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Coaching 101: 4 Ways to Promote Leadership - by Sarah Daren

From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Sarah Daren is a featured writer on the Today Show website and has been a consultant for organizations across a number of industries including athletics, health and wellness, technology and education. When she's not caring for her children or watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.

Sarah Daren
Sarah Daren

Interscholastic and youth coaches have always had additional "off the court" responsibilities to their team. Along with athletic lessons, coaches build and support their athletes' moral core which affects how they play the game, and live their life. Youth and high school athletes are in some of their most impressionable years, and you can coach them towards their most successful path. A coach is a leader, and your leadership can nurture future leaders through playing the game.

Maybe you can't play basketball at the same speed younger athletes can, but you can exemplify sportsmanship and a positive attitude. They are looking for a role model, and, as coach, you are perfectly placed to be that influence. You can teach them how to play through your words, and how to live through your actions. The term coach and leader could be used synonymously, but not all coaches exemplify leadership virtues. If you are uncertain how to be a true leader and coach, then read the following four tips and implement them in your coaching strategy.

(1) Talk the Talk AND Walk the Walk

Successful coaches use every method of communication available to reach their kids. Occasionally the only way to coach basketball is through a whiteboard, discussion, and repetition. However, there are many opportunities to teach through your approach and response to challenges. For example, the team is going to imitate your communication style. Communication between the team, the officials, and the opponent is a major component of sportsmanship - the respect to others in and out of the game.

The best opportunities to "walk the walk" is when an official makes a call you don't agree with or when the opponent is winning. It's easy to get frustrated and lose patience because you care so much, but how you lose is as/more important than how you win. This very fact is the key difference between being a true leader and simply a manager or coach. The basketball team will learn how to healthily convey their distress and frustration by observing your respect of official decisions and the opponent. Additionally, the parents and fans will follow your example which builds your basketball team's reputation.

Keith Haske - coach and leader

(2) Volunteer by Officiating

Outside of competition, it's important to invest your time and passion for basketball back into the athletic community. Recently there has been a significant drop in high school athletic officials, diminishing the opportunity for interested athletes to play. Along with poor pay, interscholastic officials are claiming poor treatment as a primary reason for the decrease in officials. 85.7% have stated they will quit as well if the abuse continues. Respect needs to be rediscovered, and you can spearhead that movement in your community and in your team by working as an interscholastic referee.

Whether for a youth basketball group or another sport altogether, volunteering your time to young athletes is fulfilling, helpful, and sets a good example. When you join the ranks of athletic officials, it ties the competitive community closer together which decreases rude or negative treatment. Without officials, competitive athletics would suffer, and less athletes would have an opportunity to learn about leadership on the court.

(3) Designate Responsibility to Encourage Balance

One of the best ways to promote leadership within your team is give each athlete real responsibilities to help balance out team dynamics. Some born-leaders may jump for opportunity, but a successful coach provides the opportunity to every player. Sometimes they just need a little push. Whether it is putting equipment away, leading stretches, or acting as captain, young basketball players will step up to their duties and learn responsibility.

High school athletes are hungry to prove themselves, and their growth into future leaders is more important than a victory. Yet sometimes athletes may get so hungry to prove themselves that they burn out or become extremely stressed. This is where the balancing of dynamics will be key. By designating responsibilities, some kids will not feel pressed to take care of responsibilities all the time, both on and off the field. Leaders can also encourage balance through by telling players to take the necessary time to rest off the field. This time of rest, be it ice baths or massages, can be very essential for healing and remaining sharp on the field.

(4) Leaders, NOT Managers

This tip should be easy to understand, but may be challenging to implement. Leading and managing are similar in that they make large decisions, organize a group of people, and help them pursue a common goal. The difference lies in conveyance. Managers dictate and instruct, while leaders listen and explain. Leaders believe in positive reinforcement and respecting the team's thoughts. Managers rely on their title and don't acknowledge the team's feelings or thoughts.

If you are a genuine leader, the team will naturally gravitate towards you and respect your thoughts. They may listen to a managerial style of coaching, but it's only surface and based off a title. Successful basketball coaches focus on leading young athletes and molding them into future leaders. An athlete that is wholly-balanced will go further than one coached by someone only intent on the athletic components.

Articles by Sarah Daren