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Part I: Becoming a Double Goal Coach – The Process of Learning to Coach Life Lessons

by Adam Sarancik


As an Impact Trainer for PCA-Portland, it is incumbent upon me to find practical ways to help coaches do better at developing their players as competitors, specifically Triple Impact Players (players who consistently strive to make themselves, their team, and the game better) and to use the sport to teach them life lessons. I call this the process of holistic coaching.

The first step is a critical one – the coaches and the program must strictly adhere to the philosophy that “We coach people, not sports; it is the quality of the person, not the player that is the most significant outcome.”

The reason this is mandatory is coaches must learn to change how they see the members of their team (and frankly the way they see their other coaches too). Most coaches look at the members of their team and see players, i.e., members of a team that, if developed properly, can help them win games and championships. What they fail to realize is that to develop the player to be the best they can be, you must first develop the athlete. And before you can develop the athlete to be the best they can be, you must relate to, connect with, and validate the person.

In other words, most coaches see their team members as only players and never even think about those players as athletes and as human beings. In one sense, that team member must be seen as three parts, and yet, those three parts must also be seen as one holistic development project.

Here is an outline that I give to my coaches to use in their coaching to begin looking at their team members differently:

I. Person – Athlete - Player
  A. Can you look at the player and see the athlete?
  B. Can you look at the athlete and see the person?
  C. Your success at coaching the player depends on your success in coaching the athlete and your success at coaching the player and the athlete depends on your success with coaching the person.

II. Person
  A. A player/athlete does not care what you know to help them as a player or an athlete until you are able to connect with them to show them you understand them as a person.
  B. You must be able to discover, relate to and validate their feelings and experiences as a son, daughter, friend, student and person in general.
  C. You must be able to take the person as and where they are and educate and motivate them to want to improve as a player, athlete, teammate, and person despite their obstacles and adversity.

III. Athlete
  A. Can you see a flaw in a player’s fundamentals and recognize whether the player needs help with the mechanics of your sport or needs first to correct a flaw in their athleticism?
  B. You must be able to watch a player move and recognize weaknesses in their mobility, stability, elasticity, endurance, strength, power, speed, agility, and/or quickness. All corrections to fundamentals begin with posture, balance, footwork, angles, and rhythm/timing. However, the solution to these problems many times must start with physiology and psychology, not methodology; coach preparation and reaction before action.
  C. Then you or an assistant must know how to design a program and teach the techniques to the player to correct these physiological weaknesses.
  D. You must also be able to educate the athlete about nutrition and recovery so the work they are doing to improve physically will be optimized.

IV. Player
  A. Do you have accurate information and an understanding about how the fundamentals of your sport should be done? Believe it or not, this is very rare!
  B. Can you teach the mechanics of the fundamentals in logical and efficient building block progressions?
  C. Can you teach the building block progressions using all of the learning modalities (auditory, visual, and kinesthetic)?
  D. Can you program your teaching in a differentiated way so that players along the entire ability spectrum can consistently progress?

As an Impact Trainer, sometimes this paradigm shift in thinking is a tough sell when the other coach is being evaluated by the AD and/or by parents solely on wins and losses. At times, I am required to show them communications from my past players that thank me for being their coach. And as any experienced Double Goal Coach will attest, these letters, emails, texts, etc. universally have one thing in common; they never discuss wins and losses, only the impact the coach has had on the player’s life.

As a practical matter then, the first step is to begin all preparations, for the season, for the week, and for each practice session, by planning how we as coaches are going to teach life lessons to our players. And like all goal setting, this planning must be done in a process-oriented way not just by saying our goal is to develop our players to be persons of high moral character and integrity. Specifically, within the strict confines of time, regulations, and resources of your program, how will you teach them to be better sons, daughters, siblings, students, business and community leaders while simultaneously developing them as athletes, players and teammates to win games?

I will give you those specifics in my next post.

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Learn more about Sarancik's book, Coaching Champions for Life


Adam Sarancik has spent most of his adult life mentoring youth ages 8-22 in baseball, softball, soccer, and basketball. He is a favorite speaker at and director of coaches' and players' clinics. He has also developed several youth baseball leagues. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from San Diego State University, his J.D. degree from the University of San Diego School of Law and his Masters of Arts in Teaching from Western Oregon University. Adam is also an Impact Trainer for Positive Coaching Alliance and the author of  two books: Coaching Champions for Life and Takeaway Quotes for Coaching Champions for Life.

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