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Coaching the Team, Reaching the Individual

Coaching the Team, Reaching the Individual
Karl Miran

Although coaches set a common standard for all team members to live up to, the best coaches know that the best way to achieve a shared commitment to excellence is to treat their players as individuals. The smart coach realizes that, if they have 20 players on the team, they have 20 different personalities to motivate, instruct and reward. No less an authority than UCLA’s legendary basketball coach John Wooden insisted that each player on his teams “would receive the treatment they earned or deserved.”  As an example, he recommended praising a team’s star in private, but doling out kudos to less prominent team members in a public way, in front of the entire team.

Wardlaw+Hartridge athletes are quick to acknowledge the value of being treated as individuals within their team. Sometimes they focus on how that approach enabled them to maximize their skills and compete more successfully:

“Coach Burden and Coach White (track) allow me to unleash my competitive nature freely. This helps me be my best self on and off the field. They also give me personal tips to help improve my game.” 

                                                - Nate Bravo ’23 

Often, our players see more of a long-term benefit from the coaching they receive:

“Coach Howell (basketball) has been a great mentor to me. He makes it a priority to focus on skills that are important to the game of basketball and just life in general.”

                                                - Raiya Patel ’24 

Some of the coaching that is most appreciated by players occurs when the coach assists the athlete in overcoming personal stress or injury:

“Coach Raquel (volleyball) never fails to go the extra mile to make sure that I am doing okay, whether physically or mentally. She gives the best advice and is the only reason I have gotten through this tough season.”

                                                            - Olivia Brown ’21 

“The most meaningful personal attention that I have received from a W+H coach (basketball) regarded my mental health and well-being. My coach made sure that I was not too hard on myself during the sport and always reminded me to have fun. My coach was very understanding and accommodating.”

                                                            -Kynise Dixon ’21 

Several Wardlaw+Hartridge coaches gave examples of how they live up to Coach Wooden’s recommendation to treat players according to what they “earn or deserve” while simultaneously recognizing their individual needs.  W+H coach Mike Romeo explains several of the key principles in our girls’ soccer program:

“At some point during a practice or game, our coaches are instructed to find a way to address every player by name in a positive way.” (This has to be done at least once every day.)

“Also, after a game, individual conversations must be had with players that didn’t play (or were shorted playing time). No player should leave the field not knowing what their role is on the team and what they have to do to increase that role.”

Meanwhile, tennis coach Ron Haynes mentioned several benefits from his long-standing practice of having players fill out a 3 X 5 card with personal observations on their play after each match. He recalls that one time, a player complained about what they perceived as unfair criticism, allowing Coach Haynes to have a very useful discussion with the player the next day, in which he learned how to better motivate that player. Other players will reveal which parts of their game they are, or are not, confident in. Coach Haynes can use that as a reason to implement specific practice drills. However, he can also use it as an entrée to coach that athlete about their mental approach to competition.   

It is evident that our Ram coaches emphasize different ways of personalizing their coaching. It is also clear that our student-athletes recognize and appreciate the ways in which they are mentored as individuals, helping them succeed on and beyond the playing fields.