Coaching is a challenging job. You need to be a teacher and strategist and organizer and motivational speaker all wrapped up in one.
I wouldn’t say that all coaches value the same things equally, but I’d say the vast majority think the following 13 characteristics are important.
We coaches are constantly working to be better. I can tell you that I feel I’m strong in some of these areas but weak in others. It’s difficult if not impossible to nail all 13, and it’s also why it’s so critical for head coaches to have assistant coaches who complement their strengths and weaknesses.
We aren’t perfect. We strive to be better. But these 13 areas highlight the coach we want to be…
The coach we want to be is organized.
A disorganized coach is behind the eight-ball from the start. When is practice? Where is it? What tournaments are we playing in? Are they paid for? Where are we getting our uniforms?
There are so many things that a coach needs to keep track of behind the scenes. If you aren’t organized, it impacts everybody.
The coach we want to be is prepared.
He has a plan for the practice, game, or tournament. The opponents, whom he’s researched, impact his decisions. He plans out lineups and where players will be in the field. He has a strategy for managing pitchers’ innings. He knows the rules of the tournament and how they impact his plans.
The coach we want to be is knowledgable.
He understands the game. He knows all of the little details that most people don’t. He knows what he doesn’t know. If he isn’t sure about something, he researches it to make sure that he knows it.
When he has disagreements with an umpire, it’s because he’s read the rules and knows how they are applied. He has experience, information, and resources that can be shared with players to help them better understand the game.
The coach we want to be is strategic.
An effective coach pushes the right buttons. He puts players in position to succeed. He manages without over-managing. He develops gameplans that his players execute to give the team the best chance for success.
The coach we want to be is calm.
In order for players to be calm under pressure, a coach needs to set the same example. A bad call or poor execution isn’t the end of the world. He watches his body language and doesn’t freak out over mistakes and missed opportunities.
He’s calm. He goes about his business in the big game and the small game like there’s little difference. That calmness rubs off on his players.
The coach we want to be is fair.
You may not agree with his lineup or who plays where, but he’s fair in how he decides roles and responsibilities. Players earn their time. He treats the star player the same way that he treats the weakest player; his son the same as everyone else.
Rules are clearly communicated, and he enforces them evenly and consistently. He plays no favorites. Expectations and punishments are reasonable.
The coach we want to be is a communicator.
An effective coach communicates expectations clearly with parents. He communicates verbally and via email in ways that are easy to understand.
Most importantly, he can communicate with his players. He can get important thoughts across when explaining the how and why of baseball. This is where a coach is also a teacher. Complex ideas are easily explained and understood.
The coach we want to be is motivational.
He’s able to remain positive when times are tough. He not only communicates well but in a way that inspires his players. When they’re down, he picks them back up. He’s able to get the most out of them during the most difficult times. He always seems to have the right words to say that will get results and action from his players.
The coach we want to be is impactful.
We want to make a difference in the lives of our players. We want them to learn about life in addition to baseball. We want this time to inspire them to be great. We want them to look back on their time with our team fondly, and to tell stories of their time playing baseball for years to come.
The coach we want to be is approachable.
Our goal isn’t to scare our players into action. We don’t want them to fear us. While it’s important they have respect for us, we also want them to feel comfortable approaching us with questions, problems, and concerns.
The coach we want to be is an example.
The expectations we have of players and parents are reasonable. We model good behavior, positivity, and sportsmanship.
We know that we have the power to set an example, and that example can be positive or negative, for how players and parents behave. If we complain about the umpires, others will. If we freak out when things aren’t going well, others will freak out. If we exhibit bad sportsmanship, we give others to do the same.
Likewise, if we remain calm under pressure, others will. If we congratulate our opponents, our team will do the same. If we behave as role models, we’ll set the proper tone for others to follow.
The coach we want to be is adaptable.
We aren’t stuck in our ways. We see when an approach isn’t working and we try something else. We adapt to different environments, levels of play, and expectations.
But we also adapt to different learning styles and personalities. If we want to get the most out of our players, we understand that every player is unique and accepts feedback, instruction, and criticisms differently. Instead of demanding they adjust to us, we need to adjust to them.
The coach we want to be is fun.
Ultimately, baseball is a game. It’s not life or death. We want our players to keep that perspective. For them to do that, it’s important that the coach makes these things clear.
We want to help our players be their best while helping them have fun playing this awesome game. Sometimes that means having a sense of humor, highlighting the lighter side, and not taking everything so seriously.
These are the 13 things that I think of when I think about the coach that I want to be. I can tell you first hand that I’m not a motivational speaker. I’m not as calm as I want to be. I may not be as approachable as I want to be. And I’m not even as fun as I’d like to be. These, in particular, are things that I’m working on!
It’s also important that we accept that we have our own weaknesses, and that’s okay. I have amazing assistant coaches who fill in all of my gaps, and I’m lucky to have them!
Anything else you’d add to this list? What are you working on as a coach?
Let me know in the comments below!