Coaches need to lot of different kinds of skills to do a good job. Mental skills for coaches are among the most important, but rarely taught. Now, I am not suggesting that coaches should be junior psychologists, rather that they be exposed to useful information that they can use to help players either directly or by knowing when and who to refer players to.
Because coaches have frequent day to day contact with athletes, they can and do influence the attitude and behaviors of others. This is particularly true for coaches who are working with children and adolescents.
Coaches need to look for opportunities to have a difference beyond teaching technical and tactical skills to their players. Mental skills for coaches may include knowing when and how to speak to a player who seems more lethargic or less motivated than usual, when and how to respond to a player who reacts negatively to a mistake, perceived poor performance or a bad call and how to interact with parents whose behaviors may, at times, present a negative influence.
For example, I have often observed a coach giving a tennis lesson to a young student who upon hitting a ball into the net would react to disgust, perhaps cursing under his breath, hitting a ball over the fence or looking as if he just lost his best friend. Often times, the coach ignores the behavior only to find with future missed shots negativity and outbursts tend to increase. Or, alternatively the coach might attempt an instructional correction avoiding any reference to the negative behavior or underlying mood and thoughts. This is where a coach with some basic training in mental skills coaching could intervene and make a difference. Often times, pausing and asking a question to have the player reflect on can be a useful strategy: “ John, what did you just do?” “How did you feel when you missed that shot”? “Do you think it helps you or hurts you when you react that way”.
Awareness training and self reflection are some of the key mental coaching skills first talked about by author and tennis instructor, Tim Gallwey in his class book, “The Inner Game of Tennis”. I think it would be a great read for a coach of any sport wanting to improve their mental skills for coaching.