These are two sentences that make my blood pressure spike to the point that I get a little dizzy.
Managing approximately 70 gymnastics professionals, all of whom are teacher-coaches, I am acutely aware of the amount of training and education that these dedicated pros undergo to instruct their young athletes. The technical knowledge of the skills in combination with understanding the progressions necessary to achieve the elements safely and the rules and regulations that govern the various competitive levels fills volumes of books, hundreds of DVDs and dozens of trainings and conferences.
But that is only part of the picture.
While superior knowledge of the sport is a cornerstone of a brilliant coach, it takes so much more than content and procedural knowledge to be a brilliant coach or teacher. Simply because a person has great knowledge of the sport and a fabulous win-loss record, does not mean they are a brilliant coach.
1. Cherish the child over the athlete. Brilliant coaches know that being an athlete is just a small part of being a child. Brilliant coaches never do anything to advance the athlete at the risk of the child.
2. Treat their, and all other, athletes with respect. Brilliant coaches treat all of the kids in the gym, on the field, court etc. with total respect. No matter what.
3. Communicate with parents. Brilliant coaches understand that parents are not the enemy and, in fact, are an important ally in the development of the athlete.
4. Listen to their athletes concerns. Brilliant coaches don't tune out athletes worries, fears or mentions of injury.
5. Connect before they direct. Brilliant coaches understand the importance of emotional connection. You matter. You belong. You are important to me. Not you the athlete; rather, you the person. Our most fundamental need is safety. When we feel safe we can trust and when we trust we can learn. Brilliant coaches know that this foundation of trust is essential.
6. Begin with the end in mind. Brilliant coaches keep their focus on the big picture of the goal of the athlete. They have a plan, but are flexible as they are aware the road to success is filled with twists and turns.
7. Are obsessive about fundamentals. Brilliant coaches understand the value of fundamentals as the core of all skills. The stronger the core, the more successful the athlete. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden would spend his first practice with his players instructing them how to put on socks. Correct wearing of socks prevents blisters, and feet absent of blisters can attend basketball practice.
8. Break skills into chunks. Brilliant coaches don't simply teach a cartwheel. They break that cartwheel into several key sub-skills and instruct on those skills first before putting them together to perform the cartwheel. Brilliant coaches know that by isolating the individual elements that are woven together to achieve the skill athletes will succeed faster.
9. Embrace athletes' struggle. Brilliant coaches understand that learning is a curve. Like muscle needs to break down before building up, athletes need to struggle to push forward. A brilliant coach doesn't panic when this struggle happens.
10. Make the boring interesting. Brilliant coaches connect the tedious to the goal and make games out of those things that can be counted. They issue challenges and create missions. The goal is to make these dull, but necessary moments more engaging.
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