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This post is written from my perspective as a coach. I’ve assembled a few teams over the years, so these are my 2 cents; it doesn’t mean that other coaches in Switzerland use the same system. However, I do think that in the end, we’re all looking for the same qualities in our athletes. If you can deliver on those, you’ll do well in any team. Coaches, tell me in the comments if you disagree!
Note: I assemble my team between championships and summer holidays. In this time, I watch my athletes closely. Here’s what I’m looking for.
Motivation and communication
I explain to my athletes what I expect from them if they want to be in the top-team at the very beginning of the season. Not everyone wants to do high performance sports, and that’s totally fine – I just need to know, so I don’t put athletes on the wrong team. Be honest with your coach when she asks for your motivation and your time commitment. Don’t say you’ll be working out at home 3 times a week when actually, you’re just sitting around watching TV.
Clear communication with your coach is an absolute must. Otherwise, you’ll be pressured all season when you actually just wanted to have some fun. Choose wisely if you really want to apply for such a team.
If you’re already missing practices during the tryout phase, how am I supposed to believe that you’ll be there consistently during the year? This sets the tone for the whole season. Organise your life and be present at every training. I can only assess your skills and commitment when you’re there.
If I’d only be looking for athletes with a perfect skill set, I’d never discover new talents. What I need to see is if I can actually teach you something. When your first response to a correction is: “I can’t because she’s doing XYZ”, then there’s nothing I can teach you. You already decided that you don’t want to see your mistake and I can’t and won’t tell you otherwise.
Yes, maybe your base had a bad grip and that’s why you waived your arms in the air. I will still tell you not to waive your arms, and you still have to try. I came to give YOU a correction to make YOU a better athlete – what the rest of your stunt group did is irrelevant for you.
Take corrections seriously and apply them. Ask questions if you don’t understand what you need to do, or ask your coach to explain it in a different way. I need to know what I can get out of you within a year, and I can tell how far I can bring you by the way you react to criticism.
I’ll select a coachable athlete with a low level of skill over a skilled athlete with no coachability anytime.
Don’t correct your teammates
I go crazy when I see athletes correct other athletes, especially on the Peewee or Junior level. It’s an absolute no-go (except your coach specifically asked you to). You have a coach to do that. The only thing you achieve by correcting your teammates is unrest. You should build friendships with your teammates and support them. This isn’t possible if you keep blaming them for what goes wrong.
Sometimes, I choose not to correct a certain mistake, because I want to work on it later. It’s usually also more than one athlete who makes the mistake, and I try to find the root cause. Be patient when you think something’s wrong, and don’t just put the blame on someone else; this automatically makes you work less hard. If the problem is consistent, talk to your coach in private before or after training and ask them to look at it.
Lead by example
If you’re more experienced than your teammates, there’s a lot you can do to help your coach. Others are talking while your coach is explaining something? Don’t tell your teammates to be quiet – just be quiet and listen. They will realise at some point and follow your lead.
If the rest of your stunt group sees that you are coachable and you can apply corrections well, they will want to do the same. They see that it works and that your coach enjoys working with you. Lead your team by example, not by lecturing your friends.
Trust your coach
You haven’t been placed on the team you wanted? You think you’re better than the rest of your stunt group? Think again.
My first priority is to build a strong team. This means I will pair experienced athletes with inexperienced ones, because newbies learn much faster when grouped with veterans. That might be your role for the season, and it’s an important one.
My second priority is to build you as an athlete over time. If you’re a Junior for another two years, I will place you so I can teach you everything you need to know in order to be a great senior later. Sometimes, this means I have to take you back to some basic techniques or to a lower level. For example, if you’re a base with level 5 skills but you never manage to stunt with your back straight, I might take you down to level 4 so I have time to teach you that. If I don’t, you might suffer from back pain for the rest of your life, and I can’t risk your health just to push your level.
Lastly, your placement is greatly influenced by your strength and physical fitness. That’s the only thing you need to bring to the table in terms of skill. Your coaches will teach you everything when it comes to stunting, that’s their job. But if you don’t provide the fitness level to execute the stunts they planned, they cannot teach you.
Now go and be awesome!
Time to get moving! Get back into training. Be coachable, build friendships with your teammates and trust your coach’s decisions, even if they seem harsh at first. If you do that, I promise you’ll have an awesome season.