have on your players, regardless of their ages. A certain look, offhanded comment or gesture can make or break a player’s week! You need to be aware of this power and wield it responsibly, understanding that you’re working with highly sensitive, impressionable children. Just because they have skates and pads on doesn’t change their vulnerability. You’re the educator, and it’s your job to understand that there’s a lot more at stake here than just hockey!