I am an assistant coach for a D-1 collegiate field hockey team. And during my many moments of coaching and teaching, I pull from my past experiences.

My coaching style draws on what I’ve learned from my previous coaches and current colleagues. But much of my coaching is directed by all the things I’ve learned as a player

I think as a coach it’s important to put yourself in the players’ shoes. I try to ask myself, “When I was a player, how did I want to be taught?” Taking this rather thoughtful approach to teaching not only ensures that the coach’s advice is heard and received but that they are seen and heard. Being able to know what your athletes need to understand information, to know how they learn best, is integral in teaching the sport. How I break down and teach the concepts of field hockey differs with each player – and that is the beauty of coaching. This is an important understanding because in both teaching and coaching, it’s all about how to build relationships. 

Coach Kell teaching her players about field hockey with a whiteboard.

By learning about the type of person each player is and the kind of athlete they are, you as a coach are building a relationship with each player and, consequently, the collective team. You are a better teacher by accommodating to each individual with their most effective learning style (some athletes like to see a specific skill on video, some like to see it on a whiteboard, some with live demonstration). Learning how to effectively get the most from your athletes creates a stronger, better, and well-oiled team, the key to both their and your success.  

Another important quality of being an effective coach is providing support and being a resource for your athletes. Coaches are not only teachers but are also mentors. And yes, there are moments where it’ll be all about field hockey- but life, the bigger picture, is indeed bigger than the sport itself. As a coach, you want to be able to help up ur players grow and develop in all aspects, on and off the field. My goal as a coach is to help my team members grow into great field hockey players and great humans beings. And the great thing about coaching is that there are always life lessons to be learned in the pursuit of sports.

Being a coach means always thinking of different ways to teach – and the key is to double teach, to teach them simultaneously (perhaps even subliminally) about both the sport and life. With collegiate athletes, I prepare and ready them for life after graduation by building up their interpersonal, leadership, and management skills. That way, they won’t be scared to become great leaders in the workforce because the skills that are required of them (time management, having difficult conversations, working in a team, working under pressure) are the very ones they would have learned right on the field hockey pitch. When I am working with younger athletes in elementary or middle school, things are fairly simple. I want to be able to show them what hard work is, build their confidence, use positive reinforcement, help them to create goals, and ultimately get them to fall in love with the game. 

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