In today’s world you can walk the streets of a major city and ask people what their definition of a coach is. Chances are you will get answers ranging from “someone who coaches a team” to “ someone who teaches athletes how to play their sport.” These examples are fine, but I believe we have limited and stereotyped the real meaning of being a coach. In the next few paragraphs I hope to shed some light on what I believe coaching is and why I stopped yelling.
It was 2013 when I started exploring coaching or what I thought was coaching. I can remember watching YouTube videos, going to my little brother’s sporting events, and observing how other coaches lead their teams. I was fortunate enough to see many different styles and approaches to coaching, but there was a problem; none of these styles fit me. I witnessed a lot of yelling, especially after athletes made a mistake during their competitions. I can remember in college when I was an athlete how certain coaches would yell more than others. To someone, on the outside looking in, that may have looked and sounded like coaching. What they don’t know is that many of the coaches I had on the college level never took the time to connect with many of my teammates. I believe the foundation of coaching is having the ability to connect with the athletes. Anyone can yell and sound like a coach, but there’s more to coaching than reading a practice schedule and barking orders.
So what is coaching? My definition of coaching is rather short. In its simplest form, my belief is that a coach is a teacher. Yes, that simple; a teacher. Think about it. What is the goal when a parent signs their child up for youth soccer or t-ball? I can bet the majority of parents would agree that they don’t sign their young athlete up to get yelled at or humiliated. The goal should always be to learn and grow. Coaches are supposed to teach kids valuable lesson in addition to the sports instruction. I often tell my track team that my goals and objectives are to teach. Can teaching be done through yelling? Yes, but why do we need to yell to make a point or drive home a concept? Coaches that take the “my way or the high way” mentality, are typically one’s that need their voice to be heard.
I can remember it as plain as day the last time I yelled at an athlete in a negative way. It was May of 2015 and we were coming back from a high school boy’s state track competition. As we all know, high school boy’s can sometimes be a squirrely bunch when they are around each other. I had two boys on the bus arguing over a seat and I turned around and yelled something, which later lead me to apologizing to that athlete. That was the last time I yelled at an athlete in a negative way. I knew deep down that that was not coaching or who I was, but simply, yelling without positive intentions. I didn’t bring any learning examples for the situation over the seat, which is something that is often missed with coaches. We often yell in a negative manor without providing a teaching component so the situation can be handled better the next time.
My coaching philosophy has evolved since 2015 and it has also evolved since 2017. Some may read this and scoff at the fact that I don’t yell at the athletes I work with. I use my coaching to not only motivate athletes, but I also use my voice to teach them valuable lessons about life, address situations that may occur, and most of all; respect them as human beings. Do I get excited and scream out of joy? Absolutely, and that is perfectly fine, but yelling at an athlete for making a mistake is where I draw the line. What I have found is that most athletes that I’ve worked with don’t respond as well when they are yelled at. It usually takes an event and/or incident to change our outlook or approach when it comes to coaching. For me, it was the 2015 incident that has shaped and changed the way I deal with all situations within coaching.
I don’t claim to have all the answers or think my approach is superior, but I do believe more effort needs to be placed on teaching athletes. We must also continue spreading positivity within the coaching community and within the organizations and teams we work with. As a coach, you never want to look back and regret something you said to an athlete. Although I am not proud of the incident in 2015, I don’t regret it. It was a valuable lesson learned and has shaped me into a much better coach. My goal is to help other coaches avoid making some of the mistakes I made early on in my coaching career. I hope this post can help you along you journey to becoming a better coach.
More on Kendrique Coats
Kendrique Coats is the owner of Coats Performance, which provides sprinting and athletic development training in Frisco, Texas. Over the years, Coats has spent most of his coaching time on the high school level coaching boys and girls track and field as well as overseeing strength and conditioning programs, which included stops at Pontiac Township High School in Illinois and Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. Now the head track and field coach at Dallas International School in Dallas, Texas, Coats looks to bring many of his training and coaching philosophies to the new program. For more on Coach Coats and his work, be sure to follow on Twitter @kendriquecoats, Instagram @CoatsPerformance, and his website www.coatsperformance.com. You can also connect with Coach Coats via email at firstname.lastname@example.org