Coaching: Sports Psychologist Dr. Alan Goldberg Knows What Makes a Good Coach

A good friend (colleague of mine) and basketball coach at my school, Kris Olson, sent me a nice commentary on “coaching” forwarded to him (and the coaching staff) by our athletic director Randy Konstans. Needless to say, I found the article very appealing and important enough to highlight here, at The Athlete’s Sports Experience.

The piece, “What makes a GOOD COACH?,” was written by Dr. Alan Goldberg and came from his website at competitivedge.com, a sports psychology site dedicated to helping give coaches and athletes a competitive advantage.

It begins with a story of a scholarship DI freshman baseball player who starts out his first season doing exceptionally well, actually beating out some older, more experienced players to make the starting lineup. However, not meeting the expectations of the head coach, pressure is placed upon the young upcoming ball player by that head coach, his assistants, and, eventually, his teammates. Comments are made that place in question the ability of this athlete as he begins to question himself.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the negative approach used to try and inspire even better performance out of this young, budding ball player proved unwise as his performance headed downhill. His efforts eventually lead him to injury, leaving his confidence riddled with doubt.

This story, or one very much like it, plays out all the time where a coach’s feeble attempts to inspire better performance takes athletes, basically, out of the game.

Dr. Goldberg’s piece goes on to list 20 items that he believes help make up what he refers to as a “good coach,” something I completely agree with. Below is the list of those 20 items, however, I would encourage those reading to click on the title link above as the explanations Dr. Goldberg gives for each item are well worth the read.

1 – The very best coaches GET THEIR ATHLETES TO BELIEVE in themselves.

2 – The really effective coaches DO NOT USE EMBARRASSMENT & HUMILIATION AS “TEACHING TOOLS.”

3 – Great coaches are GREAT LIFE TEACHERS.

4 – The best coaches KEEP THE GAME IN PERSPECTIVE.

5 – Great coaches DO NOT LET THEIR EGOS AND SELF-WORTH GET TIED UP IN THE OUTCOME.

6 – Great coaches UNDERSTAND INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN THEIR ATHLETES.

7 – The best coaches COACH THE PERSON, NOT JUST THE ATHLETE.

8 – The best coaches are FLEXIBLE.

9 – The great coaches are GREAT COMMUNICATORS.

10 – Good coaches TAKE THE TIME TO LISTEN TO AND EDUCATE THEIR ATHLETES’ PARENTS.

11 – Good COACHES “WALK THE TALK” WITH THEIR ATHLETES AND PARENTS.

12 – Good coaches KEEP THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT EMOTIONALLY SAFE.

13 – Great coaches CONTINUALLY CHALLENGE THEIR ATHLETES TO DO BETTER AND PUSH THEIR LIMITS.

14 – The best coaches CONTINUALLY CHALLENGE THEMSELVES.

15 – The very best coaches are PASSIONATE ABOUT WHAT THEY DO.

16 – Good coaches are EMPATHIC AND TUNED INTO THE FEELINGS OF THEIR PLAYERS.

17 – Good coaches are HONEST AND CONDUCT THEMSELVES WITH INTEGRITY.

18 – The best coaches MAKE THE SPORT FUN FOR THEIR ATHLETES.

19 – Good coaches are NOT DEFENSIVE IN THEIR INTERACTIONS WITH THEIR PLAYERS OR PARENTS.

20 – Great coaches USE THEIR ATHLETES’ MISTAKES AND FAILURES AS VALUABLE TEACHING OPPORTUNITIES.

Again, I would encourage anyone reading this piece to read through Dr. Goldberg’s detailed explanation of each item above as they bring much clarification to the list of 20 reflective items mentioned. I can assure you, you will not be disappointed.

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