Coaching and mentoring young athletes and players has been a lifelong passion for me in my game of bowling.
In the past decade, I have traveled over 40,000 miles, improving and perfecting my skills while comparing and contrasting various styles of teaching of our sport to both upcoming players and seniors. Having recently been elevated to a master certification by the International Bowling Pro Shop and Instructors Association has been a major validation credential for me and to our players –making me one of only four pure coaches in the world of over 7,000 to achieve this benchmark.
It’s also been the stimulus for me to pursue my master’s degree in psychology with an emphasis on coaching for the autistic.
Old held beliefs are difficult to undue and even more difficult to work under by both uninformed administrators and – a good many times – parents and guardians. A shift has been made in recent times away from the old antiquated techniques of interrupting a player during play to coach on the lanes to a singular player. The shift was driven by the recognition that singling out a player in front of their peers was a flashing sign that ‘something is wrong with me,’ plainly a counterproductive step if one includes self-esteem and validation in a social setting as a component of development.
If our goal as coaches goes beyond the basic skills of our game, then active coaching had to be embraced and the old discarded. The days of standing around with a cup of coffee and a clipboard in your hand saying, “I’m coaching,” had to end.
The modern approach to coaching in a team setting for our game involves a coach getting suited up, if you will, and actually participating with the bowlers side by side. This approach accomplishes a number of positive and productive things. It creates a bond of trust between the players and the coach by creating an informal level of competition for the moment, it lowers the profile of attention away from the player and thereby reinforces their self-esteem, it speeds up the tempo of the game by reducing delays for shutting down players on either side, and it keeps the player engaged in their game and creates greater focus for positive results by reducing the time between instructions, giving more opportunity for repetitions in a set.
Kids love ‘beating’ their coaches, and giving them this opportunity is a wonderful thing to experience and see in their eyes when it happens (once in a while). I have a kid in our program who had their dad write, “I beat my coach,” with a Sharpie on their shirt … too cool!
Take a look at your coaches and administrators. Are they furthering their own development and skills for the betterment of you or your players? Ask what recent training or continuing education they’ve had toward that end in the past year or more or in the past five years for that matter. If the answer is none or nothing, you need to ask why. Ask if proactive coaching isn’t happening or if it’s obstructed and ask why.
Don’t be shy to ask the hard questions. Your coaches are working for free, but you’re paying for access to the best. If you can’t get it, you need to know what qualifies anyone to deny you that!
I’m working every day to be better than yesterday for myself and my players. Seek out such people – they’re out there. The proactive coach is a modern coach.
Bowl well and as always, send me your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wilson is a U.S. Bowling Congress Silver Instructor and an International Bowling Pro Shop and Instructors Association ball technician.