Picking the Best Ringette Coach

“Why do I hear only one coach yelling?” asked a mother as she watched her daughter play. She noticed that her daughter’s coach was NOT yelling.

She concluded that her daughter’s coach was a poor coach, due to his silence.

Do good coaches yell? How loud should they yell?

How about this one: “did you win?” Because if you lost – well, that game was a waste of time.

Yet another typical comment: “as a coach, she is a great strategist.”

What is the definition of a good coach? Yeller, winner or strategist?

In the pre-season, many local ringette associations challenge themselves to select the “best” coaches for their teams. They want the “best” for their athletes.

Many coaching selection committees, regardless of the level of play, do not know what they expect of coaches.

How can a coach perform well in the absence of guidance and expectations?

Personnel experts tell us to determine the selection criteria and assessment methods prior to starting the assessment process.

Coaching selection should be valid, fair and merit-based.

So, what makes a good coach?

The Coaching Association of Canada notes the qualities of great sport coaches:

  • Knows the Sport
  • Seeks Out New Information
  • Is a Motivator
  • Knows The Athlete
  • Is an Effective Communicator
  • Is a Good Listener
  • Is Disciplined
  • Leads by Example
  • Displays Commitment

Andrea Becker, a professor at Cal State Fullerton, published the study, “It’s Not What They Do, It’s How They Do It: Athlete Experiences of Great Coaching,” in the International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching (Vol. 4, No. 1, 2009). She asked athletes about great coaching.

Becker identified 60 characteristics of great coaching and grouped them into the following six themes:

  • Coach Attributes
  • The Environment
  • Tactics and Strategies
  • Relationships
  • Coaching Actions, and
  • Influences

Athletes in the study spoke out:

“…great coaching cannot be solely determined on the basis of win-loss records or media attention. … the true essence of greatness was captured in athlete experiences of who their coaches were, what they did, how they did it, and how it influenced them. Ultimately, these athletes experienced individuals who were not only great coaches, but extraordinary people who left lasting impressions on the lives of those who were fortunate enough to call them ‘coach.’

What does this mean for the coaching selection committee trying to pick the best ringette coach?

Start with the core criteria: enthusiasm, teaching the details of the sport, and creating a learning and discovery environment that inspires.

Coaches who simply watch ringette athletes perform rote drills copied from a drill book will achieve limited results.

Coaching is about athlete engagement: offering an athlete learning experience with feedback to foster development.

And, last, but not least – we want coaches who respect, understand, and aim to support female athletes. Boys and girls are different. They warrant different coaching approaches.

Selection committees can create teaching simulations for prospective coaches, conduct reference checks for past behaviour, and assess personality interests and approaches.

While not perfect for coaching selection, interviews are common as a selection method.

Ringette Associations can follow these tips for good ringette coaching interview selection:

  • Choose relevant knowledge and behavioural factors (practice planning, drill leadership, game management, tactics, fitness for ringette, conflict management between players, and working with assistant coaches)
  • Avoid closed-ended questions, such as “Did you know about this…?”
  • Compose questions that put the coach in a real ringette coaching situation and ask her to apply her knowledge and experience
  • Have a list of 10 good answers on the marking sheet; look for 5 points from the candidate (this puts selection committee members on the same page, and makes marking easy)
  • Allow for other acceptable answers as they arise
  • Keep notes
  • After all interviews are over, the committee agrees on the score to each of the candidate’s questions
  • Plan for 3 hours to process four candidates (20 to 25 minutes per person)

Experience is king: “been there, done that.” But, don’t overlook the “new to coaching,” motivated, natural engaging leader who inspires and teaches.

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