Coaches are teachers, role models, advocates, supporters, and communicators. They’re the trusted messengers between the game and their athletes, responsible for breaking down a sport to their audience. There are good coaches and bad ones and it’s usually pretty easy to spot which side they fall on.
As I reflect on my last decade of coaching, I can’t help but see how coaching youth athletics has prepared me for my job as a professional communicator.
1. Patience, patience, patience
Everyone has a listening style and leading a team of up to 20 young girls, I’ve experienced all of them. I took a crash course in patience when I first started coaching. Understanding that people listen and learn differently is important when your responsibility is to communicate effectively with them. The same applies as a PR pro. I find the most effective ways to explain the system, demonstrate the system, draw out the system, and detail the why’s of the system. If you’re able to communicate the same process in different ways, you’re more likely to reach the entire audience.
2. Those with grit have a fighting chance
It’s likely that no matter how prepared you are, something can mess up your “bulletproof plan.” Whether your starting goaltender tweaks her knee before the semi-final game, or you find out the spokesperson for your client is stuck out of state before the large press conference (when those can happen again), you have to be resilient. Coaches and communicators share the role of being the first ones that people go to when things go wrong. Adapting in the face of adversity makes you and your group stronger and better prepared in the future. Remaining positive and prepared will create a calm atmosphere, even during the storm. Leading by example, especially when things aren’t going as planned, sets professionals apart from amateurs.
3. Teamwork makes the dream work
It’s my responsibility as a coach to put together a diverse group of individuals who, when put together on a team, will work off each other’s strengths and put one another in the best position to win. As a professional, I surround myself with people who have different skill sets, abilities, and ideas and this network is my army. The more you trust those around you to do their part, the quicker you can reach your end goal. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, don’t be afraid to push those around you to be better, and don’t be afraid to take a chance. With the proper game plan, your team will succeed.
4. Speak with confidence
I started coaching when I was still in college and ran camps with people aged 5-65. Although I knew I still had things to learn, the point was that I was providing my knowledge and skill to these groups and needed to be confident in the things I was teaching them. As a coach and as a communicator, you’re being asked to do a job because you know it inside and out. If you were terrible at it, you wouldn’t have the job. Speak with confidence, know your whys and be prepared to defend them, and be transparent about the things you don’t know while having a path toward finding the answer.
5. Authenticity equals trustworthiness
If they trust you, they’ll buy in. If they’re all in, then the cohesiveness of the group increases. My team knows that what I’m saying is the truth and even when the truth hurts, I have their buy-in. I have found that being authentic and showing some emotion makes me a trustworthy source for those seeking my advice or opinion. Trustworthy brands tend to be more successful because people want to support things and people they can depend on. Finding a way to communicate in a way that shows emotion, but matches an appropriate level of professionalism is a fine balance, but once it’s mastered, you’re there.
Cassi is a senior account executive with Blueprint Alaska, the head coach for the 16U North Star girls hockey team, and the state of Alaska’s female goaltending development coordinator for USA Hockey.