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Jul 30

Reasons for a Program and Coaching Philosophy – Part A

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Last month in the June newsletter, I talked about the need for a coaching philosophy. We continue this topic, sharing a personal coaching experience, and to establish the need and reason for a sound coaching philosophy and developing a variety of coaching styles (Part A).

I am going to share my personal experience with you here because it makes the discussion more relevant. I was a very successful elite athlete in Germany under the direction of a very autocratic coach. The sport system supported that approach. I never liked the philosophy but had no other option. “It was the way it was – accept it or get out.” I chose coaching as a profession because I wanted to do it differently in America. I coached very successfully at a NCAA Division 1 University – but I coached in the only style I was familiar with, the “autocratic” one. This is a common syndrome of former athletes entering the coaching ranks. I realized the ‘trap’ but did not know what to do about it. I happened to walk through the women’s locker room one-day and overheard team members referring to me as ‘ruthless Ruth’ (my nickname not known to me).

I was shocked, never mind it really ‘bruised my ego.’ I decided to change my philosophy and my coaching style the following season after long deliberations and reading lots of sport psychology. In fact, I took academic minor in that field in my educational pursuit because I realized that I needed to understand the athletes and myself better and most of all I ‘needed to grow’ in my profession. My friends and many a news reporter were surprised. The ‘German hard head’ (those were milder words) was seeking change and the press even labeled me as “going soft.”

So, what does this have to do with you? First of all, you need to decide on the real reasons for your coaching or continued involvement. This is crucial because the foundation in youth sports is the development of youth (Schloder & McGuire, 1998). …“Because you love kids”… is not a good enough explanation. Teaching children and youth nowadays is a very demanding and complex engagement. Love is an emotion and can easily turn into dislike, disgust or even hate when the “team does not live up to its ability or you have to deal with problems.” Any program and personal coaching philosophy has to be based on more solid reasons.

So, is it power you are seeking (wrong motive)? Do you have high ambitions to reaffirm yourself through coaching? You may get disappointed. Is it because you want to coach your own child or make sure he/she gets to play in the line-up? It’s a potential trap! Is it challenge? Is it developing youth to their optimum? Is it a career potential (you may volunteer and then pursue it as a profession)? You need an honest answer!

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