Fundamental Soccer Blog

Creating an Atmosphere of Service on Your Team

by  Dr. Alan Goldberg

(The following information is excerpted and summarized from Jerry Lynch’s book, Creative Coaching – Human Kinetics, pub.)

According to a Chinese proverb, to rule is to serve, and to serve is to rule. This is also true in coaching. By assuming a role of service with your athletes – being a good role model and offering them opportunities to realize their potential in a safe, nurturing environment – you become a more effective coach. Most coaches don’t approach their job with this kind of service mentality. Instead, they approach their role strictly as leaders who see their “followers” in that light. It’s the athlete’s job to follow, NO MATTER WHAT! When an athlete fails to do this, then he/she has a problem and that individual is dealt with by being booted off the team or confined to the bench

Coaches who serve don’t approach their job with this heavy handed headset. They don’t see the coach-athlete relationship as a one way street where it’s the athlete’s job to do for the coach. Instead, they continually think about “doing for” their athletes in relation to systematically helping them develop, grow and improve both as players and as people. Serving your athletes in this way creates an atmosphere of safety in your program and therefore allows them the freedom to take the risks necessary for growth and development. This, in turn, serves the best interests of the athletes and the team in ultimately achieving their potential.

Keep in mind that serving does NOT mean catering to every wish an athlete may have. The athletes on your team are NOT in charge, and you do not need to win their approval by being compliant to their every wish and desire. Such catering is not service and does not help athletes grow and develop. On the contrary! Coaches who continually give in to their athletes and who, in essence allow them to control the team, end up stunting their players development and insuring that the team’s season will be a disastrous one. 

Successful coaches who model an attitude of service (how can I help you get better as an athlete-person find that their athletes are more open to approaching their coaches for advice and guidance. As a consequence, athletes are more likely to give their best efforts to these coaches both on the field and in the classroom. Coaches who assume such a service role will also discover that their athletes will reciprocate and strive to do their best. The following are some of Jerry Lynch’s cornerstones of coaching service which lead to developing a winning team environment: