Tuesday, 28 May 2024

Kids Don’t Care How Much You Know Until They Know How Much You Care

The concept of caring deeply for young athletes is something that resonates with coaches at all levels. This sentiment, often attributed to figures such as Theodore Roosevelt and John Maxwell, serves as a guiding principle for many in the sports community.

As I prepare to coach a 12U team at the U.S. Air Force Academy, this concept of caring takes on a new significance. My stepdaughter, Elysse, is an assistant coach for the women’s team at the academy, and she has invited me to join her on the court this season. Together, we aim to create an environment where these young athletes feel valued and supported.

To better understand and connect with the players, I have implemented a simple tool. With the help of Jay Doty, I have created two drawings that will prompt the athletes to reflect on themselves and their goals. By asking these questions, I hope to gain valuable insights that will make me a more effective and caring coach.

One realization that has stuck with me is the importance of not referring to these athletes as “my kids.” While I am privileged to guide them on their journey, they have their own parents and guardians who provide for their needs. As a coach, my role is to teach and inspire these young athletes during our limited time together.

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When it comes to teaching, the idea of “guided discovery” has become a central focus for me. I believe that the most profound learning occurs when athletes are able to discover things for themselves, without explicit instruction. This approach allows them to develop problem-solving skills and take ownership of their own development. It’s a lesson I learned from my own experiences playing tennis with my dad and son, without the presence of a coach.

On the other end of the spectrum, I reflect on my coaching style in the 1970s, where I focused on explicit instruction. I would often tell my players exactly what to do, without allowing them to think for themselves. This approach resulted in athletes who relied on me for answers, rather than developing their own decision-making abilities.

To foster a more effective learning environment, I have shifted towards a more Socratic teaching style. By asking questions and guiding my players to discover the answers, they are able to learn and retain information more effectively. This approach not only applies to coaching but also extends to parenting. I take the time to educate parents on the principles of effective learning, as it can benefit them in their role as well.

One essential aspect of caring for these young athletes is knowing them by name. Since I have yet to finalize my team, I will be using name tags and fun memorization games to help me connect names to faces on the court. By building personal connections, I can create a more positive and inclusive environment for all players.

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In summary, coaching is about more than just imparting knowledge. It’s about creating an environment where young athletes feel valued and supported. By caring deeply for our players and fostering an environment of guided discovery, we can empower them to become self-sufficient and confident individuals both on and off the court.


FAQs

How can guided discovery benefit young athletes?

Guided discovery allows young athletes to develop problem-solving skills and take ownership of their development. By asking questions and guiding them to discover the answers, coaches can create a more effective learning environment.

How can coaches create a positive and inclusive environment?

Coaches can create a positive and inclusive environment by caring deeply for their players and getting to know them personally. Building personal connections and using fun memorization games can help coaches connect names to faces and create a sense of belonging for all players.

Summary

Caring deeply for young athletes is a fundamental principle in coaching. By embodying this principle and fostering an environment of guided discovery, coaches can empower their players to become self-sufficient and confident individuals. Creating a positive and inclusive environment through personal connections and fun memorization games further enhances the coaching experience. Ultimately, coaching is about more than just imparting knowledge; it’s about creating a space where young athletes feel valued and supported.