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  • Writer's pictureKristin Jones


Coaches often get accused of having "favorites" and it automatically hurts our feelings because we feel that means we aren't being "fair." The reality is that life isn't "fair" and while every athlete starts out with a fresh slate, and every athlete is held to the same standard and has to abide by the same rules, some athletes just rise to the top as the ones you LOVE to coach. I'm not ashamed to say that I definitely have a LOT of favorite athletes, but it's because they earn that level of respect by demonstrating the following of my favorite qualities.

Here are just a few of the "how to" guidelines to be a coaches favorite athlete.

1. Show up early for practice, dressed in the correct attire with hair pulled up and ready to go. Never waste your team's time by showing up late or unprepared. Coaches hate nagging over this, but it’s their job to hold you accountable to standards.

2. Come prepared to practice. Make sure you've practiced and know any changes made in the previous practice.

3. Work to be the strongest link. If you are struggling on something you can work on individually, do your job outside of the gym to make sure you are building yourself up. Jumps lacking? Stretch at home and work on jump conditioning. Are you a flyer? Stretch at home every day for 15-30 mins, it makes a huge difference! Struggling on stamina? Add some cardio or HIIT training outside of practice a couple times a week to increase endurance. Tumbling in a rut? Add an extra tumbling class or get into a couple of private lessons. OWN YOUR SKILLS.

4. Take ownership of mistakes. Be the first to point out when something went wrong in your stunt group due to a mistake you made, and be thoughtful of how to fix it moving forward. Bonus points if you can say "I did this wrong but next time I'll do this." Don't be afraid to ask if you don't know how to fix it! If you don't recognize your mistakes, you can't fix them and grow!

5. Take practice seriously. Make sure you are working hard from start to finish. Don't let your coach catch you goofing off, sitting down, cheating during conditioning, causing disruption or talking with your friends instead of listening during instruction.

6. Listen with intention. Nothing is worse than when you are giving instruction to a team and an athlete is in la la land, or is having a side conversation and then doesn't know what they are supposed to do. No coach wants to repeat instruction over and over because an athlete can't be bothered to pay attention.

7. View corrections as valuable feedback. Your coach doesn't give you corrections because they don't like you. They are giving you the tools to be successful- view corrections as your coach handing you the magic answer key to the test, and work hard to apply them.

8. When a coach finishes giving you an instruction or correction, reply with "yes coach!" This simple, respectful phrase automatically earns you respect and admiration. Athletes who use the phrases "I know," "Yeah, but..." or "I can't" drive coaches looney!

9. Be a great teammate. Be the kid who puts your hand on another teammate's shoulder to get them to pay attention to instruction, or who cheers on a teammate during a section of the routine they struggle with. Be the teammate who jumps in and does extra reps with a teammate when you don't have to just so they won't have to work alone. You may think we don't notice, but these small gestures make a BIG impact.

10. Have integrity ON and OFF the mat. Coaches hear everything. You may think we are oblivious to what you do/say outside of the gym, but the little birds everywhere love to give us the dirt. Your integrity is everything- make sure you are holding yourself to a high standard in the way you present yourself in school and on social media as well as in the gym. This also applies to how you talk about your teammates and coaches. We hear it all! Don’t get caught up in gossip or trash talk.

11. Be competitive and want to be the best, but don’t tear down others in the process. We WANT every athlete to WANT to be point jumper, point stunt group, last pass, point dancer… but we don’t want jealousy to tear a team a part of you don’t earn that spot. Recognize that your teammates strengths make your team stronger. If you want something, WORK FOR IT. If you don’t get it, and someone else does- appreciate that you have strong teammates who help you succeed, and self reflect on how you can improve to bring your strengths to the team.

Remember- At the end of your journey NO ONE will care how many World Championships, NCA Titles or Summit Victories you have. Not one college admissions counselor will ask if you were point jumper. Not one future boss will ask you if you have a double full at a job interview. However, there are many things you acquire from the sport that have value for your lifetime- life long friends that will have your back through thick and thin, work ethic, resiliency, the ability to problem solve and work through obstacles, the grit to commit to goals no matter how difficult it gets, the ability to work on a team with all kinds of people and the ability to be competitive with others without tearing them down- just to name a few. These are your trophies- don’t lose sight of the long game!

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