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What makes the perfect coach?

by Archives October 26, 2005

HAMILTON (CUP) — Is there such a thing as the perfect coach? Is it possible for someone who manages a group of competitive athletes to be all things to all people? The Silhouette set out to interview as many varsity athletes as possible to find out what players want from their leaders. As the Sil found out, being the perfect “players’ coach” isn’t necessarily just being friendly with your athletes.

THE ESSENTIALS

Trust, respect, communication. Those words popped up more often than any other term when the most important characteristics of a good coach were discussed. Athletes said they needed to feel as if the coach has their best intentions at heart, and that only team goals are being considered.

“I find I respond best to a coach who I can respect because he respects me in return, and allows me to maintain my own personality within the team structure,” said football safety Matt Green.

“The more your players respect you, the more they’ll listen, and the harder they’ll work for you,” said baseball outfielder Symon Caverly.

“If you can establish trust between the athlete and the coach, where the athlete understands that the coach is working in his or her best interests, the coach will be successful,” former baseball player Andy Steeds said.

Most coaches these days know that trust and respect are keys to a healthy, successful team. The more challenging task for them is to build that trust and respect each season. The answer to that riddle is different for every team.

THE ‘BUILDING BLOCKS’

“Every team and every coach is different and has their own unique personality,” graduating baseball player Phil Stone said. “But there are some common building blocks to each successful coach — and knowledge of the game is the most important one.”

As Stone said, most players maintained that coaches must have an intricate knowledge of their sport. Players agreed that having a history of winning plays an important role, but that the idea of having a coach who used to play at a high level can be overrated.

“I don’t necessarily respect (coaches with experience) more, but I do feel they understand what we go through as players more,” said former basketball player John Obrovac. “I’ve had coaches like Steve Maga who’s been successful at every level he’s ever played at. But I’ve also had coaches like Andrew Sergi and Jeff Joseph who haven’t played at the university level, but who are great coaches in their own way because of their great knowledge and motivational skills.”

“I know a lot of great players who would not make good coaches,” said basketball player Ben Katz. “The fact is all good coaches are similar in that they can get the best out of their athletes regardless of who they are.”

As Katz said, players respect coaches that get the best of their athletes. And as Mac’s varsity players told the Sil, how each coach goes about maximizing their team’s potential can be very different.

‘STYLE IS OVERRATED’

While some players said they did not respond to the more aggressive style of coaching, where yelling and challenging a player is commonplace, most said results are what matters.

“I think at the university level it’s up to the player to respond to any style,” Obrovac said. “Style is overrated, and as varsity athletes, we should be mature enough to realize that no matter what the coaches are like, they are only there to help the team.”

Obrovac also said that coaches who were tough on him got the best response because, “I’m a competitive person, and when I get challenged, I take it personal.”

Many athletes agreed that sometimes the style used depends on a variety of factors, including the age of the athletes and the sport being played.

“The style of sport being played makes a huge difference,” football player Jesse Lumsden said. “You want a hard-ass in hard-ass sports. It goes along with the mentality of the game.”

Lumsden’s teammate, Green, agreed with that point, but said that the style has its limits. “Fire and brimstone has its place in pre-game speeches, but keeping cool when everyone else is losing their head is essential to being a great coach,” Green said. “Older, more elite athletes need, and can handle, the occasional wakeup call. However, tirades can lose their effect if they become a regular routine. They can quickly transform a demanding coach to a demeaning coach.”

‘THE UNIVERSITY LEVEL’

After discussing the qualities of a perfect coach, many interviewees acknowledged that university sport is a strange level for coaches to find themselves.

“At university, you are expected to become independent, and more of an adult in all facets of your life,” Katz said. “So it can be difficult sometimes to go from that to getting yelled at for making a bad pass.”

“Team sports at any level are extremely dynamic, but especially at the university level where you have people living on their own for the first time in their life, and experiencing a bunch of new things,” Green said. “A coach at this level must be aware of the chemistry of their squad and be able to slightly alter his or her style to best suit the team.”

And essentially, what Green and Katz just mentioned is the basis of what most respondents were trying to convey. There is no model for a perfect coach. University athletes just want a trusted leader who can adapt to any situation, and who treats them like the young adult they are becoming.

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