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Through thick and thin, athlete-coach connections solidify through mentorship

Behind the success of any team in sports lies an unbreakable bond between an athlete and a coach.

The connection between a coach and an athlete involves grueling hardships, bittersweet victories, and even heated exchanges that ultimately influence the direction of their successes. As iron sharpens iron, gifted players and respected coaches have the pleasure of learning from each other and crafting legacies that impact the sport they play in. While generational talents make a name for themselves, coaches are definitely a key piece in an athlete’s illustrious career.

Although coaches have different training strategies and approaches to games, they all have one thing in common: the ability to guide their teams and to mold them into becoming their best versions.

Redefining ‘coaching’

Before, during, and after a game, an athlete’s constant motivator is their coach who reminds them to trust their own skills in order to further improve. With such a dynamic, athletes gain knowledge and insights from a perspective different from their own.

Through countless periods of training, coaches are able to pay attention to detail and this aids in how they could plan the molding, maturation, and progression of their players. This process builds familiarity and trust between the two, strengthening their bond and improving their understanding of each other.

However, a mentor-mentee relationship is not complete without effort from both parties. Without the willingness of an athlete to learn, the advice provided by coaches will not be as meaningful. Alternatively, coaches become successful mentors when they value relationships built with their players. Green Booters head coach Hans-Peter Smit affirms this, “I think that’s the greatest thing—a relationship between a coach and a player. I believe that with a good relationship, you can get better results.”

Green Batters head coach Joseph Orillana echoes this sentiment, saying that better results stem from mutual trust which also molds an athlete’s confidence in performance, “Ang mga players…once nakikita [ko] maganda na ‘yung nilalaro, hinahayaan ko na kasi doon mo makikita kung alam niya yung ginagawa niya.”

(Once you notice players having a good performance, I let them be because that’s where you will see if they know what they are doing during the game.)

While natural talent and unique abilities are critical to being a successful athlete, the role coaches play in the development of an athlete cannot be overlooked. Smit states, “Without the coach to talk to them the right way, [teaching] the right way of thinking, and [maintaining a good] attitude, these athletes will not be anything.” A great coach is key in unlocking the full potential of an athlete and can be the difference that sets extraordinary athletes apart from their talented competition. Lady Booters midfielder Rocelle Mendaño (IV, AB-SPM) attests, “An athlete with talent and guidance will reach their full potential if [mentored] properly by a coach.”

Nevertheless, the relationship between coach and athlete still follows a teacher-student dynamic. “I guide as a coach. I always say that a coach is a teacher, so the athlete, especially student athletes—even professionals—still have to learn every single thing,” Smit explains. He furthers, “When I train my players, my teams, I don’t give them anything that I know I can’t do myself or that I haven’t done.”

Beyond teaching how to win games and to become better athletes, coaches impact their players on a personal level as well. This is why their mentorship also entails they maintain being role models. “Ang nakikita ko sa role ko as a coach is maging good influence ako sa kanila,” Orillana expresses.

(From what I see, my role as a coach is to become a good influence to them.)

Certainly, coaches care about athletes as individuals, and do not think of them as merely a means of winning games. Treating their teams as family is common practice already, and this is evident in how they are respectfully treated by their players as well. Smit comments, “My players know that I’m not just here as a coach. I’m here as a father figure, even grandfather or uncle.”

Boosting morale also becomes a key factor in improving team relations, to which Orillana shares that organizing team building activities aid in such an endeavor. Through these, coaches and players not only get to know each other more, but they eventually strengthen their bond.

Winner, winner—gold, not silver

In the world of sports, however, one of the main goals of any team is still winning games—a responsibility shared by both coaches and players. As teams embark on a journey to become champions, coaches need to formulate an effective strategy that will secure the gold for their team. “If you want to be an effective coach, then you should know every single need of your team or players,” Smit affirms.

While friendly relationships between a player and a coach outside games are important, coaches should still be acknowledged as tactical advisers during matches. “Sa training, magkaiba kami ng role—ako coach nila, then sila players ko. Ang difference nun is ‘yung respect sa roles namin,” Orillana establishes. Finding the perfect balance between being a friend and being a mentor to their players becomes essential in maintaining a still professional, competitive culture within the team.

(In training, we have different roles, I am their coach, and they are my players. The difference is the level of respect given to our roles.)

Smit also emphasizes the importance of an athlete’s attitude when it comes to winning. “I don’t care how good you are or [if] you’re the best in the country…If you have the lousiest attitude, then I don’t need or want you,” he stresses. In most cases, no matter how talented an athlete is, if they have a hard time building chemistry with the team due to their attitude, things will not work out. Despite performing marvelously individually, uncooperative or indifferent players cannot win alone in team sports. This emphasizes the responsibility of a player as well to their coach and teammates. “Anything you do, even in life, you know, [your] attitude is important,” Smit notes. As a student athlete, Mendaño claims that coachable players thrive through the wins and defeats once they humbly learn how to accept feedback with open arms. She remarks, “A coach should always trust and rely on the capabilities of their players, [but] at the same time guide them if [they] see some mistakes that can be improved.”

The athlete-coach connection has been a frequently observed relationship throughout sports. There have been numerous stories of a coach immediately sparking huge improvements in an athlete, and ones wherein an established athlete unlocks a coach’s creative genius. At the end of the day, athletes and coaches would not nearly be as successful as they are without one another.

By Jeremiah Dizon

By Julio Amir Tampis

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