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The Impact of Role Models on Players and Coaching

By Jon Woodward Coaching Education Advisor at sports coach UK

I have previously blogged around the importance of positive role models in the development of young performers (please see The Role of a Sporting Parent http://www.sportscoachuk.org/blog/role-sporting-parent-parents-just-don%E2%80%99t-understandor-do-they). Over the last year, The Olympics, Tennis success and the Lions tour have brought athletes into our household for the first time thorough the eyes of my daughters and now held in high esteem, with the Mo-Bot being the choice of celebration when something goes well, and the recognition of these sporting icons on various celebrity reality shows

The icons of sport offer up dreams of what could be, uphold what is good and true about the sport and start as the entry point onto the path of lifelong involvement. But what happens when these icons fall from grace?

Over the past few years we have seen racist abuse claims aplenty, accusations and admissions of cheating in football and the fall from grace of high profile performers as they admit to doping to success – how does this impact on performers, both young and old, on their perception of sport, success and how to get there?

Studies around role models show that behaviour and perception of the sport, the game and of life is directly influenced on the young (and the not so young!) by these ‘icons’. It can be a difficult and an uninvited role as Bradley Wiggins’ comments in his biography, “I never wanted or chose to be a role model”. However, either as a famous sporting hero (I use this work loosely) or as the people who guide children through sport, we are the chosen few

So consider:

  1. As coaches, we need to extol all of the virtues that are good about sport – you are the role model who has the closest contact with the children, and one of the first people who guides the childrens view of sports
  2. As parents, we should support the coaches in their development and become part of the athletes coaching team (http://www.sportscoachuk.org/blog/need-educate-audience-and-spectator) -
  3. Use positive examples to re-enforce your aims – for example, if a child is struggling with an activity, it is important to make sure you are not telling them they are wrong, but encouraging them to explore new techniques with advice and guidance, e.g. “Have you tried  catching the ball with two hands” as opposed to “No, you are doing it all wrong”
  4. Creating this mindset from a coaching perspective has amazing impact on how the players speak to each other, and also develops their confidence in being leaders, offering a positive critique and receiving feedback.
  5. Be mindful of your actions and reactions – a thrown water bottle, an aggressive gesture towards an official or a “oh no” head in hands at an action can speak volumes – it is important to show restraint and control, in all situations from a setback to a success
  6. Identify those athletes, performers and coaches who are at the top of their game and use them as the examples alongside your beliefs
  7. It is important to support younger coaches developing their trade to understand what they do is noticed by their players – I observed a young coach within my own club recently on a chilly training night with his sleeves, tucked over his hands, shoulders raised and looking cold and uninterested. Not a major issue, but appearance and perception of non-interest could soon pass on to the children. A quiet word and explanation of the image also worked wonders

It is often said that you should never meet your heroes, as you may be disappointed in who they are - but imagine if you as a coach are the hero to your performers, and they begin to share your beliefs and actions

Scary thought, but get it right, who knows what the children of today could become tomorrow.... and they will take time to thank you for it too

Jon Woodward is a Coach Education Advisor at sports coach UK. He is a parent, coach and coach educator fulfilling various roles with various sports – and can be found tweeting ( @JonWoodward74) and blogging about coaching and life

Next Steps

If you enjoyed this blog Jon has posted a number of other blogs on ConnectedCoaches - our free online community for coaches of all sports and activities – such as The Importance of Language in Coaching.You can view all his blogs here.

He has also been interviewed for a number of their articles including:

The ‘C’ system is a holistic coaching model that delivers on all fronts, supporting the development of the whole child – mentally and socially, as well as technically and tactically. In the first of a two-part feature, we take a look at three elements of the ‘C’ system: connection, confidence and competence, with the help of ConnectedCoaches Community Champion Jon Woodward.

This question will always divide opinion, as sure as night follows day. There are those who believe your methods should remain the same regardless of which gender you are coaching. Others swear that differences do exist, offering up examples to prove it. This article aims to provide food for thought rather than serve up a definitive answer.

Coaches endeavour to help children develop both as well-rounded individuals and proficient athletes – by feeding their passion. Which is why cutting edge coach education is so vital. UK Coaching’s ‘Coaching Children 5–12: The Next Generation’ workshop aims to provide modern children’s coaches with all the information they need to make that journey a fun and rewarding one for coach and athlete.

Two members – Jon Woodward (football, gymnastics and golf) and Rachel Hooper (rowing) – share their experiences of using the HudlTechnique (formerly Ubersense) app.


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