Chances are, every single athlete you coach will earn a living doing something other than playing sports. Regardless of the profession they eventually choose, having good character and leadership skills will be a must in their professional career. As a coach, realize that your job not only consists of teaching your athletes the game, it also includes teaching athletes skills they will use outside of the sports area.
I have heard people discuss, and have seen articles debating whether sports reveals character or develops character. Most of those arguments take one side or another. I see no reason why it has to be an absolute on either side. My research and experiences indicate that sport can both reveal and develop character.
Sport reveals character through the various situations an athlete encounters during practices and games. Regardless of the sport you coach, you have seen the player who you thought would rise to the challenge crumble under pressure, or blame others when times get tough. Likewise, we have also been surprised by the one athlete who we consider to be “gamer.” This is the player who never fully showed their true positive characteristics and leadership skills until they faced adversity in competition. These situations show you and the athlete where their strengths and weaknesses in character and leadership lie.
In addition to revealing an athlete’s character, participating in sports allows them an opportunity to work on character deficiencies and enhance character and leadership strengths. Sports are the perfect forum to develop these characteristics under pressure in an environment where the consequences for failure are minimal.
For many coaches being a role model who can effect an athlete’s development as a person is a very daunting task. The single most important factor in how your athletes develop character will be your behavior as a coach. It does absolutely no good to tell your athletes to behave in on manner when you do something completely opposite.
Negative characteristics your athletes will mimic
- Arguing with officials
- Bad sportsmanship
- Placing blame on uncontrollable factors such as officials, weather, field contions or bad luck
- Blaming one play or player for the outcome of a game
- Tying self worth/self confidence to wins and losses
- Berating or talking bad about others (opposing coaches, players, parents ,officials)
- Breaking or even "bending" rules in the name of winning
Avoiding these negative behaviors will set a good example for your athletes, and will give them a positive role model to mimic. Regardless of your team’s wins and losses, if you are able to help athletes develop positive traits and leadership skills, your season will be a success.