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Published on: January 24, 2019

Positive Talk

Whether it is as a parent, mentor, involvement with Little League or teaching Sunday School, sooner or later all of us are called upon to be a coach—to help others learn a new skill or navigate through a difficult circumstance. When that happens, will you be ready? 

Generally, we think of coaches as folks who walk around with whistles around their necks, but there are as many types of coaches in our world as there are situations that need handling. Here are some ideas about how you can be successful when you are called upon to be a coach.

• It is flattering to have someone come to you for advice and guidance, but before you commit to the job, do a quick self-assessment to see that you have the skills required or that you are willing to do the necessary research to get the knowledge. A coach who accepts the job in name alone is worse than no coach at all.

• Coaches should be good listeners. A coach must be able to concentrate on the needs of the person receiving the coaching, as stated both verbally and nonverbally. Good listening skills require that we put aside our preconceived ideas and look at each situation as new. 

• Preparation for each session is essential to successful coaching. National Football League coaches spend hundreds of hours off the field for every hour they spend on the field. Nothing is more defeating to a student to find that his or her coach did not care enough to prepare for the session. Coaches prepare in such ways as reviewing previous sessions, assessing changing conditions learning new techniques, and preparing strategies for the future.

• Giving feedback is an essential part of being a good coach. The rule on providing feedback is that it should be provided in a timely manner; it should be directed to a specific action and should have an achievable goal attached to it. If the action is detrimental, the coach should state why it is and how to fix it. In the case of praise, the action should again be specifically stated, and suggestions should be made as to how to repeat the action. Vague statements such as, “That was a terrible play,” or “You really blew that presentation,” are not valuable and can be destructive. Feedback must always provide the means for maintenance or improvement of skills.

• A coach must clearly understand the goals of the person being coached. In a situation where the coach is bent on creating an Olympic athlete and the student is just competing to have fun, there is no meeting of the minds and the relationship is doomed to failure. When coaching, we must have agreement on what we hope to accomplish before we start the process so that we can agree on a level of commitment 

• Finally, take time to evaluate the process and progress you are making with the person being coached. Talk frankly with them about the direction you are traveling, and the feelings they have about continuing the journey. No matter how serious the initial commitment might have been, situations change and so do minds.

Coaching is a wonderful experience and I think one of the most fulfilling activities in which one can participate. Give it a try but remember the rules of the game.

William Hodges is a nationally recognized speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. Locally, he hosts an interview-format television program, Spotlight on Government on the Tampa Bay Community Network. He also hosts a Sun Radio show—Veterans Corner—for military veterans and their families. This show can be listened to at 96.3 FM or online at at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He can be contacted by email: