What is Truly Important as a Coach?

By Phil Barnes, Assistant Coach, University of North Carolina @uncwlax

What is truly important as a coach in day to day activities?

If you search the website LinkedIn, many college coaches have profiles, brief resumes and their developed skills/abilities listed. In the “Skills” section, most skills listed resemble those of a Lacrosse Operations Director.

Courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications
          Photo courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications.

For a coach to be truly successful, the “Skills” section should resemble those of a teacher, motivator, psychologist and sociologist. If a coach’s primary focus is running the multitude of day to day operational details of a team/program/organization, the coach and team will not reach their full potential on or off the field. This is a common mistake many coaches make or have made at one time or another – myself included. It is an extremely easy trap to fall into!

Too much time is often spent on managing the day to day operations rather than working on what is truly important. In no particular order of priority or preference the following is a list of thoughts and observations to think about.

  • Building authentic relationships with the team leaders. Team leaders help to disseminate your philosophies and vision to the other players.
  • Facilitating authentic and trusting relationships amongst team members i.e. team dynamics off the field and on the field. Team members can’t act one way on the field and another way off the field. If they do, there is no trust or belief in each other.
  • Helping players learn how to embrace and thrive as individuals in competitive arenas and situations; MEANWHILE learning how to strive together as a team in order to achieve more.
  • Develop effective playing relationships amongst individuals on the field. Truly understanding and knowing what your teammate’s next decision will be during intense competition is critical to success.
  • Learning, understanding and teaching the game of lacrosse (skill work, conceptual strategies and small nuances during play). Every NBA rookie talks about how much they learned during their first year of professional basketball. It begs the question, what were they being taught the previous 13-16 years of organized basketball?
  • There is a HUGE difference in coaching offense vs defense. In fact, the word “developing” is a better word than “coaching.” A successful coach must learn the difference between the two ends of the field.

Final Thoughts and Observations:

  • Do you teach to the group; with the possibility of holding back your most talented players because they are waiting for others to match their skill level?
  • Do you teach to your most talented players; with the possibility of your less talented players raising their play and bringing themselves to compliment your most talented players?

Based on my own personal experience, you need to take care of the operational details for your program, but do not allow those responsibilities prevent you from being the type coach you aspire to be for your players.

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