The Mystery of Coaches

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Coaches are so very important in derby; a team can rise in the rankings with the special guidance of a great coach and mentor, or it can be plunged into the depths of despair with a horrible coach. Not all coaches are successful for all skaters, which is why it’s so important to have more than one coach available to your league.

Skaters come in many different flavors, and so do coaches; some skaters respond better to direct coaching, and some like a softer touch. After seven years in derby, I’ve noticed that there are definitely recurring types of coaches.

  1. The Mastermind. Masterminds are great at coming up with drills and strategy. In derby, if you have a Mastermind coach, you’re very very lucky. They’re very dedicated to watching footage and researching trends in both derby and other sports. Masterminds can read referee crews and they use their time outs and official reviews flawlessly. Mastermind coaches are big picture people; they have long term goals they’re trying to meet, and they have a plan to get the league there. I think they’re exceptional coaches, because anyone that can take the chaos of a derby league and guide it towards a major goal gets kudos in my book. If Mastermind coaches have a weakness, it’s in the fact that they don’t give a lot of direct, one on one feedback. They notice trends in teams, not necessarily individual skater issues. If you are a skater that needs individual feedback, and who isn’t, you might have to remind the Mastermind to give you some occasionally.
  1. Photo by Louis Keiner.

    Photo by Louis Keiner.

    The Volcano is a yeller. In fact, The Volcano only has one way of addressing the team, and that is at high volume. The bonus to having The Volcano as a coach is that he/she is completely audible no matter how loud the venue is. The downside to a Volcanic coach is that you’re never sure what he or she is yelling is more important or urgent than the normal stuff he yells! Some players automatically get stressed out by someone who is constantly yelling; some players respond well. It really just depends if skaters respond to high volume input or not.

  1. The Paper Pusher tends to be a bench coach who never looks up from her/ his clipboard during games, but runs the bench flawlessly. Paper Pushers usually are amazing at working Google Drive documents, carry extra tape and supplies and always knows where the team helmet covers are.They don’t yell a lot, and they tend to let their partner coaches do most of the talking to the team, but they are a great asset to have at a game and at practices.
  1. The Guest Star becomes the coach by default. Sometimes it’s an injured skater who wants to give back to the team, or it’s a skater that didn’t make the roster. Either way, their goal wasn’t to be a coach, but to be skater, and they’re coaching as a stop on the way to their destination. Guest Stars can be great coaches, because they totally understand their team’s strengths and weaknesses; they understand the game and can have great insight into the dynamics of the team. On the other hand, not everyone is born to wear the coach hat. Coaching is a skill, just like anything in derby, and if the Guest Star isn’t practicing and polishing those coaching skills, she or he is just a place holder. The most obvious weakness the Guest Star has as a coach is that he or she gets caught up in watching the game instead of running the bench. Let’s face it, most skaters are easily distracted by moving objects. Squirrel!
  1. The Significant Other can be a blessing or a curse to a league. usually it’s a boyfriend, or girlfriend or spouse who wants to support their better half, and they end up coaching because they want to support their better halves. Here’s the thing, some Significant Others are amazing coaches. They’re smart, confident, and step right up into the coaching position. They’re a real asset to the team. On the other hand, there is always going to be a shadow of a doubt that the Significant Other isn’t giving the spouse/girlfriend more playing time than he or she deserves. Even if the Significant Other seems to be legit with his or her choices, there will always be some suspicion amongst the ranks. Did she get to jam more than someone else? Did he make that roster because he’s that good, or because they’re sleeping together? Those questions can seriously undermine the integrity of the leadership in the league.
  1. The Drill Sergeant has some of the same attributes as The Volcano does. They can be loud yellers, but they are way more intense. When you walk into a Drill Sergeant’s practice, you see skaters scrambling to get their gear on, keeping the chatter to the minimum, and trying their hardest during drills. Drill Sergeants say jump, and skaters leap the apex! Drill Sergeants keep practice running like clockwork, but it literally is their way or the highway. This works in some leagues, but once again, the Drill Sergeant is extremely capable of rubbing people the wrong way. Many free spirits join derby because they think it will be fun and freeing, and if their first experience is with an intense Drill Sergeant, well they may run away screaming. (After they’ve done their push-ups, of course)
Photo by Tyler Shaw

Photo by Tyler Shaw

Great coaches, no matter what style they fall under, have several attributes in common. First and foremost, they care about people and they care about the sport. Outstanding coaches know how important derby can be to the members of the team, and make it a priority. Amazing coaches are excellent communicators. When someone is coaching a large number of people, he/she has to remember that there are many different ways to present and take in information. Some people need to hear it, some people need to see it, and some people need to just jump in and do it. Finally, a stellar coach has to be observant; they have to be able to see what their skaters are doing, and what they need. Those needs will change from day to day and if the coach isn’t observant, she/he may be stunting the growth of the team.

It isn’t easy being a coach, especially in a young sport like derby. Many skaters don’t come to derby with previous sports training; some don’t embrace a coach’s feedback or authority. If a coach is not supported by the league as a whole, that coach has an uphill battle to fight. Why would any coach hang around without a team’s support? Yes, coaches need to be aware of the needs of their team, but the team has to buy into the coach’s authority and vision. It’s a balancing act that takes a ton of patience and open communication on both sides to have a successful relationship.

The post The Mystery of Coaches appeared first on Derby Central.

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