By Melodie Veldhuizen
The parents of so many young children who excel in sport at school, have a dream that their child will one day represent his or her province or country as a sportsperson, or that sport would become a great career. Often the dream starts with the children themselves who approach their parents to get personal coaching in their favourite sport. Perhaps as a parent you are struggling with the question: When is it wise to appoint a personal sports coach* for your child?
*(In this article all references to coach include female coaches.)
Jannie Putter, A mental coach of many athletes and sports teams, well-known motivational speaker and author, sheds light on this important matter.
What factors determine whether I should invest in private coaching for my child?
- Your child’s age. There is no prescribed age. Readiness for professional coaching depends on who your child is, your child’s emotional capacity and also who the coach of your choice is.
- Your child’s commitment. Is your child really committed to practise the sport, or is it just an interest or talent at an early age?
- In primary school children win mainly as a result of:
- Date of birth: Children born early in the year (January, February or March), compete against children born later in the year (October, November and December). The fact that they are physically bigger and stronger gives them a major advantage.
- Talent: At primary school level a little more talent makes a huge difference. However, at a later stage talent becomes an “equaliser” and then factors such as character and mental toughness determine whether a child will be successful.
- Your child’s keenness to learn and ability to be coached.
- Finances: When a child feels constantly guilty about the financial “burden” his / her dream places on the parents, it will never work. On the other hand, it may be that the parents cannot afford a professional coach and then they feel guilty for not being able to give their child the opportunity. Feelings of guilt can never work.
- The availability of an ideal coach (especially for young children). Such a coach is someone who is going to do more than just coaching. He or she is going to work with your child’s heart.
Is private coaching only relevant for individual sport or does it apply to team sports as well?
Private coaching is of the utmost relevance for team sports. A coach or a teacher (who coaches) is probably (apart from the child’s parents) the most important person in a child’s life. A coach has the power to win a child’s heart but also to break a child’s heart. The coach can “make” or “break” a child’s sports career. Too many children’s lives (and hearts) are lost due to foolish and “traditional” coaches. For many coaches, it is all about the outcome – even if it is at the expense of a child’s heart. When choosing a coach for your child, you must exercise this choice wisely – it has a long-term effect on every person.
What are the traits of a good (the ideal) coach?
One can list many traits, but the following traits are some of the most important ones:
- The coach must know who he is working with. He must be familiar with the different personality types and should know how to work with each of them. Of course, he also needs to understand the temperament of the children he works with. Such a coach does not have an ego that stands in his way as he tries to prove himself – his focus is to truly win the heart of every child he works with.
- He understands that every child is different and is technically not inflexible. He is able to develop the uniqueness of each child even if it does not always appear to be that “good”.
- He embodies what he stands for – if he expects discipline, then he shows discipline himself.
- Coaching is not about him but about the child – he is 100% comfortable with giving credit to the child and taking a backseat in those “moments of glory” the child experiences.
- He is not blinded by tradition – he is prepared to discover what is special within each child and is not threatened by change.
- He realises that he has the ability to make or break a life – and that is why he works wisely and with caution with each child. He builds dreams – he does not destroy them.
- He has the ability to cultivate love and laughter in the child he is coaching. Nothing is too serious, and humour is part of what he does.
Is an agreement necessary?
The ideal coach will draft a clear agreement between him, the parents and the child before the coaching starts. This agreement is more about the emotional and mental impact than about the child’s physical conditioning. In Chapter 4 (dealing with the beginning of the relationship) of Jannie’s book, Wen 'n hart*, (Win a heart) such an agreement is discussed and explained.
Where and how does one start to look for the ideal coach?
Listen. Statements from happy and satisfied parents and children are the best advertisements.
In the quote here below, Jannie emphasizes that when it comes to sports (coaching) a child’s heart is more important than anything else:
“We can motivate until we are blue in the face. We can coach and implement the world’s best techniques. We can inspire and encourage and look for every possible opportunity … If you don’t have the heart of a child or an athlete, you have nothing.” [Free translation from the Afrikaans]
*Every parent, teacher (who coaches sport) and every coach should read Jannie Putter’s book, WEN 'n HART – 'n handleiding vir afrigters, ouers en onderwysers (January 2021).
For more information, contact Jannie Putter:
Cell phone number: 083 291 0181 OR visit his website https://www.jannieputter.co.za/