Photo © Pixie Light Photo

Photo © Pixie Light Photo

Coaching wasn’t something I ever planned to do. It wasn’t a goal of mine. I don’t think I even considered it a possibility in my future. It seemed like a lot of work and responsibility (which, spoiler alert: it is!) that could easily overwhelm me.

Fast forward to two years later and it’s my favorite part of the week. It didn’t start out that way, though. Just like skating, coaching did not come naturally. No amount of attending practices, researching, or rehearsing could prepare me enough. I was now assisting in piloting the growth of skaters and athletes! How did I get here? What do I do?

So, I’m going to share with you what I wish I had when I started. A road map to being a better coach.

EMBRACE THE SUCK.

You probably aren’t going to start off being a great coach. If you did, congratulations! I’m a little jealous of your talent, skills, and wisdom. Stop reading this blog, you obviously do not need it.

If you are like me, you are probably going to have trouble finding your “style.” I cringe reading my first practice agendas. They aren’t awful, they just aren’t… good. There’s no flow. There’s more down time than I would ever allow for now that I know the proper limits to push. The drills didn’t always have an end goal.

The written agenda was not the only thing that was a struggle. Instructing, leading, and assisting 20+ humans did not come naturally either. Oh– and to be CONFIDENT? Ha! I was timid. I was distractable. I was unsure of myself, my body, and my words — even if I knew the drill backwards and forwards.

So, embrace the suck. You can’t start out perfect. Sometimes you can’t even start out good. That’s okay! You are learning while teaching, probably. It’s difficult to navigate! As long as you aren’t coaching a bunch of aholes, it will smooth out.

ASK FOR AND ACCEPT FEEDBACK.

Coaching and learning in general involves a lot of trial and error. If you want to speed up the process and make it better for all parties involved, ask for feedback. What drills do the team like? Are you spending too much time talking, or not enough? What skills does the team feel needs the most work? The list goes on and on…

Be open to constructive criticism. You are likely going to get different views and opinions from many of the skaters. Remember to take it with a grain of salt. If they dislike something, ask them to describe why and what they would like to see or hear instead.

Have open discussions after practices in regards to what is going well and what isn’t. Invite skaters who are not on the team to come and give some outside feedback. Ask other coaches about their experiences over the years and see if there is anything you would like to emulate.

You do not have to be alone in your journey to improvement. So many people would like to see you succeed, especially your team! Don’t be scared or worried to reach out for help.

There are plenty more stops on this road map, so keep your eyes peeled! Next time I will cover staying organized and managing expectations.