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What are the qualities you should look for in a coach?

In mid January, the Kansas City Chiefs hired Scott Pioli as their new general manager as they attempt to turn the franchise around from a team that went 6-26 over the past two seasons. After a week and a half review, one of his first public moves was to fire head coach, Herman Edwards. Edwards had a very positive reputation with the players and was known for his ability to get along with organization employees. However, in the end a professional franchise that only won six out of 32 games over two seasons, led to his eventual dismissal. In professional sports, it is about winning, making the playoffs and getting a championship. What about high school sports or youth sports? Is it and should it be about the same thing? No one wants to lose or likes to lose. Everyone, athletes, coaches, parents and fans are all happier when a team wins instead of loses. But, different levels of sports require different types of coaching.

As a parent, when you begin to start your child in athletics, one of the first steps you take is to find a sport and a team to sign up your child. There are all kinds of leagues and levels of competition. Obviously, your child has to want to play the sport. But, once you decide what sport, your next challenge is to pick out a team. Youth sports is loaded with all kinds of individuals, qualified and unqualified who are coaching. One of the most important decisions you will make as a parent with your child’s athletic career, will begin with what team and what coach you decide to coach your child. When picking out a coach, I would suggest you talk to parents of other children who have been coached by this individual. Find out why the coach is coaching. How does he/she communicate with the kids and the parents? What are his/her goals for coaching? I believe the most important qualities for a coach at this level should be to be an excellent communicator. That means to not only be able to express himself, but to be a good listener. At the youth level, it should not be about winning, it should be about success and getting better. How does the coach coach kids when they fail. Do they yell and scream and condescend kids, or do they teach and coach them to understand what they have to do to get better. Many people in our society feel we coddle our kids too much. Too often we just give out ribbons and trophies just for competing. Yes, it is important to reward young kids for participating, but we must also be able to teach them how to succeed. Good coaches at the youth level, will be good communicators, good listeners, good delegators and individuals who are not coaching for their ego, but for the goal of seeing kids have fun and improve.

At the high school level, it is a different situation. Most high school coaches coach because they love coaching and teaching. Some do it for their ego, some for the extra money it provides, but most are in the profession because they want to. Usually the pay isn’t very good and the feedback is usually negative, especially when you have someone on your team who is not happy. And most high school teams have someone unhappy on the team. The qualities of a good high school coach are the same as a youth sport coach, but should also include excellent leadership skills. I always say a good coach is a good psychologist and at the high school level, you have to understand a lot of factors that contribute to an athlete’s participation. A good coach will be able to listen, communicate and be assertive when necessary. This individual will not be afraid to establish rules and back them up, and should also know how to listen to and communicate with parents as well as athletes. Winning is an important component at the high school level, but making the experience a positive one that athletes will remember later in their life is more important. High school coaches are often tremendous role models because they are willing to help kids get better and accomplish their goals.

So who will Scott Pioli choose? And why will he choose him? These are interesting questions that will have even more interesting answers.

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