Body language and attitude can go a long way in helping young athletes get noticed by their coach. But unfortunately, it can also leave a bad impression. Many athletes have developed habits they don’t realize could be hurting them. The way your coach views you can affect where you stand in the line-up, the amount of playing time you get, and the coach’s overall opinion of you as a player. All athletes should develop the following 6 habits in order to stand out and impress the coach, and the good news is, no talent is required!
1. Be First to Arrive, Last to Leave
Timeliness is very important to a coach who often has a limited amount of minutes to teach, develop and master plays in a team sport. Being on time, and being ready to practice or play early, can go a long way to make a strong impression. Likewise, sticking around to help the coaches clean up after practice, even though you are exhausted, shows you take great pride in the team by putting others needs above your own. The coach may not even notice these things right away. But over time, your efforts are certain to stand out and build your coach’s trust in you.
2. Maintain Positive Body Posture
It is not uncommon to see young athletes stand in a non-receptive way. Some may cock one hip out to the side, others may tilt their head, and often they may stand with arms crossed over their chest. All of these non-verbal body cues send a message that may be interpreted by the coach in a negative way. Think about it. Who looks more confident and interested in what the coach is teaching: the athlete with hip cocked and arms crossed, or the athlete with hands on hips and body weight distributed on both feet? Do not take a knee or lean against a bench/wall, etc., unless the coach tells you to. How does it look if you take a knee and the rest of the team is standing? You may not realize it, but the non-verbal cues you send could be interpreted as laziness, poor stamina, or indifference. Make it a point to notice how you are standing, and focus on building a habit to hold your body posture in a confident, ready position.
3. Practice Making Good Eye-Contact
When your coach is talking to you, or addressing the whole team, practice making good eye-contact. This is especially important when the coach is directing the conversation to you. It is a sign of respect to look someone in the eye while they are talking to you. Looking at the ground, or off to the side, can be construed as being rude or uninterested. When the coach is addressing the team, it is important that you are engaged the entire time. You don’t have to fixate on their eyes to the point of being uncomfortable; you can alternate your gaze from their eyes to their nose to their mouth and back again. It is acceptable to occasionally look away here and there, but remain focused on their face the majority of the time. Whatever you do, make sure you do NOT roll your eyes!
4. Always Use Good Manners
It surprising how often using good manners is overlooked, especially by young athletes. When you see your coach, say “hello”. When your coach corrects you, thank him/her for helping you get better by simply saying “yes coach, thank you”. When you are asked to do something, your response should be “yes sir/ma’am” or “yes coach”, depending on what your coach prefers. If you don’t understand what the coach is telling you, it is fine to politely ask them to clarify what they mean. The worst response is to ignore the coach when he/she yells something at you on the bench, or across the room during practice. Acknowledge the message by responding when it is appropriate to do so. Also, be sure to always use good manners when addressing your teammates, their parents, and the referees. Not only is it polite, it leaves a positive, lasting impression on those who witness it, including your coach. Finally, make it a point to never leave practice or a game without thanking your coaches for their time and their help.
5. Always Put the Team First
Being a great teammate is a dream-come-true to a coach. Putting the team before yourself means you understand every team has many different roles, and you must be willing to take on whatever role the coach needs you in for the sake of the team. Causing a scene when coach moves you from one position to another NEVER works in your favor. If you have questions about why you were moved, it is best to address these with the coach in private after practice is over (preferably the next day after you’ve cooled off). Great teammates are never afraid to congratulate others on a great play, a new skill, or a compliment from the coach. Additionally, great teammates are quick to encourage those who are struggling, having a bad practice, or stuck in a slump. It can be hard to encourage or congratulate others when you aren’t pleased with your own performance, but try it! You might find that it makes you feel better too.
6. Always Give 100% Effort
It takes no talent to give 100% effort all of the time. The quote ‘hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard’ by Tim Notke, is very true. Busting your tail will almost always be noticed by your coach, even if you are not the most skilled player on the team. Giving full effort isn’t just about the time you are running the play, it also applies between plays. When coach calls the team in for chalk talk, don’t slowly meander over to him/her. Hustle over there pronto! Everything you do involving your team should be at a full effort if you want to impress your coach and make an impact. This quote from the Performance Xtra website article 3 Things to Do When You’re Trying to Impress Your Coach says it all: “The more effort a coach sees you putting into the team, the more effort that coach will put into you.”