Friday, December 28, 2007

Developing a Coaching Philosophy

Developing a Coaching Philosophy
By Steve Mergelsberg, Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach, University of Rutgers-Newark
As a new and inexperienced coach, there is much preparation for your first season. Of course, you are excited and eager about your first head coaching position. You most likely have planned what you are going to do and believe that you are ready. But are you truly ready? Have you thought about the how’s and why’s of everything you will do as a coach? It is important as you get started in coaching to develop a philosophy. For that matter, even the experienced coaches may want to reevaluate their philosophy.

Many coaches do not believe in the value of developing a coaching philosophy. They do not realize how a philosophy can have an impact on their daily coaching procedures and strategy. However, a coach’s philosophy is actually a very practical matter. In fact, every coach, aware of it or not, follows certain principles based on their own playing experience. Most of our basic philosophy emanates from former high school and college coaches. This is a natural start, because it is the approach with which we are most familiar and comfortable.

It is also reasonable to assume that the philosophy of a person’s everyday life thinking and actions would be applied by most when it comes to coaching. For example, a salesman discovers that one of his clients is dishonest. He decides to sell to a competitor despite the fact that he will make less of a profit selling the same product. This may not sound like good business practice, yet many people are willing to adhere to their principles even if it meant making less money. How many coaches would stick to principles of sportsmanship or fair play rather than win the game? We can see a gap between what a coach may think is the right thing to do in every day life, and the actions they may end up taking on the field or court.

In your effort to form or analyze you own philosophy of coaching we must first know what a coach is. A coach can be many things to many different people. A coach is a mentor, a teacher, a role model and sometimes a friend. Most of all a coach must be positive. A positive coach has the following traits:

Puts players first:
A positive coach wants to win but understands that he is an educator first and the development of his players is his top priority. He avoids thinking the game is about him rather than the players. Has an unwavering commitment to what is best for the athletes.

Develops character and skills:
A coach seizes upon victories and defeats as teachable moments to build on self-confidence and positive character traits such as discipline, self-motivation, self-worth and an excitement for life. The desire to see the athlete learn and the ability to effectively improve their skill is the key to an effective coaching program.

Sets realistic goals:
Focuses on effort rather than outcome. Sets standards of continuous learning and improvement for the athletes. Encourages and inspires the athletes, regardless of their skill level to strive to get better without threatening them through fear, intimidation or shame.

Creates a partnership with the players:
A positive coach involves team members in determining team rules. Recognizes that communication is crucial to effective relationships with players. Develops appropriate relationships based on respect, care and character.

Treasures the game:
A positive coach feels an obligation to the sport they coach. Loves the sport and shares that love and enjoyment with the athletes. Respects the opponents, recognizing that a worth opponent will push the team to do their best.

There is no level, where as a coach, you cease teaching the game. As long as you teach, teach in a positive manner. You will produce the best players, and ultimately, the best results.
It is extremely important to develop a philosophy with the following statements in mind:

Your approach should be educationally sound.
Your drills should serve a purpose and not merely used for “killing” time. They should be structured to provide the necessary repetition for each athlete and should be relative to the athlete’s ability level.

Your approach should be appropriate for your players.
You may learn a lot of new offenses and defenses and they may be excellent systems, but are they suited for your players? Use an approach that is developmentally appropriate to your players.

Your philosophy must be ethical.
In basketball, for example many coaches instruct players to fake an injury in order to stop the clock. This is unethical. Consider what you do in all aspects of coaching. Coaching from an ethical standpoint is extremely important. Remember, you are a role model for your players

Stick to your philosophy.
Most coaches, especially on the high school level, have to develop the talent on hand. There may be some years in which the athletes may not possess the ability or skill to fit into your philosophy.You cannot change the players, but you can alter your approach.

Is there a better way of doing what you are doing?
Apply this question regarding all aspects of your coaching philosophy-the offense, defense, motivation or your athletes, etc. Keep an open mind. Learning should be a life-long pursuit and this should definitely apply to your coaching philosophy.

Explain why you do the things you do.
To instruct and to motivate your athletes, you have to justify what you do. Can you? You better be able to.The days of just simply saying, “Well, this is the way we are going to do it,” are long gone. There is no way that you can justify anything associated with your program or team to athletes and parents without an explanation.

Your coaching philosophy should be compatible with your personality.
Are you a risk taker? Patient or impatient? Deliberate or aggressive? You will be more successful if your philosophy and personality are both in sync.

Sportsmanlike conduct should be a top priority involved with your philosophy.
There are certain situations in some games, which could be considered unsportsmanlike by opponents, officials and fans. Running up the score, playing starters long after the outcome has been determined and taunting are just a few examples to be considered. If any of these exist within your approach to coaching, you may have to make some changes.

After analyzing all the factors that I have mentioned, develop your own philosophy by putting it into written form. It is extremely important to be able to express and to explain your approach to athletes, parents and supervisors. A written document can also give you something concrete to reexamine and to evaluate annually

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