Calls for Coaches for remote engagement to continue to providing social and emotional support for your players during a time when they need it most.
I. Know Every Athlete’s Story:
- Make a plan for virtual meetings just like you would for in-person practice. Plan the meeting to include guided open-ended questions in order to learn more about your players. i.e. If you could hang out with your friends today, what would you do? What do you miss most about school?
- When the players log on to join the meeting, acknowledge each of them by name and tell them you are glad they made it
- Ask questions that acknowledge the situation while also providing hope and something to look forward to. Convey a light at the end of the tunnel message. i.e. What is helpful when you are feeling isolated? Does this pandemic worry you? The answers will help you determine whether the player needs extra attention.
- II. Establish a Supportive Team Culture:
- Establish norms for remote interaction such as no cell phones or other distractions so when a player is responding others are active listening. Create a hand signal that conveys a positive response after a player speaks i.e. snaps, sign language etc.
- When a player says something encouraging or positive to the group or another player pause to highlight that behavior.
- III. Celebrate Effort
- Same as any team, you want teammates to cheer each other on
- When meeting remotely try to find an activity and lead the players through it. i.e. wastebasket HORSE, dribbling challenge, pushup challenge etc.
- Ask the players how things are going in school. Regardless of the answers, tell them you are proud of them for trying to figure it out and working through it.
- IV. Focus on the Skills that Matter
- Sport specific skills will take some creativity using what is available at home. When the meetings are virtual, players can adjust their cameras to see each other. Model a skill you would like them to work on. Have players take turns leading an activity during each meeting.
- Fitness is important in any sport. Tale time to lead your players through some exercises the players can do at home. This will help promote fitness and prevent injuries when we get outside. This will be a great opportunity for team building.
- Set goals for some exercises so the players have something to work toward. i.e.
- 30 pushups, jumping jacks for one minute etc.
- Include mindfulness activities to promote social and emotional skills and self -care. Work on breathing exercises and encourage players to do them each day. i.e. Harvard’s EASEL Lab’s Belly Breathing. Coaches ask players to inhale deeply and notice their belly’s expand and then exhale through their mouths and feel the belly collapse. Ask the players if they could feel the difference.
- V. Be a Role Model
- Set an example on how you want kids to react. Remember that social cues can be interpreted differently virtually. Avoid sarcasm and playful needling. Staying at home can cause a lot of anxiety. You may be the only source of encouraging words.
- Do the activities with them. Don’t be afraid to screw up in front of your players. Intentionally choose skills you struggle with, so the players know it is okay to struggle as long as they keep working to get better.
- Talk to players about how they manage their time. Whether work or sport be a role model on how you can be productive during this time. Be honest on how challenging this can be for you as well. Sometimes we just feel flat, lethargic and unmotivated. There are reasons for that. Take some time to talk through it. What are specific things you can do to work through it.
- VII. Be Coachable
- Talk to other coaches and sport leaders about things they are doing to engage their teams.
- Utilize resources made available to learn more about coaching your sport so that you can use this time to get better at the Xs and Os.
- Don’t be afraid to explore and experiment with other platforms besides Zoom or Google Hangouts. Changing up what the players are using is a good way to give some variety and help them stay engaged.
- Always be careful when working with minors. Be mindful of privacy. Whatever platform you use we recommend the guidelines from US Center for SafeSport to keep you, your players and families safe.
Be Safe. Stay Healthy.