John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs It’s got to be a tough job.
I know because earlier this summer, I was asked to fill in as coach of my daughter’s recreational soccer team. The request required me to help put the players in the correct positions for the game and manage substitutions. I would have been in a lot of trouble, but luckily, the coach also had asked another parent to help out and another volunteered a few minutes before the game started.
Together, the three of us muddled our way through the game, and hopefully the players and the other parents didn’t see much of a difference on the field. We did our best to make sure that every player got a chance to play the position they wanted. Unfortunately, they all seemed to want to play forward. I’m sure some players wanted more time on the field, but or goal was to do everything we could to keep things balanced and fair.
I think we passed the test, but it didn’t take long for me to learn that managing a game is not an exact science and that there is more to coaching than the game.
The fact is the people who step up to coach athletic teams in our community face huge amounts of pressure. The role they play has a huge impact on the path our children will choose as they pursue their sport of choice. A few words or a simple action during a practice can ignite a love that will last a lifetime. But the wrong words or the wrong actions can have a completely different outcome.
I’ve witnessed all kinds of coaching styles while covering sports in Steamboat Springs, and most, but not all, have been very good.
Most of the time, I’ve watched the best coaches turn a mistake in practice into a positive learning opportunity for the player. They use the lesson to make the athlete better in the team’s next game. But I’ve also watched bad coaches miss those teaching opportunities leaving some athletes so frustrated that they walk away from the game before reaching their full potential.
Good coaches turn gifted athletes into champions, but the great coaches are the ones who can help an average athlete reach new levels. The ones who turn stars into great teams by getting the most out of every child. They teach athletes that the game should be measured in enjoyment instead of wins and losses. They know that a win accompanied by a poor performance is nothing to celebrate and that a loss to a better team is measured by the way your team played the game.
The good coaches find success in the way an athlete performed and see opportunities to teach in the face of defeat. They use those experiences to fuel future success.
Coaching is not an easy job at any level, but when a coach does the job right, the lessons learned will remain long after the game is over.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com