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Influential Sports Coaches

A Sports Coach Should Also Be a Mentor

From humble aquatic beginnings at my local Swim Club and then subsequently through my many years of training up and down that black line in preparation for swimming for Australia, I was fortunate enough to be coached by two gentleman who, apart from their obvious contribution to my success as a swimmer, were wonderful mentors who had a huge impact on my development as a person outside the pool.

As an amateur swimmer, my fondest memories are of the positive atmosphere my first swim coach provided. Mr Johns taught through a process of encouragement; realising that young swimmers participate mainly for enjoyment and that winning constitutes only a small part of teaching a child sport. In the athletic arena, be that in the pool or on a field, coaches have a responsibility that extends beyond the provision of a safe environment in which to place their charges in age- or ability-based groups and the implementation of a suitably appropriate program.

The Role of a Swimming Coach is Much More Than Just Teaching Technique

Most people associate the success of a coach primarily with the technical or racing aspects of their sport. However, the success of a coach should also be determined by their dedication and ability to effectively provide a program for youngsters that will enable them to learn the value of striving to improve themselves; not just whilst participating, but outside the playing field too. This means providing a positive experience for all young people; not just the “stand-outs”, and ensuring that each person is provided with equal opportunity and attention. All participants need, and indeed deserve, equal time to ensure they reach their full potential.

Within a sporting environment, a junior coach should strive to create a structured atmosphere – one where their charges are empowered to think of consequences, and to problem solve and make decisions. Positive relationships with the coach, other participants, parents and officials can be nurtured through the effective communication and mutual respect attributable to the guidelines set by the coach, and the fair and positive behaviour as exemplified by the coach.

Another important element of good coaching is a capacity to interact with youngsters when guidance is needed; and to be disapproving without being personally critical or losing respect in the process. Increasingly, coaches at the grass roots level are required to deal with ethical issues such as bullying and sportsmanship, and a good coach is able to handle such issues effectively and sensitively.

While the success of a sports program is constantly monitored on the basis of performance and results, there is good argument for looking outside the competitive arena, and by that I mean the influence of the coach, to judge the success of the sports program. Responsibility, trust, competence, respect, honesty, professionalism, equity and sportsmanship all can be learned through Junior Sport, and a coach that demonstrates all these attributes will exert a powerful influence over a young sports person in a way that extends beyond the training time and competition results.

© 2010 Julia Ham/Hampton Swim School Pty Ltd