SUCCESS in sport always comes as a collective effort involving players, coaches, administrators, sponsors and to a great extent, fans.
For most sports enthusiasts, a coach is an influential figure of competitive experience, and true to this, coaches are indeed a leading positive influence on today’s sports personalities.
The well being of a player on and off the field hinges on and is often credited to a coach.
The ultimate goal or dream of any given team or club is to attain considerable success in a competition regardless of how stiff it can be, and on account of that, the role of a coach tends to be in the spotlight.
However, there are two faces to a coaching mastery and both have different impacts on the welfare of teams.
On one hand, coaches at their best can help their players improve their skills, perform to their best ability, develop strong character, and gain confidence.
They can also maximise the positive value of sport, enhance the intrinsic motivation of their players and the experience in the sport is more likely to generate fair play and good sportsmanship.
On the other hand, coaches can push the emotional and physical limits of their players to the point of harm, create a hostile and unfair environment, and turn promising athletes away from the sport forever.
With these two possibilities at play, it requires a great deal of wisdom and professionalism on the part of a coach to live up to expectation and deliver positive results to individual players, sponsors and the fans at large.
Rifts between coaches and players are very common in modern sports and not far away from our sports personalities in Zambia. For instance, the once prolific Chipolopolo midfielder Clifford Mulenga had a fair share of disciplinary issues with Frenchman Herve Renard, who guided Zambia to its first ever Africa Cup of Nations triumph in 2012.
Since the scuffle that resulted in Renard expelling talented Mulenga from camp during the 2012 AFCON, little has been heard of him in his football career.
Mpumalanga Black Aces striker Collins Mbesuma is another example. At the time his career had reached the peak and attracting European prospectors, the former Roan United talisman began to lose it off the pitch and was always at tangent with his coaches.
Realising his dwindling form, Mbesuma quickly reformed, changed his name from ‘Ntofo Ntofo’ to ‘King David’ and resuscitated his career and eventually earned national team call ups for the Brazil 2014 World Cup and Equatorial Guinea 2015 Africa Cup qualifiers.
Looking at these two examples, one would attest to the fact that a coach is very crucial and could spell either success or downfall of a player.
Nowadays, coaching effectiveness is measured by the number of championship that are won but in actual sense, it is beyond winning trophies.
The English outfit Arsenal has not won the premier league for a decade now but its manager Arsene Wenger continues to attract top flight players at the London club owing to his philosophy of developing and nurturing talent as well as maintaining respect for individual players.
Respect in sport is paramount and has been one of the most important traits that anyone aspiring to be a good coach should possess to be able to provide encouragement and learning opportunities to players.
To be a coach is as good as being an instructor, teacher, motivator, disciplinarian, substitute parent and friend.
Ideally, coaches should understand the developmental stage and limits of their athletes in order to tailor practices and playing time appropriately.
In addition to these expectations, coaches are expected to have an in-depth knowledge of the sport they are coaching, including the rules and the skills and techniques needed.
Good coaches treat their athletes fairly. They don’t operate with two different sets of rules such as those for the ‘chosen few’ and those of the rest of the team. Favoritism breeds performance disrupting dissension on the team.
By promoting positive relationships, coaches create a supportive environment that optimises the potential of individuals and the team collectively.
There is nothing safe about being on a team where teammates regularly criticise and yell at each other, picked on by teammates. It’s the coach’s responsibility to set very clear limits to prevent these kinds of team busting behavior on a winning team.
A coach should set out his mission to teach athletes and help them grow as individuals so that they become better people in the world, both on and off the field. There are far more important things at stake here than whether a player wins or correctly learns how to perform a skill.
It is important to teach players how to be better citizens in the country and use the sport as nothing more than a vehicle for this teaching.
Once these teachings sink in a player’s mind, the winning and losing outcomes are completely secondary to the teaching of valuable life lessons such as playing as a team and sacrificing individual needs for the betterment of the team and handling adversity and failure.
Other lessons include mastering fear and obstacles, working hard towards a faraway goal, learning to believe in oneself, being a good sportsman and playing by the rules of the game.
Good coaches always take responsibility for their behavior. It does not pay for one to refuse to own their mistakes and instead, blame others for them. The mark of a great educator is that they present themselves as human.
They do not let their ego get involved in the more important task of teaching by being to own their part when something goes wrong.
Good coaches take responsibility for their team’s failures and give their team and athletes full responsibility for successes while bad ones blame their athletes for losses and take the credit for the team’s successes.
It is, therefore, important for our coaches to begin to appreciate the tasks that rest on their shoulders and realise that they have a greater role than thought before to shape the destiny of society.
With sport creating job opportunities for a number of young people in the country, the future of these youngsters is dependent on coaches.
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