by Rick McCharles
“Team Building” normally refers to athletes.
But in this post I talk about building team spirit with the coaches in your gym or camp.
It evolved out of a Gymnastics Alberta retreat workshop with 40 gym coaches brain-storming these topics:
Coaching as FUN
Coaches as PEOPLE
Coaching as WORK
Coaching as FUN:
- goal is for coaches to feel “part of the team” (camaraderie)
- say “thank-you” to coaches
- acknowledge when a coach does a good job
- club should provide in-gym uniform — but let coaches decide what that uniform will be
- ideas: tank top throw-over in summer, fleece in winter
- give promo t-shirts for coaches
- encourage coaches to attend Adult Rec / Fitness class after coaching
- team-building events for coaches: Christmas party, barbecue, regular coach socials, coffee meetings, etc.
- memory wall – funny things that happened in the gym are posted by coaches (things kids said, thank-you notes to coaches from kids and parents, etc.)
- theme days for kids and coaches: crazy hair day, etc.
- choreographed club warm-up that can be led by any coach
Coaches as PEOPLE:
- recognize coaches as “individuals” with different strengths and weaknesses
- assign as much responsibility as possible
- coach must find their own “sub” coach when away
- gift from club to coaches are much appreciated: spa treatment, massage gift certificate, etc.
- performance reviews with follow-up
- check on coaches “pet peeves” – e.g. rotations, groupings, time on equipment. Answer those concerns.
- supervisor meets regularly with individual coaches
- formal & informal communication are both important
- supervisor needs to be available to talk to coaches
- coach needs to be available to talk to parents. Follow the kids out of the gym at the end of the class to be available to chat.
- paid regular coaching meetings
- email memos to coaches and post those memos for coaches who did not check email
- up-to-date memo board (with prize for the coach who reads the memo first as an incentive to read the memos!)
- clear procedure (chain of command) for parent complaints
- social for coaches with parent Board of Directors
- keep in touch with former coaches and older gymnasts – invite alumni back on a regular basis
- up-to-date “sub phone list”. Note on the list which days the coach might be available for subbing.
Coaching as WORK:
- contracts (full-time) and letters of agreement (part-time) are essential
- supervisors must back their coaches in public. Any problems dealt with privately and confidentially.
- clubs need budget for “professional development” for all coaches in-gym and outside the gym
- fair treatment for employees. No special treatment for “friends” of the boss.
- recognition and reward for long-term coaches
- reasonable remuneration
- reward good work
- reward very good attendance by coaches
- no “rules”, only expectations for coaches
- coaches willing to “sub” should be rewarded better; e.g. point system for sub hours, small gift for sub, etc.
- reward coaches who do little extras: clean-up gym, volunteer at events, etc.
- pay at least 50% of cost of professional development events
- wage increments for performance
- wage increments for coaches willing to do more hours / week
- recruit coaches from within the club as much as possible
- CIT (coach in training) program is important
Coaches should reflect on the psychological atmosphere at the gym.
How can it be made a happier, more magical place for gymnasts and coaches?
Money in the budget helps a lot. But there are many things we can do to build coaching team spirit which does not cost a penny.