10 Lessons from my first head coaching experience


[This is a guest blog by John Evans. John is an Exercise Science student at Slippery Rock University and participated in the summer internship program at Athletic Lab]

Last week marked the final week of classes of my undergraduate career at Slippery Rock University. Likewise, my first season as a men’s head track coach is winding down as the PIAA state meet quickly approaches. This inspired me to do a little bit of self-reflection on my experience.
As a full-time student, part-time tutor, and head track and field coach, I learned some valuable lessons. Honestly, it has been an extremely stretching experience; however, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. As I watched my athletes walk across the stage for prom, I realized how much joy I take in coaching 28 young men.
I felt it would be valuable to share some of the lessons that I have learned from this experience.

  1. Commit to your athletes: Go to great lengths to show your athletes that you care. Be ethical, but attempt to take advantage of school functions your athletes are involved in. If it’s a musical, go and watch. If it’s interacting with parents at promenade, smile and shake hands.
  2. Stick to your guns: If you are wavering in your decision-making, athletes may notice. As a result, they may lose respect for you.
  3. Pay attention to administrative duties: Keep in close contact with your superiors. Unfortunately, no matter how great your training theory, cueing, and coaching ability, failing to do the small ins and outs of coaching can greatly impact your reputation.
  4. Communicate with your peers: I should have had weekly coaches meetings to discuss our progress, training, and administrative duties. I could have avoided unnecessary friction if I had communicated my expectations better.
  5. Relate: Being that I am only 3 years out of high school, it is easy for me to relate to high school students. This helped me establish a strong relationship with my athletes.
  6. Control your emotions: Try not let athletes know what is frustrating you unless it is ethical and appropriate. Sometimes it may be valuable to divulge personal information, other times it may be better to keep it to yourself.
  7. Try not to pick favorites: If you say you are having lifting after a meet, leave the door open for the entire team, not just the top guys.
  8. Be unassuming: No matter how much evidence you think you have, try not to make assumptions. You may have every reason to believe that an athlete doesn’t like you, but avoid coming to that conclusion until you know for sure.
  9. Calculate risk: What risk is associated with each decision you make? Will that athlete benefit from running that race? How will your decision affect them long term? Why are you taking that risk? Is it worth it?
  10. Spend time with all of your athletes: Especially if you are the head coach, try to get to know all of your athletes, regardless of the event.
John Evans

John Evans

John has a BS in Exercise Science from Slippery Rock University, and is currently pursuing his MS in Sport Science from Northern Michigan University. He is an assistant combined events/jumps coach for NMU women's track and field team, and USATF/USAW level 1 certified. Previously, John interned at Athletic Lab for two summers under owner/director, Mike Young.

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