I never imagined that volunteering to coach at my local YMCA would lead to a nationally recognized basketball brand and a net six-figure business! I'm going to share 3 best decisions I made that helped make that happen which could help you too!
I'm probably like you. I got started in coaching as an IDEA. I wanted to "help kids" and "make a difference". I think there was a bit more to it than that, looking back at it now.
DECISION 1. I Started Before I Was Comfortable
I had just moved here from Seattle and had just married my wife, Marie. It was at that time that I was looking for a job (I had moved to Colorado without one) and a thought came to me to consider coaching. At the time I did not have any experience besides PLAYING basketball in high school, so I did not think that I qualified for any paid coaching roles, so I DID NOT EVEN APPLY for any paid positions. (That was a BIG MISTAKE once I realized how much opportunity exists for high-character, motivated coaches. I would make a different decision if I had the chance to make the choice again. I'll share more about that in another post.) Instead, I went down to the local YMCA and discovered the world of VOLUNTEER COACHING.
I'm sure many of you can relate. I signed up at the YMCA, sat through a basic coaching "orientation" and within a week or two I was holding a printed roster of my first team complete with names, email addressed and phone numbers. I was a COACH! My mind immediately raced to thinking about what equipment I needed, what "plays" I was going to run, and my imagination began to race with images of my team dominating (the other elementary school kids) and us carrying away the championship trophy. (C'mon, admit it! You did the same thing!)
The first best decision that I made was simply this. GET STARTED. It may seem obvious, but NOTHING happens until we start. No matter how much we think, plan, imagine, worry, or stress about what we THINK will happen, the only way to begin to know anything is to take action, no matter how small. I had a lot of doubts about my ability to be successful as a coach. Even now, as I coach at the National level, I STILL have doubts and fears and questions about whether I am good enough and deserving enough to be doing what I'm doing. I've realized that those feelings NEVER GO AWAY - unless of course we STOP pursuing our goals and decide to remain comfortable (aka. selfish and self-focused). Signing on the dotted line on that simple volunteer application was the start of an incredible 20-year journey for me. I'm wondering what YOU can start today that will set you on YOUR journey?
Decision 2. I Kept Things Simple
After coaching at the YMCA for about a year, I had developed a REPUTATION for being the most encouraging and motivating coach who actually TAUGHT my athletes HOW to play basketball, rather than chasing wins. I was having fun and enjoying the journey of improving as a coach and COMMUNICATOR. My initial roster of 10 kids that first session turned into a wait list of over 80 kids every 90-days!
I think I was so popular with the kids and families because players on my teams enjoyed our practices because I kept things extremely simple, encouraged 10x more than I corrected, and I gave the kids what I wanted when I was young (and frankly, I still want this every day) - I gave them belief and recognition, publicly celebrating their successes, no matter how small, and IGNORING their mistakes for the most part (unless there was a risk of hurting themselves or someone else). I made sure that each practice the players LEARNED simple fundamentals of the game, using simple language that they could understand. (Some of my terminology has evolved over the years in to expressions and acronyms that help the kids remember the concepts.)
My REPUTATION for creating a CULTURE of encouragement proved to be extremely attractive and word spread quickly amongst parents who were looking for a place for their kids to learn the game and be a part of a "positive experience". Yet I never HAND PICKED any rosters, instead choosing to stay in the most challenging situation by having to TEACH a new group of kids every session. (Some coaches think more about "building a team" and "keeping them together long term", citing the benefits of the "synergy" that kids need to play well together. I think that's short-sighted, and reflects a different motive that what I have been driving towards. I guess if wins-losses are important to a coach, then that approach may be helpful.)
As I think about what made the difference and prepared me for LONG-TERM success in this industry, and what set me up to be able to create a BRAND and COMMUNITY around my basketball passion, the decision to remain focused on TEACHING before coaching was one of the best decisions I have made, and has helped me impact hundreds of athletes and grow year-to-year for over 20-years!
Decision 3. I Gave Away All the Credit
Over time, the kids that I was working with began to demonstrate improvement in skills (the top priority for most parents) and character (the top priority for me). Parents would approach me and thank me for helping their child to develop. While I appreciated the kind words, my heart was always focused on making a lasting impact on each family of every kid that I had a chance to work with.
Whenever I received a compliment I developed the habit of congratulating the parents for supporting the hard work that their child was putting in and I would make sure to say these things IN FRONT OF the athlete. I compliment each athlete, not for a RESULT they got but for the WORK that they continue to do that LED to their results. I'm training the parents and the athletes to focus on the PROCESS of growth, and I want to make sure that everyone understands how much influence they each have on generating the positive outcomes that they are pursuing. I still do that to this day. While I know that I have worked many hours with each athlete and have made a significant impact in their progress on the court and as a leader, this habit of responding with a compliment and finding ways to congratulate parents for their role in the development of each athlete has generated an unexpected result - a thriving CULTURE of appreciation and connection.
I've repeated these three decisions countless times throughout my 20-year career. I've gotten better at each one over time, and the results are amazing! Give them a try and let me know how they work for you! - Coach
Hi, I'm Rob Pierson, and I help coaches like you take their passion and knowledge of their sport and learn how to think and act like an entrepreneur to build a thriving and profitable brand. Your goals are my mission. If this post impacted you, please share it with a friend. If we have not yet met, let's make that happen. Book a time on my calendar for a FREE consultation! You can accomplish your goals. I'll help you! Talk to you soon! - Rob
Welcome! I'm Rob Pierson. I'm a coach and entrepreneur and my mission is to provide resources, connections and coaching to help you maximize your impact as a COACH and LEADER! So glad we're connecting. I'm always adding content here, so check back often!