What makes a good cheer coach? What qualities does a coach need to possess in order to be successful? How does a coach not only handle winning, but also losing a competition? These are all important questions that every coach must ask themselves. One of the hardest things to overcome not only for an athlete, but for a coach is to lose. We’ve all been there, and it’s never easy. But, how you handle the situation, and what you take from the experience is key.

One of the biggest challenges we all face in every sport is overcoming our ego. The best coaches do not let their egos and self-worth get tied up in the outcome; the best coaches are mentally strong enough to know that they are NOT a representation of their performances–regardless of what others around them may say. They do not feel depreciated as an individual when their squad fails, nor do they feel that much better about themselves when their squad succeeds. These individuals understand that coaching is only one thing of many, and therefore they do not let this one thing solely define themselves as people. Coaches who face obstacles with their athletes do so because they are emotionally defenseless, and tend to feel threatened by a loss or failure. Their egos are on the line whenever these individuals compete, and therefore, they feel like they have much more to lose. Many common coaching mistakes come directly from a coach’s overemphasis on a game’s outcome, because that individual’s self-esteem is too caught up with this outcome.

One of the best qualities every coach needs to possess is the ability to be empathetic and tuned in to the feelings of their squad. When a coach has the ability to communicate to their athletes, THAT is when they truly understand them! When you are empathetic, you leave your cheerleaders with the feeling that you, as his/her coach, deeply understands. This goes a long way in building loyalty, self-esteem, and motivation–not only with each member of your squad, but as a whole too! Keep in mind that being empathetic doesn’t necessarily mean that you are an emotional pushover: you can absolutely have the ability to understand where your cheerleaders are coming from, and still make the coaching decisions that you feel are necessary. Coaches who lack the ability or don’t take the time to cater to the emotions of their squad because they mistakenly believe that ‘all this emotional nonsense’ is a total waste, end up inadvertently undermining their best coaching efforts.

Great coaches use their squads’ mistakes and failures as valuable teaching opportunities. They know that their squad needs to be relaxed, and lose in order to perform to their potential; a fear of making mistakes will always undermine this relaxed state. In the end, the best coaches give their cheerleaders permission to fail and make mistakes. They instill in their squad the understanding that mistakes and failures are nothing more than feedback and a learning opportunity. Recognizing what you did wrong and the ability to specify what you need to do differently next time are important life skills.

One of the biggest teaching mistakes that coaches make is getting angry or impatient with their cheerleaders when they mess up or fail. This response will actually ensure that your squad will make more mistakes, because if your team knows that’s how you react, it will cause them to worry about this while they are performing. The best coaches teach that failure
is feedback. Sometimes your squad really did try their best, but their best just wasn’t good enough! After all, coaches need to help their cheerleaders realize that sports are just games, and games are meant to be fun. Find creative ways to integrate this fun into what your team does over the course of a season, both at practice and during competitions. When an athlete is enjoying themselves, that athlete is loose and relaxed. Since loose and relaxed are two of the most crucial ingredients to a peak performance, it is in your best interests as a coach to find innovative ways to keep your athletes smiling.

What other tips do you have for coaches coping with a loss? How did you walk away from a loss? Share your story in the comments below!