Are You A Positive Coach? Does It Matter?

Dragon Boat Coach

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How do you know if you're a positive coach or not? Your team is winning races and their time is improving, so you must be doing something right.

But, what if they're not winning, their time is not improving. How do you handle it? How does your team respond?

Positive coaching is gaining much ground in a wide variety of sports. While it seems to be frequently geared towards young athletes, people of all ages in all sports will benefit from positive coaching techniques. Being a positive coach may seem like a ‘d'uh' moment for you, but it's not as common as you might think.

What is positive coaching?

Positive coaching is not telling your team or individual athlete that they had a good day and send them off. It requires observations and feedback to each paddler. What did they do right, why? Positive coaching involves narrative between you and your athletes.

Were they faster because they have improved upper body strength? Was their timing better?

Be specific when offering your athletes praise.

Focus on what they did correctly, not just what they need to improve on.

How do you address what they did wrong in a positive manner? Don't throw chairs (or paddles) or punish your athletes when they have declined or failed to improve. Positive coaching does not mean avoiding what went wrong. It's about providing your athlete with constructive feedback in a manner that wont crush their self esteem or mental health.

Instead of telling them that they were terrible and you've seen cats paddle faster than them, try offering ways they can improve. If the athlete is not as fast as the rest of the team suggest an added upper body workout, cardio, more time in individual paddle sports or self competition.

Focus on what can be improved upon and how

Research has shown that athletes who receive positive reinforcement rather than punishment (e.g. benching) show improvement in performance. Besides, you want your athletes to be happy, healthy and dripping with gold medals.

Benefits of Positive Coaching

Aside from boosted mental health and a general feeling of well-being, positive coaching leads to improved performance. Your team deserves an overall feeling of happiness. Most have joined a dragon boat team to meet new people, improve their physical abilities or they simply recognize that it's just the best sport!

The last thing any person wants is to feel berated by their coach. By utilizing positive feedback you will not only see an improvement in your athlete's performance, but also their happiness (and yours).

Positive feed back leaves you feeling good about yourself. This coaching technique will help build stronger athletes. When coaches have utilized the positive approach with their athletes they have noted increased performance as well as marked improvement on weaknesses.

Focusing on what went well and how to improve upon their weaknesses builds better athletes. Imagine your grade 7 math test; all those wrong answers crossed over in red pen. Then consider how you would feel if your teacher never told you why they were wrong or how to do them right. Address weak points as a starting point towards becoming a stronger paddler. Avoid relating areas of improvement to shame, it doesn't build stronger teams, it breaks them down.

Build a strong team

If you are using positive coaching techniques you're likely watching your dragons paddle towards that finish line. So, are you using these coaching methods?

How To Recognize Your Coaching Style

A good first tip – did you just throw a paddle? If so, you're not using positive coaching.

Do you feel the blood rushing to your cheeks? Did you just tell that paddler that they blew hard out there? Did you just bench someone because they did not perform today?

If so, you're not using positive coaching techniques.

Don't burn your paddlers. Lift them up.

Your team knows if they did a good job or not. Chances are your individual paddler knows if they had a good practice/race or not.

You are the coach. Your responsibility is to build a strong team up, not beat them down. Next time your team/paddler has tough day, take them aside, talk to them. Discern what went wrong and how it can be improved. Work together to build stronger human beings, and dragon boat medals will follow.

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