Professionalism

Your presentation of yourself speaks volumes. Coaches must continue to build respect and maintain professionalism with parents, kids, administration and community. Professionalism is a combination of organization, confidence and integrity. It is believing in your work and presenting your program with pride and confidence. Professionalism can take you a long way and assemble great support for your program.

To plan carefully and work your plan, keep in mind the following:

HOW TO BE ADDRESSED: A title cannot earn you respect. My team and everyone else I have ever known call me ‘Terri’. Mrs., Ms. and Mr., seem just too formal for the kind of working relationship we are developing with teams. ‘Coach’ is a great way for kids to address you, too. But remember, it is who you are, how you conduct yourself and what you contribute to the growth and development of your team that will truly set you apart.

ATTITUDE: People respond best to well thought out and articulate ideas. Keep upbeat and positive. Defensiveness and sarcasm are negative traits that people do not respond to kindly. Remember, your attitude will be picked up by your team, so keep it on a pleasant, workable level.

APPEARANCE: Like it or not, people judge us by how we look. This is reflected in how we take care of and present ourselves in public. If you have a scheduled meeting with your administration, dress in business attire. The same applies for parent meetings or community events. At games and practices, feel free to wear what is acceptable and practical in your school, but take the time to look your best. I have always believed that if I have signed a contract to be a good coach and role model, then I owe it to my kids to be the very best me I possibly can. I also try to imagine what kind of person I would like to have coaching my own children and present myself accordingly.

ADMINISTRATORS: There are many ways to score points with the administration. Included are:

  • KEEP THEM INFORMED: Send your administrators a copy of your rules, parent updates, plans for the year and anything else you think they might need to know. Administrators do not like to think they are being kept in the dark about anything. Duplicate everything you send out. Keep a copy for yourself in case you are in need of a back up. Make sure your administrators have a copy of your practice schedule so they can write you in for the gym or (matted) cafeteria.
  • SHARE A MISSION: Athletes represent their community. Talk in terms of ‘we’ and ‘our program’ and enlist your administration in your philosophies. Invite them to a practice or competition. Most of all, build your program up to a point where they can take pride in your accomplishments.
  • REMEMBER THEM: Send your principle and athletic director thank you notes when appropriate on special days like Christmas or Valentines Day. Be quick with a smile and be patient. Rallying support for your program takes time.
  • DOCUMENT EVENTS: If you have a feeling that you will have trouble with a specific cheerleader or parent, document the events that back up that feeling. Be specific and organized with exact words, dates, times and others who may serve as testament to your understanding of a certain situation.

MAKING FRIENDS WITH THOSE WHO COUNT: The secretarial and custodial staffs at your school are in charge. If you’re smart, you will make friends with them. They have keys to every room and every supply cabinet in school. They can un-jam the copier and provide toilet paper in a split second. They can make your coaching life miserable or they can pave the way for you.

  • Respect them and demand that your kids do the same. Your team members must call them Mr. and Mrs. and say please and thank you. Do not allow custodians to be called janitors. Help them take pride in their jobs by appreciating all they do.
  • Do not miss an opportunity to show your appreciation by including them in your Christmas cards or gift list. Bring in treats once in a while. Clean up after yourselves and be self-sufficient when it comes to using the copier or phone. Smile and be pleasant.

STATIONARY: Go one step further when writing your requests or thank you notes. Design or purchase stationary and note cards to send out to others. It is far more pleasant to receive a correspondence knowing a little something extra has gone into it. Make sure you send out team Christmas cards. My favorites are the photo cards. If you do this, plan way ahead, as they take a few weeks to process.

COOPERATE WITH COLLEAGUES: Show respect for all the programs in your school. If your team participates in support activities, make sure they send incentives to every other team (include the coach). Be flexible when it comes to gym time and scheduling. Carry your cooperative efforts over to the coaches in your league. Being fair and approachable always works in your favor.

SEEK OUT POSITIVE RECOGNITION: Attend the Booster Club Meetings at your school. Let the newspapers know when your team is involved in something positive. Help your team members see the benefits of helping others by volunteering or sharing some of their fund-raising efforts with local charities. Seek out scholarships and recognition opportunities for your cheerleaders. Write great letters of recommendation for your kids.

FOLLOW THE CHAIN OF COMMAND: Make certain you understand the due process in your school district. Just as we hope our kids and their parents come to us with a complaint before going to our athletic director, we as coaches must do the same. Follow the chain of command. That usually is comprised (in order) of your athletic director, principal, district director of athletics, superintendent and school board. Become familiar with your union representative, in the event you need to negotiate your salary.

CONTINUED EDUCATION: True professionals in any field are always seeking out greater knowledge, new ways to conduct their business or team and fresh ideas. Join professional organizations (in Michigan we have the most respected coaching association in the country, the Michigan Cheer Coaches Association), attend conferences and clinics and read everything you can get your hands on that pertains to leading others and attaining excellence.

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