Coaching Association of Canada

Mark Smith - Softball


As the expression goes, “if I had ten cents for every time I’ve heard someone questioning a coaching decision I’d be rich”. In truth however that is a question I am often asked about coaching decisions and it provides an opportunity not only to discuss that question, but also to talk about why good coaching is important. Coaching is an extremely challenging responsibility and the older and more competitive the age group the greater the challenge. Wins and losses tend to be the most common criteria used to assess coaching effectiveness and in high performance environments, success is the primary measuring stick, but have you ever wondered beyond that criteria what makes a good coach?

Imagine for a moment the responsibility of being a coach. Coaches take on a variety of roles such as administrator, mentor, friend, role model, technical expert, taxi, babysitter, psychologist, and the list goes on. But perhaps the most important role a coach takes on is to develop young people. Sport can be an incredibly powerful vehicle for teaching young people many life skills and it is the coach who creates that environment and facilitates those life lessons through a variety of sport experiences. As a young athlete playing my favourite summer sport I was one of the players who got to play a lot, but in the winter time when I played other sports that wasn’t always the case. I remember my father helping me to understand that on a team everyone has a role to play and that by understanding how roles on teams work I then had a better understanding of how those other kids who played on my summer sport team felt when they weren’t getting to play as much as they would have liked.

As I grew older I began to realize that beyond the knowledge that a coach can provide about the correct way to play a sport, the “softer skills” of coaching such as how to communicate effectively, how to take responsibility, how to lead as well as follow, how to support others in the group and how to be a good teammate were not only important in team sport but also in a workplace environment. It was my coaches who exposed me to this and many other life skills through sport. You can pick pretty much any sport in this country and where you see consistent success in terms of depth in participation levels across all age categories, high skill development and kids generally having fun, you can be sure that one of the key elements contributing to that success is good coaching.

Sport has come a long way in terms of ensuring that quality coaching education is affordable and available for those who are interested in learning how to coach. Gone are the days when the person who volunteered to coach is expected to take on that task without experience or access to the theory and technical information associated with becoming a coach. Today through the National Coaching Certification Program and Long Term Athlete Development Model, most provincial sport organizations are able to provide coach education specific to the age group and skill and ability. Volunteers who wish to learn how to coach are able to get the necessary information.

Good coaching is essential to building long-term capacity, participation and growth within any organization and sport programs in general. While it can be argued that there are sport facility infrastructure deficit an many regions of the country, having new fields, arenas, courts and pools is only a piece of the equation for developing champions. Good coaches make learning fun at all levels. They enhance the sport experience, provide avenues to develop confidence and character, skill and integrity, independence and maturity and can change the way athletes of all ages see themselves and the world they live in.

So as you watch the upcoming Pan Am Games in August and cheer on your favorite athlete, remember that those athletes would not be there without great coaching along the way. Good coaching is about the final result at the end of a life-time not a game or a season.