A Shifting Mindset: How to Go From Star Player to Coach

Being the star player puts a lot of weight on your shoulders. Your teammates look up to you and often depend on you for leadership and guidance. That’s a heavy burden to haul sometimes.

Often, when players find it’s time to hang up their jerseys for good, for one reason or another, they find they’re looking to give coaching a try. Those who can’t any longer, teach, right? That would satisfy your desire to stay active and competitive within the sport you love, while giving your body a much needed break.

But is it really that simple? Can you just shift your mindset that easily?

The Misperception About Turning Coach

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Elite players that become coaches have the benefit of immediate respect from players and fans, alike. After all, if you’ve been there, done that, and proven you can bring the goods, you should definitely be able to lead a team to greatness, right?

That’s not really an accurate assumption. While playing experience does contribute to coaching skills in the form of intimate knowledge of the sport itself, those technical and tactical skills aren’t the only things that a team needs to succeed. The role of coach is far more extensive than drill sergeant, and it’s not an easy path. Only a few have been able to do it and succeed with flair.

Behind the scenes, a coach is responsible for:

  • Planning

  • Preparation

  • Orchestrating commitments

  • Counseling

  • Organizing travel

  • Mediation

  • Player development

  • Conflict management

. . . . just to name a few

Moving from the role of player into coach requires a shift in your thinking, from star athlete to leader, manager  team developer, and travel planner. Finding your way around these isn’t as easy as it sounds, but there are things you can do to help make the transition.

Learn to Manage

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Managing people is both an art and a skill. Being a leader comes more naturally for some than others, but there are things that you can do to put your best foot forward. Knowing the game isn’t enough. Learning the basic skills of management isn’t difficult if you seek out opportunities to learn and grow. There is a wealth of information out there. Start by finding out what sort of training opportunities are available in-house, and then go in search of external programs. You’ll need to think outside the box and be open to opportunities that might not necessarily be coaching or sports-driven. Listen to audio tapes on leadership. Talk to successful coaches in the area. Those coaches don’t even have to be within the same sport as you.

Focus on the Basics of Coaching

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. . . . aside from the obvious, of course. Learn communication skills. More importantly, learn how others like to communicate. After all, each individual person learns and understands differently. Being able to talk with your team, both in group situations, and individually will really take you far.

Learn how to make good, effective decisions. When in the heat of the game, you need to decide if you need to bench a player, or let things slide. How do you do that? What criteria do you use for that decision? How about when choosing the best game plan? Decision making skills are things that can be learned and developed over time.

Dealing will conflict isn’t comfortable for everyone, but is a necessary part of life when dealing with a group of highly-charged, goal-driven individuals playing as a team. Learn how to handle different types of conflicts effectively. Coupled with understanding how to effectively communicate, good conflict resolution skills can work to diffuse tension within a squad or between two teammates before things escalate.

Learn to Delegate

As a coach, you’ll have a lot of unexpected responsibilities on your plate, and none of them are going to get done if you don’t learn to delegate. Part of being a coach is learning to manage your time and resources, and if you try to do it all yourself, you’ll fail on most accounts. Don’t be tempted to do all the work yourself.

Part of what makes a great coach is learning to identify the strengths of your players. Work to foster those strengths, and position those players in a way that will leverage those strengths for the benefit of the team. Use the same skills that you do in coaching the players through their positions on the court or field and leverage their skills elsewhere, too. Make the best of your assistants. That’s precisely what they’re there for!

When you work through your people to achieve desired outcomes, that’s when greatness happens.

Pittsburgh-based Hustle Training is a growing startup created for the sports-driven players and coaches out there looking to up their game and maximize performance potential. Their website coupled with the mobile app makes it easy for players to improve their fundamentals and move on to master advanced techniques by providing crafted workouts and drills created by college coaches, professional players, and expert trainers.


Shawnelle Price