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Attitude from the Top Down

Attitude from the Top Down

A coach presenting a positive attitude during the parents meeting and the first few interactions with the players will set the tone for the rest of the season. It will be a direct indicator of how he will handle the players, what he will and won’t accept and will be a strong support for his season long goals.

It’s extremely important for a coach to have a positive attitude and good conversations with the parents. The parents want to know who they are entrusting their child with and it’s as much about how you will handle yourself as a leader as it is your competency on the dry erase board regarding X’s and O’s.

The coach must be the personality model for his players as the team will often take on the personality of the coach. That may sound crazy, but it’s true. By midseason, I often saw my players imitate certain mannerisms and sayings displayed by our coaching staff.  Sometimes even cracking my “dad jokes.”  But this is especially true in difficult and challenging situations as the players will revert to what they have experienced to be successful – and they can’t go wrong if they do what they think the coach would do. Make sure those mannerisms and sayings are ones you want your kids to repeat.

Here are my 4 Keys for Creating a Positive Attitude Among Players:

#Develop an Attitude of Praise

Celebrating a player’s efforts by letting her know she tried hard and you’re proud of her can go a long way in fostering a positive climate.  There are lessons to be taught in winning and losing, successes and failures. Remember, a yelling coach will create deaf ears, and a coach that constantly yells at his players has nothing to escalate to.  

#Avoid Negativity 

Coaches’ negative behaviors affect athletes’ performance by causing low-expectancy performers to perform more poorly because of less reinforcement, less playing time and obviously less confidence. When a coach focuses on the negatives, the players will immediately feel failure. When the coach accentuates the positives, players will feel success. My high school coach once told me that if I’m not making mistakes, I’m not doing anything. His point was that it’s our responsibility as coaches to teach every kid what is correct and empower them to go out and give their best effort. When you show negativity to a player, even if you hope it motivates her to improve, little by little it will eat away at her confidence, and therefore, her decisiveness.

#Stress the Positives

Effective coaches understand that success is not always measured by wins and losses. Success can be the freshman that always struggles with shooting form, connect a solid strike on net. It could be measured by the senior defender that put in extra time after practice learning how to slide tackle execute a clean and timely tackle on an attacker in a game.  My point is confidence is a learned action. When coaches stress the positives, we are cultivating self-confidence. When coaches continue to provide players opportunities and a positive climate needed for self-confidence to thrive, players become unstoppable.

#Apply Positive Discipline

The key to positive discipline is not punishment, but highlighting the positive actions the player could have taken, ensuring to show that she is capable of taking them, and reinforcing the effects if she had taken those actions. For example, take the two players messing around waiting between sets on a drill. A coach approaches them and says, “Hey you two. Did you take notice to the rest of the players watching the drill. You two can do the same thing… And in doing so, you gain mental repetitions and use that to make yourselves better.  Then, you’ll be the ones with your names called on game day.” Coaches can be both firm (ensure your intent and expectations are clearly stated prior to the action) and kind (positive and supportive when desired actions or attitudes are shown), with the ultimate goal of self-discipline and no loss of confidence from the player. This will reinforce social skills in a manner that is directly applicable to on and off the field discipline, as well as a good player/coach relationship.

Coaches, please don’t feel that constantly being positive is a sign of weakness. Coaches should always remain firm and strong with their actions and outlook. By keeping a positive beat and championing a positive climate each day, coaches will improve players self-confidence and produce a shared identity among the team.  Confidence is the key to their success and YOURS! The more your kids WANT to play for you, the less you will have to MAKE them play for you.