The Most Important Quality of a Coach
Hands down is this: enthusiasm.
This isn’t just my own observation. There are piles of academic research that back up the claim that great teachers share the quality of enthusiasm. And, in fact, Hal Urban, a noted and respected educator, listed enthusiasm as the first quality in his book Lessons from the Classroom: 20 Things Good Teachers Do.
Stop and think about your own school or athletic experience. Which teachers and coaches most stand out in your mind as the ones who made a difference?
If you are like most people, I am guessing you would be thinking of teachers and coaches who were actively interested in what they were doing, who enjoyed and were even excited by what they were teaching and who were devoted to their jobs. In other words: enthusiastic.
Sure, enthusiastic can evoke the instructor who is perpetually perky and only gives out praise, and while doling out plenty of positive feedback is a part of enthusiasm it isn’t really what the word means. Actually, the word itself is from the Greek enthousiasmos, from enthousiazein to be inspired.
Good teachers and coaches have a quality that inspires others.
There are three parts to enthusiasm that coaches can consider when they are working toward developing their own enthusiasm:
- Enthusiasm for kids. You have to like your athletes. Maybe not every moment of every day, but overall you have to like working with kids and helping them achieve their potential.
- Enthusiasm for what they are teaching. Coaches need to want to be coaches and need to be proud of what they do as a career, even if they are just doing this career for a short time while they are in school or transition. They need to love gymnastics and respect whatever level of gymnastics that they are teaching.
- Enthusiasm for where they are teaching it. Coaches should love the gym at which they are working. It is hard to be enthusiastic if you disagree with the club’s philosophy or dislike those with whom you are coaching.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.” And, as the greatest coach in history, John Wooden said, “Kids don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
Absolutely keep learning technique, study up on child development, implement great workout plans, but please do not forget to bring your enthusiasm!