Beat the Stress of Coaching

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Phil Niemela shares how coaches can embody their own message by focusing on the process of coaching.

Do you feel as though you are not enjoying coaching as much as you thought you would, or once did? Do you feel pressure for your team to perform perfectly every game? Are you worried that your fans and parents are upset with your coaching?

If you have these feelings (or similar ones) you are not alone, and the good news is that there is a remedy – not a quick fix, but a solution none the less. A popular phrase coaches like to tell their players is “focus on the process”. This phrase is powerful and can help athletes stay engaged during the process of training on a daily basis. It also helps athletes focus on their responsibilities and what they can control during practice and game situations. It provides athletes an outlet to let go of their obsession with immediate results, and instills the belief that if they put in the effort and have a positive, productive attitude, the desired results will eventually come. Being able to focus on the process is a beneficial skill for athletes to acquire, but they are not the only ones who can benefit from it. As the sender of this message, coaches can make the phrase more meaningful and powerful by embodying it themselves.

The process of coaching may seem to be unclear. It is hardly ever talked about (I’m actually thinking that I made it up for this post) but there is a process of coaching. There are things that coaches can do on a daily basis that will help them enjoy coaching more, ease the perceived pressure and worries. Below I have a list of six aspects that coaches can practice every day that make up the process of coaching.


  1. Get clear on your values and beliefs – Write down your general values and beliefs about life. A coach’s values and beliefs shapes the way that he/she coaches and runs a team. It is imperative that a coach understand this part of themselves if they hope to instill anything into their players. Share and review these values and beliefs until they are oozing from your actions and words.
  2. Form a clear coaching philosophy – Write down your coaching philosophies. Your overall philosophy. Your offensive/defensive philosophy. Your training and developments philosophy. Your playing time philosophy. Your late, close game philosophy. Your pregame and postgame philosophy. You get the point; HOW DO YOU AND YOUR TEAM DO THINGS? Reviewing and reflecting on these daily will give you more confidence in what you’re doing and will allow you to answer any criticisms from others.
  3. Have a clear vision for the team/program – What do you want for your team/program? Why is it exciting? How will you get there? Being clear on these questions makes it easier to inspire others (i.e. players and parents) to support your vision.
  4. Aim to inspire rather than motivate – People respond better to leaders who inspire. Coaches become very influential when they aim to help all their athletes reach their highest potential. It takes no skill to identify the best players, but takes a tremendous amount of vision, patience, and belief to identify the highest potential (best) in every player. Speaking to an athlete’s potential will inspire them to greater effort and focus more than using fear and punishment ever could.
  5. Demonstrate more than lecture – Athletes do not sign up to HEAR about how much you know. They want to SEE how much you know. This includes more than demonstrating skills and drills; are you embodying everything you teach them? Be sure to check in and make sure you are setting an example for your values and expectations. They will learn more from how you act than what you say. “The world needs demonstration more than teaching.” – Wallace D. Wattles
  6. Trust the way you do things – If you practice the five aspects listed above then the only thing left to do is trust your practices. As the seasons go by you will learn new things and will likely adjust some things. Trust that your desire to develop great athletes and people will steer you into a great philosophy and ultimately a great coaching legacy.