Beyond the Game: The Crucial Role of Coaching Character in Sports

I have the privilege of working with some incredible athletes and coaches. This past week I saw one of my college athletes step way out of her comfort zone. She did not hesitate to do what her team needed to “secure the W”.  And they did. They won. But way more importantly than that, it’s what this player exemplifies off the ice that is truly inspiring. What distinguishes this player is her conduct when she isn’t playing her sport. Player H leads by example, exemplifying integrity and great character. This blog is dedicated to her.

In the exhilarating world of sports, the spotlight often shines brightly on the athletic prowess and skill of the players on the field or court. The commitment, dedication and talent required to excel in athletics are undeniable. However, beneath the surface of raw, physical ability, lies a fundamental ingredient that is often overlooked, sometimes not even coached, but plays a crucial role in shaping the journey of a truly exceptional athlete – character.

Character, the amalgamation of one’s integrity, values, and personal ethics is the invisible force that often distinguishes a good athlete from a great one. If coaches put character into the forefront of everything that they do, the returns will be amazing.

Should we coach good character? Yes.

Should we practice good character? Yes.

Great character often goes hand-in-hand with strong leadership qualities. However, that doesn’t always mean the leaders wear a C on their jersey. Leadership comes in many forms. Athletes who possess a strong, moral compass tend to inspire and influence their teammates positively. Nobody would disagree with that. A strong leader is consistent, hard-working and helps to create a solid foundation for team dynamics, unity and cooperation.

So, isn’t that a good enough reason to add character-building to practice?

If so, we need to promote, celebrate, and coach good character in our athletes. The return on investment is undoubtedly considerable.

Football player J.C Watts said it best, “Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking.”

Coaches are more than just instructors of athletic skills; they are influential figures who have a significant impact on the lives of their athletes. By emphasizing and coaching character, coaches instill values such as integrity, respect, discipline, and teamwork. These values go way beyond the game, forming the foundation of student-athletes moral compass, and guiding their actions both on and off the field.

Great coaches understand that developing strong character traits goes hand-in-hand with building successful teams. They mentor athletes to lead by example, promoting a culture of good communication and accountability. These are not just fun buzzwords; there is a lot of evidence that good team culture = success.

The impact of character coaching extends well pass an athlete’s sports career. The lessons learned in integrity, teamwork and perseverance, become ingrained in an athlete’s identity. This has a profound influence on a athlete’s decisions and actions throughout their lives.  “Sportsmanship for me is when a guy walks off the court and you really can’t tell whether he won or lost when he carries himself with pride either way.” – Jim Courier

So….coaches who prioritize character development, create a lasting legacy. And not just shaping athletes, but more importantly, shaping exceptional individuals prepared for life’s challenges.

linda smiling<br />

Written by Linda Martindale

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