Before we can coach, or be coached, we need to agree expectations.

At most sessions there’s an assumed agreement, but it’s rarely overt. We understand vaguely what is supposed to happen without saying it. This works when the implied expectations match between coach and players.

But when expectations don’t match, someone will get frustrated.

For example, have you ever coached young players who don’t meet your expectations for behaviour? I know I have. Does it frustrate or even anger you? I’m sure it does.

It’s also confusing for those you coach. They see you as erratic: One minute you allow something by not picking up on it, the next minute it’s unacceptable and you’re making an example of someone. Everyone is fed up with that way.

All that’s is needed is an agreement of what is expected and a strong application of the agreement.

In our behaviour example, the coach could tell the kids they expect full attention when instructions are being given, and full commitment when the drill is being performed. The kids might say back they expect the coach to keep instruction and waiting to a minimum, and make sure everyone gets to compete and get plenty of goes.

At a higher performance level the expectation will be different, but there is the same need to be clear and overt about them.

This agreement alone is enough to make huge improvements in sessions.

Young players behave better because they know what better means. They also know why coaches are doing what they do. There is less confusion and less frustration all round.

Does clarifying expectations solve every problem?

Of course not.

Yet, clear expectations allow you to reduce the amount of frustration as behaviours improve. Even better, you have a way of managing things when expectations are not met.

Instead of getting upset about bad kids, you can ask them about the agreement you made.

If they have forgotten, you can remind them, and either change the agreement or stick to it. If they remember, you can ask them to remember next time to correct their own behaviour in line with the agreement.

This simple method can be applied to any skill or behaviour, any coach or player. You expect batsmen to put away half-volleys. You expect talent-pathway players to work on their fitness between sessions. You expect five year old beginners to try their best. You are expected to enforces breaches of expectation. Anything can be agreed. You just have to decide — before you begin - exactly what they are.

By agreeing expectations and holding each other accountable, we will be focused and get better results. It also sets up the ability to encourage self-sufficiency in players. More on that later.

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe