Why don’t we treat our coaches like athletes?

Why don’t we treat our coaches like athletes?

The challenges coaches face and the skills required to be a great coach are misunderstood. As is how we best support them and ensure that they are able to perform to the best of their abilities in key moments.

The goods news is that the average person understands the pressures a coach experiences – the media reminds the public of this often. The team wins, the coach is a hero. The team loses, the coach is to blame. As Pat Riley, the great NBA coach, coined, “There is winning and there is misery”.

The bad news is many of us involved in sport underestimate the complex series of skills that are required to become a great coach. Unfortunately, this can carry over to how we support their development.

An effective coach needs to have well developed skills in many areas – technical knowledge, tactical understanding, sport psychology, communication, technology, public relations, recruitment, budgeting, politics, and many more…

It is a complicated job, with extraordinary pressures. If we agree that coaches are an important part of sport performance, how do we support them most effectively? And are we prioritizing their development? If not, why?

It seems fitting to compare coach support to athlete support. There is no doubt that most sports organizations have a thorough understanding of the importance of effectively supporting athletes. Most organizations ensure athletes:

  • are fed properly and encouraged to get proper sleep every day
  • have trained for days, weeks and years in an effective way
  • are provided regular, constructive feedback, often customized to their personality type
  • have the very best equipment
  • are filled with confidence leading into competition

But what do we do for the coach?

Do we tick the boxes on the list above? Have a read through the list again and grade yourself out of three – 1=nailed it! 2=sometimes 3=never.

Shouldn’t coaches be treated like the elite quarterback, the star goalie, the great sprinter? Don’t we want the best from them on game day? Who has more impact than the coach?

Challenge for the day. If you lead a coach take one step today, this week, this year to treat them like an elite athlete and see what happens. It is highly likely that the impact will be positive and isn’t that what we are all striving for? You might conclude that you are already doing your very best to support your coach given your environment or you might find a new way to make them even better! And keep in mind that each coach is unique – truly impactful coaching development must be customized for the individual.

Give a gift. If you don’t lead a coach but are around one regularly, stop and think about the complexity of their role and give them a gift – what can you do to help them perform their complicated job even better?

And if you are a coach, thank you. Your job in all of this is to continue to master the challenges within your role and ask for help when you need it…..