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Recently I was lucky enough to hear Collingwood Magpies VFL coach Dale Tapping speak. This article will reflect on how his teachings compare to my own philosophies. It was very reassuring to know that a coach as successful as him holds the same characteristics as high as I do and that I am on the right path with my own coaching.
Dale stated taking an interest in your players is one of the most important characteristics a coach can have. The “Building Relationships” chapter of my own procedure manual opens with the famous Theodore Roosevolt quote “Noone cares how much you know, until you show how much you care” and I don’t think I, nor Dale, could say it better.
Other key characteristics Tapping spoke of, in no particular order, of a great coach that reflect on my own philosophy and my interpretations are:
Integrity – Coaches have to live by one of the strictest moral codes in any profession
Loyalty – You cannot create “buy in” with your players if they expect you to up and leave
Reliability – Your players must be able to depend on you, as you expect of them
Communication – Noone cares how good your message is if you cant deliver it
Enthusiasm – A contagious emotion, no one wants to spend time with someone who doesn’t want to be there
Friends – To many, having players as friends is a fine line and I can see how this could be so; however, I believe the opposite, being unapproachable is more detrimental
Empathy – As per the previously mentioned Theodore Roosevolt quote: “Noone cares how much you know, until you show how much you care”
Attitude – A positive attitude is contagious and a must as a coach. A negative attitude is a cancer and must be dealt with ASAP
Tapping also mentioned the keys to become a better coach and again it’s reassuring to know I’m already doing some of these, but also made clearer some areas I can further develop:
Learn from others but develop your own ideas – This is something I learned from old Bruce Lee tapes and used to develop my martial arts skill set over the past decade (be a sponge, use what works and throw out what doesn’t)
Engage mentor, discuss progress – Tappings speech motivated me to get in touch with a former mentor and organise permanent hours with him
Plan and prepare – Being a perfectionist this is easy for me but Winston Churchill said it best: “Fail to plan, plan to fail”
Share knowledge – Tapping mentioned a Phil Gould talk that hit home for him, but as a martial arts instructor, the more knowledge your students have, the faster they learn, the better training partners they become
Handle challenges – Challenges are inevitable in life and coaching and whilst we may not always make the right decision overcoming these, shying away will mean we learn nothing at all. This is also characteristic of leadership; people will look to you in times of challenge
Invest time in your own players – I think Tappings definition of a coach/player relationship as an “investment” says it all
Tapping also went on to describe his Point Of Difference in the definition of Team Responsibility, commonly written as: Know your role – Play your role, as “Accept your role”. This creates ownership; just because a player knows and plays their role does not mean they accept the responsibilities that come with it.
Seek mentors, read biographies of the greats and attend as many events as you can. As the saying goes “Success leaves clues” and we can use the crumbs they’ve left to accelerate our own learning curve and careers.
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