Make An Example Of Yourself


By Shaleek Blackburn

When most athletic leaders and coaches think about coaching abuse, they may forget about the most critical tool they have at their disposal to avoid it: communication. Strong communication, says Mike Zimmerman, Leadership and Administration professor of the Masters of Coaching and Athletic Administration (MCAA) program at Concordia University Irvine, is the best tool athletic leaders have when it comes to setting an example and avoiding coaching abuse.

“If a coach wants to get a point across, but is not a good communicator, they risk being misquoted at best, misunderstood at worst,” says Zimmerman, an athletic director at Newport Harbor High School. This, he says, can lead coaches to taking undue abuse from parents, teachers and student-athletes. “Honest, positive and direct communication is an important part of any relationship, especially in sports. It can de nitely alleviate potential problems,” suggests Zimmerman. In addition, if coaches are not careful, tough tactics can quickly turn into taunting. In order to successfully prevent verbal abuse, coaches should always keep their criticisms and comments focused on the game, not the players, Zimmerman says.

“Don’t lob personal attacks,” he says. “When you say someone is stupid, that’s personal.” Instead, Zimmerman says, let the student athlete know how you feel about what they did, how they performed. Constructive criticism always wins, says Zimmerman. “Lead with something positive; build up, don’t tear down so the player doesn’t feel bullied, threatened or attacked.”

A simple way coaches can prevent negative experiences with their teams is to continue developing as professional leaders, says Zimmerman. “The more knowledge obtained by coaches, the more they understand their roles and how it impacts their teams and student athletes,” advises Zimmerman. In addition to programs like the MCAA, athletic leaders can get training through organizations such as the National Federation of State High School Associations. “The more education coaches get, the more well-rounded and understanding they become,” says Zimmerman.

3 Tips For Avoiding Coaching Abuse

Take Stock

Find out how student athletes and their parents feel about your program and procedures; take an anonymous survey each season.

Set Protocol

Make sure your players know who to address their concerns to and how to report them; the chain should start with the coach.

Never Stop Learning

Understand that your players are always learning from you; stress “we” not “me” and set a tone of humility and respect.

Tags: coaching, sports, leadership

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