Being a college golf coach is a privilege and I take it very seriously. I know I have the opportunity to support the young women on the team to be their best while they learn, grow and come into their own during the very formative college years.
When players arrive on campus, they come with their own experiences, dreams, plans, goals, hopes, fears, anxieties and ideas. Some are on their own for the very first time and are learning to make decisions that they never had to make up to this point. They are faced with challenges and opportunities, as well as seeing the pressures of classroom performance and making decisions about what their future looks like. On top of that, add the pressure for these college athletes to perform, practice, spend time in the gym and succeed academically.
For some, they are the face of the athletics program. People, including their families, spend time and money to come watch them compete. Donors are sponsoring the athletics department with expectations of wins. The pressures can be tremendous.
I have found that as a college coach the most important thing you can do is to meet the student-athletes where they are, understand their circumstances, be empathetic to their experiences and teach them about self compassion. I have seen some college coaches who get angry with poor play or losses. Some coaches are very hard on the athletes. Some coaches say and do things that I feel are counterproductive to supporting the athletes to be their best. When a student athlete is playing out of fear from what their coach will say, I see that as a huge barrier to growth.
While I understand it is our job to push them to be their best selves, it can be done with kindness and care. It can be done with empathy while building trust with the student athletes. Once they trust you, they are more likely to work hard, show up early and do all they can to perform. When they trust you, and trust that you truly have their best interest at heart, they will come talk to you when they are facing difficult issues or emotions and ask for support. That is when a coach can have a real impact. When the student athlete feels safe it cultivates a sense of gratitude and confidence. This culminates in individuals who know they are believed in and can excel from that platform of trust and confidence.
As I have developed as a coach over the past 18 years, I have seen how important it is to support the student athletes as a whole person and to teach them life skills, not just athletic skills. When they are happier, feel fulfilled, have confidence and know they are supported, not just in their successes but in their failures and challenges, they are more likely to perform to their potential.
Being a college coach is one of my greatest responsibilities and seeing the players have success in the classroom, on the golf course and in other areas of their life is extremely rewarding. I have had a positive impact on them simply through giving them permission to be kind to themselves.