Managing a Group of High School Athletes
As a young intern, I wanted to make a good impression on my group of high school athletes not only by being a good coach but also by being very friendly. Everything I read about how to be a good intern suggested always having an upbeat attitude with a smile on your face, I think this is also my natural personality so that was easy for me. This worked well, as I built great relationships with the group of athletes and I think many of them appreciated that I was always in a great mood.
However, after a couple weeks of four days of skating combined with four days of lifting the group got tired, their attitude dipped along with their work ethic. Athletes would complain about the work I was asking them to do or not show up to the lifts altogether. At this point, I needed to take a more serious tone in order to give the group more structure and get them back on track. However, because of the personality I initially revealed to the group they didn’t take me seriously when I tried to be more stern with them. In addition, I am not someone who gets genuinely angry so I did not necessarily match my body language with the message I was trying to send. In contrast, I had a co-worker who did a great job of this. If an athlete was out of line he would transform his attitude in a split second so that the athlete could tell that he was genuinely angry at them for whatever they did. This worked wonders as kids who cut corners or complained about the heat never did it again.
The key takeaway from this situation is that it is a good idea to be the athlete’s coach first and a friend later. This will ensure that you always have the ability to command the room as a coach. If they see you as a friend first they are going to treat you as a friend, this means arguing with you about things, trying to fool around with you, ect, all things that you want to be able to control when you need the group to focus. In addition, when it comes time to lay down the law, act as angry as you possible within reason. This way when you want to call a kid out for complaining or not working hard you can be sure they won’t do it again.