Athletic Coaching Lessons – An Overview and a Vessel for Learning

*This overview can be found on the Athletic Coaching website – www.mattkushicoaching.com

As many know, in addition my other writings, I maintain an athletic coaching blog/manual that was started in my time at Hadley Park and Recreation. The purpose of this article is to share the lessons behind this blog and manual.

Education. Learning. We all experience it. But how and where does it occur? Early on in our lives, we tend to gravitate towards certain activities. We may not know why, but we take an interest in certain things. Some of these interests may be fleeting. Some of them may be life altering. We learn life lessons through them. The amazing this is that we tend not to realize when the latter occurs. We all learn these lessons from different places. We all witness these lessons take place in different settings. We all have a vessel in which we learn these lessons of life.

For me, that vessel was sports – the world of athletics. For much of my early years, I tended to identify as a student-athlete. Granted, looking back, that I was more student than athlete, I nonetheless used athletics as my vessel to learning some major life lessons. I learned about teamwork. I learned about success. I learned about hard work. I learned about failure. I learned about life. Of course, my parents were the ones who really taught me all of these lessons but sports helped demonstrate these things to me in real life context. You know what the funny thing was? I didn’t realize that I was learning. I was simply taking part in activities that I loved. That’s the power of learning. That’s what a vessel does, whether it be working on a farm, learning a trade, playing sports, joining the military or any other activity/vocation. It gives you an environment to witness the lessons that you are learning.

Though my life’s journey has taken me all over the map in terms of interest, sports will always be the place that I know I witnessed the lessons in action that my parents taught me. While my path was ultimately not defined as an athlete, it is defined by education and it is defined by being a continual student. At the intersection of education and athletics is coaching. I may not know everything, but I know enough – from observing and from my experiences – that I can help teach others what athletics can do for an individual and how to best achieve your goals both off the field and on the field. As a Youth Sports Instructor for Hadley Park and Recreation, I started this Athletic Coaching Manual that turned into my Athletic Coaching website.

While the lessons are the main content of the manual and blog, I would like to share my outline and notes on what those lessons are, as that overview is important as well and can teach those with open minds something special as well.

General

Introduction – About this manual

The Keys To Success – Having a positive, self-aware, team mentality; all of these are critical

Youth and Character BuildingDevelop passion and inspiration in youth. Learn the lessons of the game. Sports teaches you life lessons that are applied to all facets of your life.

Role of AthleticsEconomic Builder, Character Builder, Identity Builder, Keeps people fit (mentally and physically)

Role Perspective and Development

History and PolicyHow were the games formed and why. Why does Integrity of the Game matter so much?

Public ImageYou are a representation of your community, team and self. Treat that with respect.

Opportunities That Athletics GiveAthletics can give you the ability to be part of a team; something larger than yourself. Gives you the ability to learn life lessons and build character. If good as an individual and as a teammate, can you give the opportunity to make a living and/or make something of yourself.

Physical Fitness and EducationGives you the ability to make an impact on yourself. Gives you a platform to make a difference in others lives (personal and raising awareness) Keeps you physically fit and well physically and mentally.

The Different Sides of Sports: Business and Fun – Fun in Sports does not end as a youth. It continues however long you are involved. However, the dynamics do change. Must understand this and that there is a business side (Capital) and a fun side. Balance these. Never forget about either.

The Importance of TeamIn most sports, no person is an island. A team can accomplish things that an individual can’t. Your team is your family and support system. Utilize them and be a good one back. Do your job and role.

Know Your CommunityYou represent more than you or your team. Your represent your community, school, town. Get to know your community and who they are so that you can proudly represent them.

Student of the Game Education never stops. You can always learn and improve. In order to maximize your effectiveness yourself and your team, learn everything, no matter how small about your trade and game.

Transferable DevelopmentUse what you have learned in other parts of your life. Being a good human is the most important asset of all.

A Successful Mentality

SuccessBelieve that you can accomplish tasks. Don’t be too arrogant but be confident. Study your trade and the game. Take care of the small things and that will lead to Success. Know that, with the proper preparation and skills, that on any given day, you or a team can be better than someone else and beat them.

EffortGive it all that you have 100% of the time. There may be times for pacing but have a purpose for it.

ConfidenceBelieve in yourself and what you are doing. It will make it easier to do your job and focus. Know that, with the proper preparation and skills, that on any given day, you or a team can be better than someone else and beat them.

CommunicationOne of the most critical components of human interaction. To function for yourself and as a team, people must know what is going on.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions No person knows everything. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from team.

Strategy and PacingKnow your limits. Make sure that you can go the distance and still give 100% effort.

Importance and Flexibility of FundamentalsKnow your trade and how to do your job. Be flexible and open-minded to adjustments. Know yourself and the needs required.

What It Takes To SucceedA winner’s attitude and dedication to the task at hand.

Self-Awareness: Know YourselfKnow what you are good at and what you are not good at. This helps with self-improvement and with your team trying accomplish a common goal.

Balance and FlexibilityBe open-minded. No one task should rule your life. Be well-balanced in life and sport.

Succeeding On The Field

Staying in ShapeAn athlete must be in shape and able to do their job if they want to help. Helps in life and in sport.

Understand Your Team and Role – Self Awareness. Know what your team needs from you. Know what you can offer. Do your job. Offer suggestions on you can enhance team effort with your skills.

Understanding Strategy and FundamentalsUnderstand the situation, the game and how to do your job.

ManagementUnderstand the strategy of the game and of the people within it. Be firm but fair with people.

Importance of Practice Practice helps train and improve athletes for when it counts. Don’t coast.

Know and Take Care of Your Equipment View your equipment as your tools. You are not much without them. Take care of them as you take care of yourself and your teammates.

Game Plan: Have A Plan Develop a strategic plan and know, how and why. Stick to it and adapt.

Know Your Tools Know your equipment and how to best use them and why.

Athletic PositionAthletic position puts you in a mechanically ready position that enhances your ability for your body to do the task at hand athletically.

TechnologyUse as a tool. Know how to use and what the balance is.

Adjustments Know how to make adjustments and why. Adjusting while staying true to yourself, team and master plan are the key to the game.

Game Tips

Game FundamentalsKnow how to play and think about the game

Game StrategyKnow how to play and think about the game. Think of different strategies.

Game TechniquesKnow how to play and think about the game. Know how to do your job.

Public Image: What You Mean and Represent Within Your Team and Community

“When you pull on that jersey, you represent yourself and your teammates. And the name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back! Get that through your head!” This line comes from a great sports movie, Miracle, that chronicles the journey of the 1980 “Miracle On Ice” Men’s Ice Hockey team at the 1980 Winter Olympics under the guidance of Herb Brooks. While the movie is a striking reminder that the United States was capable of fielding a team of amateur players to take on the world-renowned juggernaut Soviet team, the story of how they became a team is the most important lesson from the movie. This quote is the crux of the movie – and really in all of athletics. I will take that one step further and say that in any setting, work and life, this quote is a defining idea.

Constantly, in all of the action that defines the flow of athletics, one crucial aspect is often overlooked and taken for granted – the idea of representation. In order for success to be obtained, an individual must have the self-awareness to know their strengths and weaknesses. The individual must use this knowledge to know how to best help their team, for it is the team that has one heartbeat that will be taken to new heights. Their can be no skip and no falter in that heartbeat or the whole machine fails. In a larger sense, just as an individual is a representation and a part of a team, a team is a part of a larger community as well. Teams are organized in many different ways – by village, by school, by college, by company, by community. Just as players are representations of their teams and organizations, organizations are a representation of the community that they participate in. The same holds true for any company, organization or institution in other walks of life. This relationship is important as we rely upon the faces of the entities that we encounter to be the human personification of what they represent. In athletics, where the relationship between fans and players/teams is so ingrained within our culture along with the critical need for a player to be a functioning part of the team, realizing the importance of what you represent and how is critical. The movie Miracle does a great job in capturing this idea through a coach’s words – indeed, the name on the front of a jersey is more important than the one on the back – that team trumps individual. What one should strive for when they keep in mind that they are representing not only themselves, but their team and community as well, is that they should perform at optimal athletic level with integrity, class and skill along with being self-aware of their role so that they can effectively perform as a member of a team that represents themselves in more ways than wins and losses. This is important to remember for when a community – no matter what size – identifies with a team that is a representation of themselves, many different associations occur with that connection. This can include reputation, economic opportunities, social opportunities and community building.

Now, this may seem like a lot to ask of an athlete. In reality, however, there are a few things that an athlete can do in order to fulfill their role in helping be a good representation of themselves, their team and their larger community. Much of it has to do with trying to be a good person and following the keys to success that were laid out in another lesson writing. These lessons do not pertain only to sports, either. Rather, they are guidelines that all of us should follow. Much has been written about the need to be self-aware and know your strengths/weaknesses in order to better know and perform your role as part of a team. This is what I call a self-aware, team based mentality. That is one part of the equation. The other parts that are critical in fulfilling your role is hard work, integrity, class and skill. The first two of these that I will touch upon is skill and hard work. Some athletes naturally have more skill than others and that can reflect in performance. However, to a degree, hard work can compensate for a minor skill deficiency. That said, every individual should work hard and give all that they are capable of giving to a task. Integrity and class go hand in hand as well. Integrity defines who you are and demonstrates your character. If you work hard and do so honorably and are a good role model with class, you will win the hearts of those you represent. Hopefully the other results will follow in time.

In the end, little thought is often given to the public image of an athlete and that of the identity of the team that they represent. Sports fans often hear of team culture and identity when a team is doing well or is doing poorly. It is always an explanation of something that has occurred in the past. In reality, it is the heartbeat of a team. A team lives and dies by those who make up its many parts. Those parts represent not only the team that they play for or the organization that gave them the vessel to perform, but they represent the community that supports them as well. This is why, with integrity, class and skill, it is important for athletes – and, really, any worker in any walk of life – to remember that the name on the front really is more important than the name on the back when it comes to accomplishing an organizational goal. Individual self-satisfaction will follow.