Eight key qualities that coaches should strive to instill in all their players

4/27/2009

Those who coach youth sports have a deep and abiding affection for the game. They also want their players to love the sport, have fun and hopefully achieve some success.

But beyond that, youth sports coaches aspire to help build character in the young people in their care, and to build a team that plays hard, but fair. As coaches take on the responsibility of educating players on their team, they should strive to develop athletes into true team players.

True team players may not always be the most talented or naturally gifted players, but they make your team better by their sheer presence. Here are some qualities, attributes, characteristics and behavior patterns you want to have on your team:
 
Positive attitude – It’s an easy term to throw out there, but more than ever in a generation filled with bulging egos and self-interest, a positive attitude – toward others and your team – is critically important. What are tell-tale signs of a good or bad attitude in a young athlete?
• Does the player listen, or does he/she ignore input from coaches?
• Does the player have a strong work ethic all over the field?
• Does he/she have the ability to self-reflect, to really look at themselves in the mirror and see when they are not performing the way they should?
• Does the individual accept constructive criticism?
• Does the player work on their shortcomings, or only focus on the things they like to do or are good at?
 
Good work ethic – The willingness to work hard to improve your skills is vital. Does being a diligent worker make a youngster a great team player? Not if he doesn’t associate with and respect his fellow players. Being a good teammate and team player is not necessarily being the most popular, but it can include setting important examples, especially in terms of work ethic.
 
Picking up and supporting a fellow player when they are down – The player you are looking for can identify when a teammate is struggling, needs a pat on the back and a shot of confidence.
 
Helping other/younger players – The great team player senses when a younger player is struggling, uncomfortable or anxious. She will spend some time with the younger player, talk with them, make them realize they are a part of the team, and generally include them in team activities.
 
Showing genuine happiness when others succeed – This is hard for most of us as adults, so it is quite an expectation for us to have of a young athlete. It can be particularly challenging for a player to find joy in the success of his teammates, but if he can, it is a wonderful gift to share. The coach who identifies a lot of players who can do this will have a strong team, on and off the field.
 
“I’ll play anywhere, coach” – Most every coach loves the player who is versatile, can play different positions and accepts tough roles. Often, part of being a good team player is being the kind of player that a coach can count on to embrace sometimes low-profile but difficult assignments. If you can find players with the willingness to take on different tasks, you’ll be doing well.
 
Humility – Genuine humility is difficult to find, at any age. Human nature being what it is, we all have pride. However, developing a truly humble attitude is a wonderful trait in a young athlete. To take pride in working toward or achieving a goal is generally a healthy thing. Players should be reminded that few, if any, athletes accomplish things totally on their own. You usually need helpful and supportive parents, excellent coaches, and teammates who also strive to be better, as part of one’s support system.

A focus on fitness
– There is more to being a good athlete than technical skills. There is no question that if a young person wants to be an elite athlete, they need to get into outstanding physical condition. Is your potential player willing to adopt healthy practices on their own, such as eating a balanced diet and practicing in the off-season?

   Michael Langlois contributed this article. He is the founder of Prospect Communications Inc., and the author of the book, “How Well Do You Communicate? A Guide to Better Communication with Players and Parents for Minor (Youth) Soccer Coaches.”

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