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Building Confidence Lies in the Coach’s Approach


The best coaches teach more than “how to play”!

With young athletes, things go one of two ways; they fall in love with their sport, or they’ll quit. Sports are funny like that. Sometimes that has to do with the sport itself, but more often, it comes down to the coach. Too often, coaches are viewed simply as the people who teach children “how.” But truth be told, that “how,” while important, is small in comparison to the real job of building young people.

Competitive sports are a beautiful thing!

They provide opportunities for kids to test themselves, build relationships and earn a sense of pride. Done right, they teach a basic foundation confidence and character. Put the wrong coach in the mix, that foundation doesn’t form.  Put the right coach in place and your child will blossom; the sport becoming simply the vehicle to all-out personal growth and achievement. So what do “the right” coaches do? For starters, they won’t try to tell an athlete what they feel, or to “get over it”, when having a bad practice or game. Good coaches guide the journey by listening and empathizing, so that the athlete can shift past their current view in their own time.

A good coach won’t just “tell” athletes to try again; they motivate them to want to. Skills take time to master and on the way to mastery, comes many mistakes. To earn success, the athlete must persist. Good coaches will help foster that fierceness to continue.

While we certainly want to celebrate a win, great coaches know that “success” is a loosely defined term. Athletes succeed every day – even when they lose a meet, or fall during their tumbling pass. In the course of that loss, they undoubtedly showed countless mastered skills. They showed moxie by getting in front of a crowd. They showed confidence with how they presented themselves. They showed resiliency in getting back up and carrying on. They demonstrated growth in the skills shown, and how they related to and supported their teammates. And they showed progress. They may not have “aced” it – but they succeeded in so many other ways. Great coaches celebrate each of the successes along the journey – not just the “destination.” And in doing so, they build confidence in the athlete, and character that will last through a lifetime.

In coaching, building skills is certainly vital…but it pales in comparison to the real task; of building confident young people.

Editorial by Natalie Vonlanthen – she is the owner of PCT Cheer and Tumble, and has worked with thousands of young women and men in her 30+ years of coaching.

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