For a coach to earn the respect of the players on his team, especially if working with young or teenage athletes, he must embrace several principles throughout every encounter and interaction that he may have with one or all of the members on the team. These principles are pivotal to the coach’s success in enlisting the players’ attention, engaging their active participation and entrusting them to always strive to give their best efforts in any practice or game. Through each principle, the players become more motivated and enthusiastic about the “sports experience”.
Principle 1: The Players Come First
The first foundational building block needed to earn the respect of your players; the coach must make it clear to his players, and to himself, that the players come first…not the coach. The coach is there to serve them and to guide them to become better soccer players on the field, and better people off the field. The players need to see that every choice or decision that the coach makes is for the benefit of each soccer player and the whole team. That he is simply trying to choose what is in the best interest of the team and its players.
Principle 2: Each Player Has Strengths
Second, the coach needs to use this sports experience to help each player identify his or her personal strengths and qualities, and how they can be used to help the individual player grow as an athlete and competitor as well as making a significant contribution to the overall “welfare” and success of the team. The coach must be careful not to simply pour all his praise on the athlete who scores the most points but acknowledges and celebrates all the different contributions that many of the players will make to the team – whether it be in their enthusiasm, mentoring, commitment to practice, intensity, being the best backup player, etc. Every player will be recognized for being an important part of the team. The message is that a team can’t win with just one or two players – all the players are needed to be successful.
Principle 3: Every Player Has Potential
Next, the coach will challenge each player to enlarge his or her perspective of oneself, and to begin to see, and believe in, a bigger picture of oneself as an athlete. It’s all about expanding how a player sees him or herself in the sense of starting to acknowledge and expect more from oneself, and that he or she is more than capable of learning and becoming a better player. The coach will help this player to ask questions which will motivate and inspire him or her to want to try new things and meet new challenges.
Principle 4: Sports Can Empower a Player’s Personal Life
Fourth, the coach is to help the players look at the “sports experience” as more than simply winning or losing games. The players will learn to measure their growth and success as an athlete in their development not only on the field but also how they can use what they learned in sports to lead a more successful and fulfilling personal life. They will learn how to set goals, visualize success and effectively overcome any failures and challenges that they may face.
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