Educational policies in America are rife with contradictions and ironies that make it almost impossible to have a personal coaching philosophy that one can feel comfortable with.
On one hand, school administration directs that a teacher be transactional in the classroom in regard to student learning. What matters to the administration is the students standardized test score at the end of the course, and that is about it. In fact, teacher evaluation (and their job) is now heavily linked to these performance scores.
On the other hand, that same teacher walks a few yards to the locker room and is directed by the supervisors to be a transformational coach in their approach to sport. Relationships must be the focus is the cry. This means that in many school districts, the final score does not really matter, nor does who wins or loses. It is about the “experience” that the athletes have almost exclusively.
So what is the educational experience in either the classroom or on the field on a daily basis? Is it the journey or the destination? The unfortunate answer is that it is all up to the whim of who is supervising that teacher/coach at the moment.
A coaches’ purpose statement (formerly known as an individual coaching philosophy) is not just a catchy little phrase or a fun acronym that ends up on the schools website somewhere. It is, in fact, the compass that a coach uses to guide themselves as they deal with their team each and every day. In reality, an athletic coach has four general duties to perform on a regular basis, and their purpose statement must be common in all of them.
Ensuring the safety of the athletes is clearly a coach’s most important duty. There is little controversy or discussion in regard to safety as long as the school district provides the necessary physical and human resources to administer a safe environment.
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The other three duties vary in importance and priority depending on the time of the training year. These three are: building a team, building a culture within the school around the team, and individual sport specific skill development.
* Coaching Resource: 800M: Successful Coaching Strategies
At any age or skill level, the actual construction of a team passes through four stages as it develops from a collection of individuals to one collective unit. These stages are: forming, storming, norming, and performing. An experienced coach will recognize that no stage can ever be skipped and a varying amount of time needs to be spent on each stage before moving on to the next.
Each team is different. The coach needs to be the one to lead the team through these stages. The road from selfishness to selflessness is difficult for many individuals trying to find a position on a team and patience from the leader is required.
Building a culture within a high school, based around the team, builds self-esteem in teammates and tremendous pride in the team. Both self-esteem and pride are characteristics that are unique to humans and have shown to be a valuable reason for having sports in the first place. The individual abilities of the athletes are not a factor in team culture development in a school.
Team culture is crucial to team success, and among team members earns the sport a “big rock” in the small bucket that they carry around with them each day. The unique culture of the team is learned, and it revolves around the daily experiences that are part of the team each day. Rather than canned sayings, silly analogies from “experts”, and worn-out stories, the culture stays vibrant because of the leadership that the coach slowly passes on to the new student leaders that emerge each year.
Individual skill development is only effective if it is structured as: athlete centered, coach driven, and science based.
As in the classroom, individualized learning is they key. It is up to the coach to find the “go button” for all of their athletes on an individual basis. Look for it, they all have one, and so do you. Training itself must be very specific, specialized, adaptable, progressive, and appropriate.
Training and skill acquisition “teaching” is learned through tireless learning of the scientific research by the coach. It is not found by taking skill advice from parents, fans, a belief system, or from the playbook of a coach in a neighboring school district. The skill development acquisition by the athletes on a team must come from the foundational understandings of the coach of that team. This is an individual statement of purpose. .
In athletics, a coach or athlete need never apologize for wanting to win. Winning is important. Winning and losing has always been a big part of competition in sport, as well as in life and death endeavors for all animals. But, winning in sport is not an end-all either.
Apologies are only required when there is excessive bad conduct in the aftermath of either winning or losing. A coach should teach the “athletic lifestyle”, and exhibit it themselves. Among other things, this helps minimize these nasty aftermath winning and losing scenes that are frequently seen. It also puts a premium on the journey and allows the destination to take care of itself.
* Additional Resource: Every 800m – 1600m Workout For The Entire High School Season
A coach must keep the concept of team in perspective, as it is not a family, and teammates do not love one another. That is not the role of a team, even if an athlete unfortunately has no family. Coaches should not compare the team with a family, nor should a classroom teacher.
Coaching purpose statements cannot be written down as a single sentence or paragraph, nor can the answer to “why we play? or why we coach?”, be answered in such a way. It is a much more complicated concept than that, with a premium placed on experience and continuing education.
Unfortunately, these concepts are commonly ignored today by most school and state administrators, so most coaching purpose statements remain incomplete, unfinished, and sadly, worthless.