Top athletes are often branded as inappropriate role models for our kids. Sex, booze, and violence are all-too-common transgressions in the world of professional sports. However, the spotlight is rarely thrown upon the coach as an influential role model. We can be under no illusion that professional coaches also provide a powerful influence in the lives of our youth sport coaches, and their young athletes. This is even more so when the transgressor is one of the world’s top coaches such as Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson.
In Australia we have 1.15 million people involved in coaching sport. Each of these people plays an important and influential role in lives of their athletes. Their behaviour has the potential to impact a generation of young people involved in youth sport. In any one year, we can expect over 60% of children aged between 5 and 14 years to participate in organised youth sports. Over many years, this can be expected to rise significantly. Therefore, the behaviour, expectations and attitude of our coaches are a powerful influence upon the development of a generation of young people.
The question is; where do our coaches learn how to behave? Our coaching courses neglect interpersonal and social components in favour of teaching technical and tactical skills to junior coaches. Coaches are therefore left to seek out their own information in terms of appropriate behaviour. The easiest place to get this is from TV, and what we learn of Messrs Mourinho and Ferguson. So while-ever Mr Mourinho is being kicked out of the game, and while he continues to chastise referees, so will our junior coaches (not to mention that those coaches who blame referees for poor performances will never be able to improve their athletes performance).
Providing an appropriate role model is just one component of effective coaching. However, it is a powerful one. Youth sports coaches take note – provide our youth with examples of moral decision-making, de-emphasise winning in favour of technical and tactical improvement, and model appropriate interpersonal relationships. Your athletes will act as you do.