Many coaches think that words are their number one coaching tool. These coaches honestly think that their players learn most and best by talking to them. But this is a thinking mistake. A mistake also often made by parents when raising children. Everyone who is a parent knows that children are influenced more by their parents’ behavior than by their words. Obviously, they learn something from what their parents tell them, but how they see their parents behave in different situations is a much bigger influence on their development.
Players copy behavior of a coach
The same goes for the relationship between coaches and players. The behavior of the coach will determine most of the perception that a player has of his coach. Therefore, coaches should be role models for their players. This means that a coach should set the right example if he expects his players to be on time, to pay attention when he speaks, to not play with their phones during meetings, to clear up their mess in the dressing room, et cetera. If a coach wants his players to behave in a certain way, the coach should behave in that way himself first. The coach determines where the bar is and the players will unconsciously copy this behavior.
Coaches do not practice what they preach
This all sounds very simple and straight forward. However, many football coaches around the world struggle to practice what they preach. For example, during coaching courses coaches often show the type of behavior they would never ever accept from their players. In the morning at the start of the course they arrive too late, during the sessions they frequently stare at their mobile phone as they fear to miss out on a text message or phone call, they are talking in the back of the room during presentations and leave a huge mess in the classroom afterwards. In other words, these coaches have double standards. If their players behave like this, they would have an opinion about these players and probably even punish them.
Players will expose the coaches’ double standards
What these coaches do not understand is that if they show this behavior during a coaching course, they might also unconsciously behave like this at their club, without even knowing it themselves. If a coach struggles to practice what he preaches, sooner or later his players will find out. And once the coach has been exposed, players will take the coach less seriously because of this, which results in less effective coaching. So, coaches with double standards are their own worst enemy. Change your players, start by changing yourself. Unfortunately, many coaches still behave like a player. This results in a football world with poor standards and a relatively low bar.
Become conscious of unconscious patterns
The only way to solve this problem is for the coach to frequently reflect on his own behavior. Am I practicing what I am preaching? With the help of this self-reflection a coach will become aware of his own habits in certain situations. The coach will become conscious of his unconscious patterns. Ideally, the coach also has one or more staff members who are able to show him the mirror if necessary. This way, the coach does not only rely on his self-reflection.
What message would you like to give to future adults?
Developing self-awareness is one of the fundamental characteristics if one wants to become a successful coach. Based on this self-awareness the coach can either improve his patterns or at least avoid situations in which he struggles to show the desired behavior. But more importantly, the coach owes it to his players to improve as a role model. Especially youth coaches should be aware that their behavior is not only unconsciously influencing their players, but also children who are on their way to becoming adults. How does the coach want his youth players to behave in the future after they have become adults?