Improving as a Coach | Q&A with Coach Jimmy

Today’s Topic: Improving as a Coach


About Me

Hi, my name is Jimmy Yoo.  I am one of five high-performance coaches here at Complete Performance Coaching.  I’m piggy-backing off of Coach Rebecca who talked about how athletes can work with their coaches.  I’m also going to provide some advice for coaches on how to be better youth and high school coaches.

Aside from being a high-performance coach, I’m also a high school coach, a youth coach, and travel coach for lacrosse.  I just finished my summer season with my travel high school team.  Right now, it’s my downtime because summer’s coming to an end and tryouts for the fall season are about to start in two weeks so it’s that low time.  As a coach, it’s time to reflect on the last year of coaching and look back at the things I have done well, things I need to improve on, and then work on those things to improve as a coach.

Improving as a Coach

Today I’m going to talk about coaching in three parts.  I’ll talk about having values as a coach, setting goals as a coach, and how to act and react with and without emotions.

A Coach’s Values

The most important part of being a coach is core values.  What do you want to teach your kids?  What do want them to learn and walk away with?  I tell the athletes, “I want you to have fun.”  To me, fun means playing hard, playing together, and also playing as a family.  Fun is playing hard and also playing competitive, but the other side is supporting each other as a family.

Fun and family are the two core goals for me.

How do I teach that?  The fun piece, playing hard, I talk about it as mastery.  What the athletes attain, every practice, every competition is about getting better.  It’s also about becoming better at what you do, one little step at a time, one little chunk at a time.

Goal Setting

Another thing you can do is set goals every day.  That mastery piece, the other side, is developing that family piece.  This goes back to the psychology piece of Erik Erikson, he talked about social development with people.

The ages between 12 and 18 (youth, middle school, and high school athletes) is a big time for athletes.  Now, many people don’t know it, but 13 is the time when 80% of athletes quit playing sports.  For that reason alone, having values and developing those values is important.

Erikson talked about identity and role development.  My hope for the players on my team is that they develop a group identity so they take away a good experience from playing lacrosse, and they want to identify with themselves as lacrosse players.

Developing Confidence

On the other side is an individual.  Coaches have the important job of helping athletes develop individual confidence in themselves, helping them to develop the right identity for them.  High school and middle school is the hardest time for kids because they’re developing who they are, they’re trying to see where they fit in and understand who their friends are, and also how they identify themselves.  I want to help with that as a coach.

Give Advice

Another thing I want to do as a coach is give advice.  I want to find out – How do I push those values?  How do I teach that to players?  The core values I have for them are to be a good coach or be a good helper.  How do you do that?  On the field and in practice, it’s being the best coach you can be on the field.  As a player, give advice and be willing to get advice.

Off the field, if someone’s struggling with school, be a good helper by helping them help tutor them.  Help tutor each other.  Identify what subjects you’re good at.  Help other athletes.  Help your teammates.  That’s that coaching or helping piece.

Be a Good Support

Furthermore, you need to be a good support for your teammates.  If they had a poor performance, just be there. Be there to give them a hug, give them a tap on the shoulder, let them know you support them.  Just be there in the moment, listening to them, allowing them to stew in those thoughts, knowing that they have your support will mean a lot.

Again, coaching.  Coaching and being a good help, support, and also be a good encourager.

At the end of the day, when athletes make mistakes or when people make mistakes, everyone knows it, but that person knows it the best.  They’re beating themselves up inside their head, reminding themselves they screwed up, so we don’t have to be that reminder.  They already know.  We already know that they’re upset, so instead of highlighting the negative or telling them that they suck, we want to encourage them.

Notice the Little Things

Another important part of coaching is highlighting the little things they did well.  I’ll get into this, the goal setting piece, and moving forward.  Encouraging and highlighting good things that they do versus the things that they’re doing awful is very important.  If you get into this mindset of just drilling the negatives, your athletes will continue to beat themselves up.  I have athletes come to see me because they’ve harped on the negatives.

Coaches have beaten them up.  Consequently, for days, they can tell me everything that’s going wrong.  Then I’ll ask, “Hey, what are you doing right?”  There are crickets.  They can’t tell you one thing they’re doing right.

As a coach, let’s make sure we develop that mindset of highlighting positives, making sure they’re advocating for themselves in a positive manner, and that we’re also doing the same for them.  Highlight those great things that they’re doing and those little things that are showing.

Be Encouraging

As a coach for lacrosse, a little effort goal is, “Hey, we worked on this in practice.  That was a great shot.  That was a great attempt on goal.  You had the confidence to drive on that guy and that’s showing that you did something well.  You might’ve missed the goal, you might have gotten the ball tricked out of your stick, but you did it.  Just like we did in practice, you committed.”   Coach, be that encourager.

Similarly, I hope to see my athletes doing the same thing.  Those three things are coaching and being a good help on and off the field, support on and off the field, and being an encourager.  That goes into the values for me as a coach and how to teach that to athletes.  It’s basic.

It’s an overview.  If you want more information, please ask questions in the future and/or give me a call.

Develop Your Goals

Overall, my outcome goal for every time I go into a season is, “Let’s be successful.  Let’s be a competitive team and let’s go win games.”  At the end of the day, I want to win games.  I also want to be competitive.  I want my team to be the best.  But it’s how we get there.  It’s a process.

Again, what I call little munchable chunks.  The way that I relate this to players is we can think about winning all the time, but it’s like eating a large pizza and asking you to eat it in one bite.  It’s messy, it’s ugly, it doesn’t work.  You can’t do it.  I couldn’t fit a whole large pizza in my mouth.  I’m not asking to win every game.

The Four Pillars of Sport

So, I’m asking you to do these little things to get us to that success.  There are four pillars of sports to be a good athlete, to be better at what you’re doing.  You also need to develop that technical, tactical, physical, and mental side.  As coaches, we’re in charge of doing that.  I think about those little goals.  What I try to do is set one to four small goals for the whole team and for the specialty positions.

For lacrosse, the defense has one to four little goals.  The middies have the same thing, one to four little goals.  The attackmen, one to four little goals.  Goalies also have the same thing to stick to.  That’s the guiding light for practice – sticking to those little expectations and again, carrying those into the competition.

If I focus on the goals as a coach then I’m not going to get carried away with just winning, just the eating the whole pizza in one bite.  I’m there to focus on little things that we’re improving, highlight those things.


With that in mindset, practice is about getting better, improving.  The competition’s about showing what we’ve improved on, showing and highlighting what we’re doing well, as well as coming to the understanding that we may still need to work on some things.  Versus, win every game, destroy every team.

The last thing is emotions.  I’m going to highlight what Coach Rebecca said earlier about filtering.  One thing with emotions is that when athletes do things great, or they do things negatively, we just react.  Things happen and we react, and it’s okay because as coaches, we’re allowed to show emotion and react.  When we follow up with it, the negative is the hardest.

Personal Experience

For me, as a lacrosse coach, I always have one athlete who looks like a ball hog, who is always trying to drive to the jail, drawing four or five defenders, trying to go through everybody.  Once in a while, they score, and most of the time they’re getting stripped.

It’s easy to just harp on those negatives and say, “God, why do you do that, Bob?  Why do you suck so bad?  Why do you keep doing that?  Why are you such a ball hog?”  Instead, if I focus on my goals and expectations for the team I can reinforce this person by saying, “Hey, you drove to the goal.  You committed to your dodge.  That was good.  You drew those defenders.  Now, remember, at practice, we’re looking for those outlets.  We’re looking for those easy outlets, easy goals, looking for those easy assists.”

That’s how I would focus on the negative.  I could also react to it like, “God, that was bad.”  I may be saying that to myself.  Maybe I’m just throwing my hat for a second.  It’s okay. I  can own that, but it’s how I follow up with the athlete and how I continue to work with them – that filtering for coaches is highlighting those positives and also continuing to highlight the little things they’re doing well.

What are the Controllables?

I can get a little mad, but I want to follow up with something good.  This is where the controllables come in.  This is going into the other part of emotions.  To me, this happens when we feel like referees are making bad calls.  Players on the other team are maybe playing dirty.  Maybe my players are playing too aggressive.  Other coaches are yelling and screaming.  Maybe they seem like they’re cheating.  I might have parents screaming.

This happened to me earlier in this season when I was coaching my little kids.  They were second, third, and fourth graders playing lacrosse.  The other coach was running the score up, their players were getting really aggressive, parents were screaming, referees weren’t making calls.  I just got really pissed.

The Referee

I’m like, “God, that referee sucks.  He’s not making good calls.  That coach is an idiot.  Those parents, they’re nuts.”  I was talking to one of my coaches afterward.  He said, “Hey, did you ever talk to any of those referees?”  I said, “Yeah.”  This wasn’t one of my coaches, it was another coach friend.  I told him, “Yeah, I was just yelling at the referees.”  Then I realized that if I was going to be proactive I needed to go talk to the referees, approach them.  I couldn’t be mad, I had to own it.  But when I approach them I needed to get rid of that emotion.

I had to go in there more objective.  If they’re not listening and I feel like I’m not being heard, the next thing, instead of yelling at the other coaches and telling them how they suck, is to go over there and talk to them saying, “Hey, we want a safe game.  We want to keep this competitive.”  In a high school game, players are getting really physical.  Maybe the referees aren’t calling it and I feel like it’s going to get in this unsafe situation.  I’ll tell the other coach, “Hey, I’m going to pull my players that are being like that.  The referees aren’t making good calls.  I hope you can do the same.  Let’s control this game.  Let’s work this together.”

Having a Partnership

We’re creating this partnership with the other coaches.  Sometimes they’ll listen and be receptive.  Other times they’re not, but at least they’ll know that I gave it that opportunity.  I was trying to be proactive and do that.

When it comes to parents, I’m probably the worst at hearing them because I’m able to filter them out.  If you hear parents going nuts, as a coach, don’t be afraid to go stop the game.  Talk to the referees, go over to your parents and tell them to calm down.  This is being proactive as a coach.

Improving as a CoachWhat are you able to Control?

In that emotional piece, controlling the controllable.  I can control the situation by being proactive and also doing these little things versus being reactive and just blaming everyone, putting things out of my control.  I could control working with the referees or I can just hate them, they can hate me.

To be a better coach, think about the values you have, what you want to teach to the players, and also what you want them to have as athletes to walk away with at the end of the season.

Goal setting.  Set your goals.  Set little goals.  Have a big goal, your big outcome goal, but have those little goals, because those little munchable chunks will reinforce every single day all the little things through practice and through competition.

Have Emotional Control

Also, your filter to highlight positives.  Highlight things that players are doing well based off of the goals you’ve set, those little expectations.   Then, again, with referees, with parents, players, other teammates, other teams – control the controllables.  Take control of the little things that you can to help make things better.

Finally, stick to your values, stick to your expectations without losing it.  We’re allowed to react, get mad, but let’s take a deep breath, let’s be objective, and let’s also approach the situation and, again, put it in our control.

Hope to hear from you all.  Hope to get some questions, comments.  I’ll see you in a month. Thanks.

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