Aug 10, 2018
Setting the Tone

When it comes to sports, having the right environment can mean the difference between a winning or losing season. But that environment can also be negatively affected by the smallest thing, including a player not following rules or multiple athletes not living up to expectations. To keep this from happening, it is essential that a coach creates and emphasizes the right environment throughout the season, and even in the offseason.

How can coaches make sure that they are creating the right kind of environment? In a blog for his website John M. Cissik, MS, CSCS, gives a few pointers on how to meet this responsibility. First, Cissik stresses the importance of teaching athletes your expectations. That includes taking some time to talk athletes through these requirements and making sure that they are completely understood. Athletes should be held to these standards throughout the season, and should be redirected if necessary. When they don’t live up to these standards, coaches need to hold their players accountable.

“A few thoughts here,” writes Cissik. “First, everyone needs to be treated the same. This means your stars, this means your starters, and this also means the kids that have no chance of making the team — everyone needs to be coached and treated the same. Second, if it is an expectation then there needs to be consequences for not meeting them. It could be as small as a redirection…or as major as sitting out games.”

Next, Cissik recommends that coaches model, teach, and reinforce important character traits. Many coaches use sports to help their athletes learn life lessons, which includes how to act when they leave school and enter the real world. One of the best ways to do this, is for the coach to act the way that they expect their athletes to. However, Cissik does explain the importance of talking with your players and teaching them what you expect, then modeling it.

“For example, we all preach the value of team (provided we’re coaching in team sports),” he writes. “But, if we’re the coach that is constantly looking for the next bigger job and jumping ship every few years, we’re not interested in team — we’re interested in our own star. That makes it difficult to sell the team first concept to young adults who are great at spotting this kind of hypocrite.”

Along with teaching accountability and character, part of creating the right environment is also teaching sport specific skills. According to Cissik, this means making sure that each athlete understands the fundamentals. But Cissik does recommend taking the previous steps first, as this will help to create athletes who are open to your teaching and excited to learn. Last, Cissik explains that coaches should set and follow a predictable routine for their athletes to follow before both practices and games.

“Predictable routines are important for putting athletes at ease in tense situations so they can be successful,” writes Cissik. “You have to establish these in practice, waiting until the championship game to put it into place will be a disaster. These routines help athletes to be successful and know what’s going on no matter the location, how big the stage is, or how loud/hostile the crowd is.”

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