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  • Writer's pictureDon Draxler

The Forgotten Meaning of a Coach

We Often Coach Like the Airlines


In the current landscape of youth sports, we often witness young athletes dressed in flashy uniforms and gear, embarking on a journey that has transformed into a destination. Our coaching approach resembles the control measures of an airplane journey: regimented lines, clean seats, safety protocols, and a set schedule dictating every move. "Join us," we say, guiding them on a predetermined journey, dropping them off at a destinated tarmac we've chosen, with the understanding that many won't reach the final goal. It’s about the experience and the illusion of reaching Mount Olympus. Thanks for flying with us.


A Coach Supports Their Journey


The true essence of coaching seems to have faded away, not to revert to the coaching styles of the early 1900s, but to rediscover the initial meaning of being a coach. It's about being in service to our passengers—our children—who are poised to explore the world without a predetermined plan. As coaches, we are summoned to support their individual journeys, offering guidance on navigating the wilderness. Our role is to adapt to their needs, just as they adapt to the environments we help shape.


Coaching is Being a Learner Alongside Our Players


Coaching is that very thing. As coaches, it is important to learn the rules of the game with the intentions and objectives in mind. However, to truly be great coaches, we must be sponges in observing all the qualities and possibilities that our players exhibit and search for throughout their landscape. We must cultivate an awareness of our own tendencies to dominate a practice with our knowledge and learn how to encourage our players to take more ownership within their experience. We must adapt with exploration, fun, and cooperation. The more we are willing and ready to learn from our players, the closer we are to being positive influences needed in the coaching world. We are learners, not disseminators of information.


Freedom to Choose


Ensuring psychological and physical safety, the decisions should be in their hands. They need the freedom to choose their pace, to take their time, or to move swiftly as they see fit. Our role is to be facilitators, offering them the support and permission to make informed decisions, understanding that their choices, whether effective or not, contribute to their learning process. In the end, the value lies not in the outcome but in appreciating the entire journey.


Find and support coaches who serve our young athletes. Don’t take control by dictating what children should do. Provide them with the freedom to grow, the space to stretch out, support their uniqueness, nurture their youthful fearlessness, and acknowledge that their chosen path is ultimately up to them.


Don't Take Away Youthfulness


Perhaps by reassessing our role as supportive coaches, we can keep millions more kids engaged in sports. Let’s be attentive, observant, and responsive to their intentions. We had our chance as kids; now it's their turn.


The power to change course lies with us. We can always redirect our path by remembering the true essence of what it means to be a coach. Thanks for being on this journey.


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