By: Anne Josephson 

As a coach it is easy to put yourself on the back burner, but it’s a New Year and a new opportunity to refocus on your own development as a coach. By choosing to take hold of the 12 ways you can be a happier coach, you are modelling healthy behaviours for your athletes. The article below is written from the gymnastics perspective, but the principles hold true to any coaching/teaching position and more importantly they are backed by science! Whether your coaching role is volunteer based or paid, recount the reasons you coach, reclaim your passion and have a happy year of coaching in 2015!

  1. Remember that you are working in a very important and responsible job: you are influencing the next generation. You are not just a coach. You are a teacher-coach. You are not just someone who teaches kids to flip. You are someone who affects children’s lives forever. Even if it is just a stepping-stone toward what your ultimate career wcoachill be, be proud of your career choice.  Love your work. It will make you happier.
  2. Spend time thinking about your coaching goals in terms of what you can control: your systems. You cannot control how many of your athletes qualify for state, regionals or nationals, make a TOPs team or even learn a back handspring. Instead what you can control are your actions and your systems. For instance, how you structure your workouts to be effective and efficient. Or how you better yourself through continuing education. Focus on these types of goals.
  3. Commit to doing something for your professional development. While I am on the topic of continuing education, commit to some form of professional development. Attend national a regional congress. Go to Bootcamp if you are a club owner or program director interested in the business side (Bootcamp was a life changing experience for me).  Take an online class through USA Gymnastics. Invest in a DVD program for competitive athletes or your recreational and preschool programs. Read coaching blogs. Troll YouTube for training ideas. Consider seeking a mentor for yourself; no matter how experienced you are. Remember: you don’t have to be sick to get better. People who spend time getting better at their job enjoy it more. Choose yourself.
  4. Assess your club’s atmosphere and learning environment.  Coaches can take a page out of classroom teachers’ playbooks in creating a positive learning environment for their athletes. Kids feel happiest and learn best in an atmosphere that is welcoming, where mistakes are encouraged and when they feel valued for whom they are. Not surprisingly, adults do to. Be a leader in creating an environment with these qualities for your athletes and your co-workers.
  5. Commit to developing and keeping positive working relationships with the coaches in your club. Coaching partnerships can be fraught with tension, especially when season is on the horizon. But having friends at work is essential to happiness so make sure you are doing things to foster those relationships. Carve out some time each week to connect with your coaching partner(s) regarding goals and how each of you can support the other. Go out of your way to perform little acts of kindness for your coworkers—bringing in Starbucks or a plate of cookies goes a long way in developing a cohesive coaching team.
  6. Mentor a less experienced coach. It is a proven fact that helping others makes us happier with our own lives. Take an hour out of your week to help guide a new coach.
  7. Exercise.  We spend so much time guiding kids through their workouts, but are we taking care of our own workouts? Exercise contributes to happiness. So get yourself into the gym.
  8. Let the past go. A new year is an opportunity for a fresh start not just for you, but for those in your life. Do the best you can to leave the past in the past and begin again. Forgiveness increases your happiness when it is a shift in how you think toward someone who wronged you. Let go of ideas of revenge and lose your ill-will toward those who hurt you. You don’t have to reconcile, forget, excuse or even seek justice for what happened. You just have to let it go.
  9. Assume good faith with your athletes’ parents. Relationships are key to happiness, and your relationships with your athletes’ parents have the opportunity to make your life happier or more difficult. My mantra when dealing with upset parents: no one is rational when it comes to their child; they love them too much.   Reminding myself of this makes me considerably more patient and understanding how upset parents are when Susie does not get moved up, is perceived as being ignored or is struggling with a fear. Parents just want what is best for their children and that sometimes causes them to act in ways that fall in the category of over reacting. It’s not about you. It’s about their big feelings toward their children.  For tips on talking to parents Crucial Conversations is my favorite book.
  10. Stop blaming the referees. In fact, stop blaming anyone and everyone.   While there may be one or two referees who are not that great or even ethical, the vast majorities are. They are not out to get you, they don’t disrespect your gym and they really do not care who wins. Their job is hard, and they are doing the best they can to keep the kids in order and rank in a fair manner. Don’t give away your power to others instead take responsibility of your life.
  11. Enjoy the small moments of progress and validate yourself. Don’t wait until Susie gets her kip or qualifies for state to relish her progress. Acknowledge those little victories along the way. Teaching professions can be lonely and getting feedback from supervisors does not happen frequently. So, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done and let the praise of others be the icing on the cake. Hand your self a gold star for keeping your temper in check when an athlete rolls her eyes at you. Give yourself a thumbs up for running a great workout. And high five yourself when Susie finally does get her kip. It’s important to reinforce your self-efficacy.
  12. Focus.  Multi-tasking or thinking about things other than what you are doing decreases happiness. So leave your personal problems at the outside the door when you enter and your gym problems inside the door when you leave. Stay singularly focused on the task at hand.

Happy New Year, Coaches!  Make it a good one for yourselves and keep on doing good things for kids!

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