Tag Archives: coaching motivations

Making the Transition

If you have read much of what I have written, you have probably read me stating that our definition of recreational and competitive archers is that recreational archers are motivated by fun alone. Competitive archers are not just motivated by fun. Combine this with the fact that Mike Gerard and I are writing a book of archery drills for Human Kinetics, and you can see that doing drills is a good marker to tell you whether you are dealing with a competitive archer or a recreational archer.

Doing drills is, well, boring. They are repetitive by nature and there just isn’t much fun in them. But for a competitive archer, getting better is fun and they are willing to do drills. Serious competitive archers are motivated by learning to win and they will do drills until the cows come home. Recreational archers will get bored or never bother starting a drill because, well, they ain’t fun.

There is a deeper aspect here and it concerns the same topic: motivation. Ideally our students would be intrinsically motivated, that is their motivation comes from within. As children, we often were extrinsically motivated in that there were rewards attached to good behavior (or possibly no punishment as a substitute for a reward). In most cases, having an intrinsic motivation, especially to produce an athletic performance is vastly superior. So, I was reading a book (Why We Do What We Do) and this jumped off of the page at me:

“As socializing agents—parents, teachers, and managers—it is our job to encourage others to do many things they might find boring but that will allow them to become effective members of society. Actually, our job goes beyond just encouraging them to do activities; it’s more challenging than that. The real job involves facilitating their doing activities of their own volition, at their own initiative, so they will go on doing activities freely in the future when we are no longer there to prompt them. (emphasis his)”

The author goes on to use the rather mundane example of a boy who, over time, transforms requests to take the garbage out into a process where he keeps an eye on it and takes it out when needed, no longer needing prompting. (Yeah, in your dreams.)

The point, however is well taken. How do we as coaches help archers with the transition from doing things because the coach said so and doing things of his own volition? This presupposes we are dealing with a competitive archer, maybe one somewhere between being a competitive archer (training to compete) and a serious competitive archer (training to win). If we, as coach, tell them what to do all of the time and set their goals for them, etc. we are extrinsically addressing them as a student. If, on the other hand, we offer things to them, for them to choose to do, we are going “beyond just encouraging them to do activities” and leading them to doing things of their own volition. This, of course, as mentioned above has ramifications regarding the effectiveness of their training.

So, how do you do this? You can start by offering choices, rather than giving directions. I am not suggesting that you are a “do this, do that” coach, I do not really know who you are (well, I do know some of you), but if you look at your students as if they were your best friend you were coaching, how would you coach them? (I learned this “trick” from my days as a classroom teacher.) You wouldn’t boss your friend around or give them orders, but often our “suggestions” can be heard by our students as being just that. If you ask them to make choices, they become more of a partner and less of a client in their own training.

So, you might say “I know of a couple of drills you could do that would help with that.” If they do not respond (assuming they heard you), then that isn’t something they want to do. So, ask “How do you want to address this?” If they answer “I don’t know,” then you can give them your opinion, for example, “Most archers address this by doing XYZ or ABC drills.” “What are those?” they ask. You describe the drills and you ask if they want to try the drills. You keep asking for them to make decisions as if their opinion actually mattered to you (I hope it does). If they want to do something you do not approve of, you can say “I don’t think that will work, but if you do, it is worth a try.”

In this fashion an athlete builds up trust in their coach as a partner in their training and becomes more intrinsically motivated or, at least, more understanding of their own motivations. What we see on TV (ESPN, etc.) is big time college coaches who are quite authoritarian and professional coaches who are less authoritarian (maybe). If coaches have a reputation for training winners, maybe this approach can get their athletes to where they want to go. many athletes sign up for these programs willing to do as they are told because of those reputations. And, there is some truth to showing people what they can do by demanding it (I experienced this in college athletics). But, I also suspect that if you are dedicated to the goal of not just making better archers, but also to making better people, the approach recommended above is more desirable.

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Hey Coach “What’s In It For You?”

There are two levels we wish to address this question in this article: the first is “what is in it for you personally as an archery coach” and then again from an outside view as someone who is responsible for youth archery coaches in a program, which is “what’s in it for them?”

A very common arc for an archery coach is this: your son or daughter gets involved in an archery program and, voila, you are by definition “an archery parent.” If your child sticks to it so that you are involved for several years, your kid’s coach suggests that you help out and to help out you need to be certified, so you become a Level 1 Coach and start helping out with the team/classes. Along the way, you give archery a try and it is a lot of fun and you become a more or less committed archer yourself. As the years go on, you can find yourself in the position whereby the longtime coach retires from that position and asks someone to “step up” and take his position. Often many people look to you because you’ve been a helper for so very long and . . . sound familiar? I suspect that many of you recognize at least a part of this scenario.

It goes on. From the viewpoint of the youth coach, many times they find themselves two to three years past the point where their kids stopped participating and wonder “Why am I still doing this?”

We recommend that you look at this question from the beginning and re-examine it from time to time. It is one thing to do something to support a child’s hobby, but you could end up spending a great deal of precious family time, a great deal of money (on your own equipment, lessons, training programs, books, etc.) out of inertia, that is just by being involved.

We think you need get something out of this effort, being an archery coach, but we can’t tell you want that is. we suggest that you do a little exercise and write out your coaching philosophy. Steve Ruis, AFm Editor, has posted his several times so that will serve as an example.

My Coaching Philosophy
Steve Ruis
Last Updated Summer 2013

Because archery is not just an individual sport but is a sport with no opponent, almost all of the responsibility for a performance falls to the athlete. Consequently my goal is to create a situation in which the athlete becomes functionally self-sufficient. To do this, I:
•    describe my general approach (bring all parts of an archer’s shot up to parity and then rework the shot as many times as is desired to achieve the archer’s goals) but am open to other approaches an archer may desire.
•    endeavor to explain everything I am asking an athlete to do (but only up to the point they desire)
•    ask the athlete to make all final decisions regarding form changes, etc.
•    continually educate the athlete in techniques that can be used to self-educate him- or herself, e.g. process goals, journaling, learning how to analyze video (but only up to the point they desire).
•    break down complex tasks into doable parts as much as is possible, explaining to the athlete what is being done and why.
•    demonstrate a positive outlook, which is a requirement of successful coaching as much as successful archery.
•    educate the archer on his/her equipment with the goal of them taking full responsibility for their own equipment.
•    educate the archer on the requirements of competing successfully with the goal of them taking full responsibility for competition planning, preparation, and execution.
•    honor the athlete’s outcome goals and teach how one achieves outcomes through ladders of success and careful preparation and execution.
•    honor the fact that each student is a diverse individual and that I may not be the most, or even a very, substantial influence on their lives.
•    work as hard for my students as they do for themselves. If a student does not want to work toward their own goals, I will honor their decision but I will not continue to work with them.
•    will endeavor to point out how what they are learning from their bow and arrows carries over into other aspects of their lives.
•    will work with parents of underage athletes, necessarily, so that there is full communication between and among the archer’s support team.
•    work hard to improve my knowledge, skills, and attitudes as a coach.

Once you have written out your own coaching philosophy, basically “what you do” and “how you do” it as a coach, go back through and ask yourself “why?” for each point. For some things you may find it stems from “wanting to do a good job” and you may find that you do others “because you like to help people.” Archery provides a short feedback loop such that you can make a suggestion to an archer and they can get positive results in very short order. Compared to the other “projects” in your life, like “being a good parent” or “raising your children well” or “getting a promotion at work in the next three years,” this is blazing fast proof that your activities are effective and important to others. That feels good.

Whatever you discover as to “what I am getting out of this,” we think that to do a good job, you have to want to do a good job and the “whys” are important.

Do You Supervise Other Coaches?
Or do you help “run” the program you coach in? Or are you in any way invested in the success of the program? If so, there is another aspect of this and that is if your other coaches aren’t getting something out of their participation they will be gone shortly and you will have to replace them.

In the long run, we think coaches need to be paid. They don’t have to be paid as if it were like being in a great job but youth coaches are doing work very similar to what paid teachers and paid recreation leaders do. There is a lot of work associated with running a program and coaching a bunch of student-archers. Coaches also incur out-of-pocket expenses. Do your coaches have whistles? Where’d they get them? (We give our coaches a whistle as part of their graduation ceremony when we train them.) Coaches end up buying all kinds of things out-of-pocket (even their own whistles). Since the vast majority of them are volunteers, they are in effect paying for the privilege of donating their services.

If you want your coaches to stick around, there are any number of things you can do to encourage that. Obviously treating them with respect is a given, but after that appreciation goes a long way to encouraging volunteer coaches. This can be as simple as thanking them publically, either at a picnic/dinner/party or in an ad in the local paper thanking them by name. Plaques of appreciation are welcome as are other tokens (windbreakers, shirts with “Coach” embroidered upon them, whistles, books on coaching archery, (subscriptions to Archery Focus magazine, Ed.), etc. If your program doesn’t have much money, you can ask the parents to support a “coach gift” or as we did for a long time, we printed appreciation certificates designed on a computer. It is the thought that counts, not so much the money, but sometimes it is the money: to pay for a coach training program, to buy a bow for themselves, to allow for the coach to travel to an important event to be with the team. Parents will often donate all kinds of things if you ask for help. We have had parents donate round-trip airfare coupons they had to allow us to bring in a coach for a special team training session for one of our JOAD groups. Other parents offered to house and feed the guest coach and drive him around, others offered to pick him up and drop him off at the airport, and we collected enough cash to pay his fee for the session. We didn’t ask for anything specific, we just pointed to the opportunity and the parents did the rest.

You need to think about the “care and feeding of volunteer coaches” and how you can enhance the experience of your coaches. They will be happier, stay with you longer, and speak more positively about the program than they will if they are just taken for granted.

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