10 Things to Avoid in Coaching

By January 19, 2018 No Comments

Who are the best coaches in today’s collegiate and professional sports?

Who is your personal favorite? Why?

If you played sports, who was your favorite coach you played for?

I’m willing to bet amongst the great names which popped into your head we’d be able to find many different traits. The thing I love about studying great coaches is how they take sound principles and adapt them to fit their personality. The greats have a way of taking something tried and true, and making it seem incredibly unique.

While it’s true we can learn an incredible amount from the greats, we can also learn from every coach around us. If you were to mentor a young coach, what advice would you give? What advice do you think one of the greats who came to your mind would say?

If a young coach came to me and asked for advice on what to do, I think I would tell him or her to be true to themselves, have a growth-mindset, and focus on relationships.

I also think I would provide value in sharing things they should avoid. So, here are 10 things I think every coach in any sport should avoid.

  1. Avoid being close minded. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my 14 years of coaching it’s to have an open mind. Early in my career I thought I knew more than I did. I didn’t do a good job of making sure I had all the information needed to make decisions. I was too quick to judge and act on impulse. Early in my career I relied too much on my experiences and didn’t seek mentorship form various sources. I would most definitely tell the younger version of myself to have a more open mind.
  2. Avoid doing it all by yourself. As coaches we are not the best at accepting help. We think it’s a sign of weakness or some sort of flaw if we need help. However, it’s quite the opposite. Early in my career I did not delegate enough or involve fellow coaches, or players enough in the decision-making process. Asking for help and delegating responsibility is actually a sign of strength and security. I would tell my younger self to focus on building others up and creating more leaders.
  3. Avoid giving into fear. Come on, we’ve all done it as coaches ( I know I have), we’ve not done something based on some made up hypothetical. In those situations we let fear take hold, and most likely as a result we made a poor choice. Looking back on my early career I can recall several times where I let fear of losing cloud my judgement with making a call, substitution, or practice plan. The more I read and studied Coach Wooden, the more I focused on what I could control. I would tell the younger me not to focus on the scoreboard and win-loss column; rather focus more on the process. 3
  4. Avoid being negative. Man, is this hard to do in today’s age. Actually, it’s not. Being positive or negative is a choice. For coaches I think this comes down to being secure and confident with who you are. Coaches have a bad habit of comparing our records to other coaches. I am just as guilty as the next coach. A few years ago I had my first two losing seasons and it tore me up. I compared myself to others and my confidence took a hit. I got away from who I really was as a coach and started to change just for the sake of change. I was too negative towards myself. Once I talked with mentors and realized my main goal was to do the best with the talent level I had things changed. I no longer compared myself to others, but rather focused on the process of getting my athletes to reach their maximum ability level. To the younger coaches out there, don’t talk down to yourself. Trust your gut, and be your biggest fan. You have enough critics in the stands.
  5. Avoid checking out. I can honestly say this is one I have never done, but I hear about it every year during every season from all parts of the country. Poor record, injuries, fatigue, or bad attitudes all can cause coaches to mentally check out before the season ends. There’s no excuse for this. My advice to a young coach would be to go back to the reason why you got into coaching. I would also encourage the young coach to focus on the kids who truly want to be there. Be the person and coach they want and need you to be.
  6. Avoid the routine. It’s easy to stay with what you’ve “always done” and be comfortable. I did this a little during my first couple of seasons coaching. However, I began to realize things were getting stale as the season wore on. During offseason reflection I came to the conclusion we needed to add variety and incorporate fun activities in the schedule. In a long season with long nights and quick turnarounds, it’s easy to become complacent. I would challenge any young coach to find ways to keep things fresh and fun as the season goes on.
  7. Avoid settling for average. There’s been times throughout my career where I settled too much on average. I’ve settled for average effort and attention from players. I’ve had days where I was average in those areas myself. Great coaches don’t accept average. I challenge myself now to be the example, to be the light. When I am not feeling it a 100% I often remind myself of the following quote: 2
  8. Avoid not trusting. First and foremost you must trust yourself. Along with that you must trust your fellow coaches. And if you’ve  built trust amongst your staff and what your philosophy is, you must trust your players. Too many coaches don’t trust their players in a game situations. Early in my career I would try to micro-manage possessions too much rather than letting the guys play. I needed to trust the work we put in practice more. Now I see younger coaches making the same mistake I did. Players can only reach their full potential and play their best when they feel trusted by their coach.
  9. Avoid the critics. You can get several thank you’s and compliments, but all it takes is one negative remark or critic and you feel like garbage. Too often early in my career I let the opinions of people who didn’t matter influence how I felt or thought. It’s so important for young coaches to realize no matter how great a job you do, you can’t please everyone. Nor should you try to. My advice would be to simply acknowledge it and let it go. You can’t avoid criticism, in fact you should seek constructive criticism, but don’t let one person’s remarks ruin a season.
  10. Avoid building walls. It really does take a team to accomplish great things. There has never been a great coach who didn’t have a great support system. At times in my career I’ve taken on too much. I would put everything on my plate and isolate myself from support. I thought I could do and manage it all…Only to find out the hard way I couldn’t. I would tell the younger Coach Elmendorf to focus on building more bridges. Relationships are the key to success, happiness, and longevity.

What item hit home most for you? What would you add to the list?

As always thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!


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