After coaching for so many years, I’ve found my “style.”
I would describe it as supportive, patient, joking, laid back, cooperative, and open-minded.
Those are all positives, in my mind.
Of course we always want to believe that we’re the epitome of what a “good” coach should be, and it can be hard to assess flaws in our style.
Where I struggle?
Occasionally I show up to practice with a rough idea of our plan, but it’s not set in stone and I just attempt to go with the flow (I NEED a full written plan to be successful). I also like to test out new drills I’ve designed, and every once in a while, they’re a total flop.
I’ve also heard grumblings from parents about when I call timeouts… I tend to lean towards the *just-one-more-and-we’ll-get it-back* mentality. In my mind this shows my players I trust them and have faith in them, but not everyone sees it that way.
As coaches, we’re used to getting our way. We run the show!
But what about when you become the instructee?
LETTING GO OF THE REINS
I recently joined a pilates studio which has 10-12 instructors, and I’ve been doing my best to test out classes offered by each teacher.
None of my classes have been the same (similar to how most of my practices vary in intensity, skills worked on, etc.) and none of my INSTRUCTORS have been the same.
What I mean is, their STYLES are all over the board, and I’ve had some HUGE epiphanies on coaching styles after switching into the “student” mindset from a coach perspective.
MY BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS
-When you wing it, I can tell.
“OK, now we’re all going to do this… No wait, actually… let’s do this instead…” OK, once or twice I could understand, especially if we’re missing someone or equipment broke or there’s some other unknown that was introduced…
But if there’s nothing unusual about a practice/class, I’m annoyed by the time wasted while you change your mind about what we’re going to do next. And I’m even more annoyed when we get setup to start and then you change it on us!
It makes me think you’re not prepared and what I’m doing that day may or may not be as beneficial as it could be. Like I’m just there to go through the motions.
-When you talk about other teachers, it makes me think less of you (and speculate there’s some drama going on).
This can be as subtle as “Yeah, others teach it this way, but I teach the method accepted by *insert governing organization here*,” To “don’t listen to so-and-so, that's not right.”
I’ve had plenty of coaches I worked alongside whose methods did not match mine. I always tell my players to perform as your coach wants you to, because that will work best for their system.
It’s a fine line between accepting differences in styles and making your method seem superior, therefore putting another coach down in the process.
If this is happening often enough, I’m inclined to believe there’s drama going on behind the scenes and if I mention that to another student/player, that will probably spread like wildfire, whether it’s true or not.
-If we’re doing something new, I need time to figure out the mechanics first. Then I need the time to actually execute.
New moves = a large amount of my brain dedicated to figuring out exactly what we’re doing. If we’re already switching to the next exercise/moving on to learning something new in practice, it’s going to take me a lot longer to get the skill figured out.
Give me even just 3-4 more reps after I get it figured out and my confidence and satisfaction with my performance will soar.
-Clear and concise, yet descriptive feedback is THE BEST.
Ramble and you lose me. At a loss for words? I assume you’ve had a long day and are too tired to have brought your A-game.
Telling me to step forward? I might get it right. Telling me to step forward 2 feet with my right foot? There’s not a lot of room for error there.
Clear, short, yet descriptive cues work best when I’m trying to master something new.
-Metaphors can help… as long as you don’t use them for everything.
Not EVERYTHING needs a metaphor, but some movements might not be right without them. In my pilates class, we were told to imagine our hips floating up through the water while we went into a bridge. But then more metaphors kept coming ,and I lost focus on what I was actually doing because I was trying to figure out the metaphors!
In volleyball, we use bow and arrow. But if we add more to the metaphor, we might lose our players while they try to figure out what the heck we mean.
-Jokes are best sprinkled throughout a class, not used throughout the ENTIRE class.
I enjoy laughing. A lot. But when I’m trying to workout or play volleyball, I’d rather laugh at enjoyment of the activity versus being your trapped audience for 1-2 hours.
Even if jokes are funny, they take away from my focus. This leaves me struggling with form and performing less than I have to because I’m laughing.
But no jokes? Come on, give me something to laugh at! Even if it’s just saying a word funny (I laugh way too hard at “booty”) it’ll make the class more enjoyable.
-Don’t laugh at me when I’m doing something stupid while trying something for the first time.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Pilates, but there’s this move called “Peter Pan” and you essentially are jumping off of one foot and making a figure four with your feet in the air. Well, I had one foot inverted and was doing some weird jump (TBH, I was having a blast lol) but then my instructor came over and laughed a little while she corrected me.
I get it. It was definitely NOT right haha. But my ego was a little bruised because the class was moving fast and I was doing my best to keep up.
Think about the players who come to our camps that don’t know how to shuffle, or who bend their elbows when they pass… They need the correction. But let’s not laugh at them, ok? It was probably our own poor instruction that caused it anyway.
-Push me, but understand my boundaries.
I’m pretty in-shape due to volleyball, but I am discovering TONS of new muscles with pilates. That being said, I feel certain teachers staring at me when I’m not able to do some of the moves as well as others who are much more experienced in the class.
This sounds like when we get exhausted with tall players who can’t get their timing right or who can’t “bounce it” yet, even though they LOOK like they should be able to do it.
I’m all for being pushed to my personal edge and for you believing in me. But know where I’m at before you start judging me for not performing at a higher level.
-I like it when you say hi to me and again when you say goodbye.
+10 bonus points if you know my name and we’ve only met a handful of times. Being acknowledged and remembered just feels good. I’ve also wanted to say goodbye to instructors and thank them for classes, but someone has already pulled them aside and has been talking for 5 minutes. At that point, I’ll just leave.
Say hi to your players when they get to practice, and tell each one of them goodbye. And if you point out something they did well that day… wow, that’s going to have them leaving in a great mood!
-Getting conversations going in the group (without making it awkward) makes me enjoy the class more.
This probably applies most to camps and new teams, but even midway through school or club season not everyone is included in conversations.
I’m guilty of commenting “Wow, you guys are quiet! Why aren’t you talking to each other?” But now that I’ve been on the other side of that… Yeah, I don’t like it.
Instead, start the conversation yourself. Even simple things like “Wow, it is HOT today!” (forget what you learned at school, talking about the weather can be a lifesaver sometimes) can get a few people engaged in conversations.
If this doesn’t take off or branch into another topic. Keep trying. Even if I’m a player or participant just sitting there listening, that feels a LOT better than sitting there staring at others in silence.
To summarize? Being a good coach (for me) isn’t ALL about your coaching style. In fact, a lot of what you do to create a friendly, organized environment can go a long way.
Keep things professional as best as you can if you want your team and their families to be satisfied with every practice and tournament. It’s ok to make jokes and switch things up, but be sure to assess yourself honestly and make sure you’re doing a good job.
Heck, I recommend signing up for some athletic activity you’re unfamiliar with to get the same experience I had. It’s been eye-opening.
(PS: I love my Pilates studio and all of my instructors! I’m getting addicted to it and highly recommend it. These were all minor things my “coaching brain” noticed and extrapolated for y’all!)