For most youth athletes, a coach serves as more than just an educator of a given sport. And for most coaches, a lot of pride is taken in helping their athletes grow both on and off of the courts, fields, pools, etc. where they do their coaching. Relationships with coaches can last a lifetime for many young athletes, and though COVID-19 certainly isn’t doing the sports world any favors, it isn’t making it impossible for those coach/player relationships to continue to grow.
This growth is even more important for students, as remote classrooms result in some one-on-one time with teachers being more difficult to come by. Here are a few ways coaches can continue, and even elevate their roles, during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Delivering the Message!
In order to be a great coach, you have to be able to coach! COVID-19 may have limited, or even completely shut down, any sort of face-to-face rendezvous with you team, but online outlets for keeping the squad together are aplenty. Zoom has been the talk of the pandemic as far as online gatherings go, and it’s a good choice for coaches, too. It’s screensharing capabilities allow a single user (generally the coach in this example) to share their screen with the entire group. This can mean reviewing a playbook or film, watching a movie like Remember the Titans “together,” or being the hub of an online team building game.
In addition to digital versions of classic games like trivia and chess, online scavenger hunts are great ways to branch off and use the internet as a means of knowledge building, as it was once intended long ago! There are also many apps that, if your players have the means, can be downloaded and add to the “together” feel that is quite distant right now.
Positive deviance is nothing new in the sports world, or the learning world in general, but with so much negativity in the media (and at home, for many), focusing on some good things is more important than ever. COVID has caused peaks in stress and anxiety among teens due to the legitimate fear of the unknown, and the constant changes that are taking place in dealing with the pandemic. Cue positive deviance.
In a nutshell, positive deviance is the practice of seeing someone do something well and mimicking it. Some of the best coaches of all time practice positive deviance with their players, and any good coach should practice it when developing their own coaching strategies. With youngsters in the coronavirus world, positive deviance is twofold, as it starts by showing the kids something done right that they can look up to. Effective leadership starts with leading by example, and positive deviance is just that: sharing examples of things that work, and when it comes to videos of speeches or great performances, a remote setting serves as a great one.
With so many new “opponents” in kids’ lives, tensions are high. To add to that, the classic resources like a counseling office do not really exist in the home school setting. It’s also harder to see the telltale signs of a student who is struggling when viewing them on a screen. With these things, it is doubly important for coaches to take the role of counselor and give each player a one-on-one phone call or Zoom session to really converse about how their homelife has been since being taken away from their friends and teammates.
If you do determine a given player is experiencing unhealthy levels of stress, there are many ways they can deal with it from afar. Let them know that they are not alone, and encourage them to create daily schedules that include time for exercise, time for friends (digitally), and healthy eating habits. All of these, and a steady dose of a coach showing interest, can greatly reduce the effects of tension.
There’s no saying how long teams are going to be forced to practice from home, but maintaining a relationship with your players is not only good for the now, but also for the future. Every hardship has silver linings, and one of them is often a tighter unit. Help your team help each other, and stay frequent with your communication. The scoreboard will thank you later!