The preface to Jerry Lynch's Creative Coaching is entitled Teaching, Guiding, Motivating, and Winning. This title seems to be an apt definition of coaching from Dr. Lynch's point of view.
As a PhD sport psychologist and athletic development specialist with decades of experience at the high school, college, and pro level (Phil Jackson wrote the forward), Dr. Lynch emphasizes the coach's role in helping each athlete achieve their greatest potential. In his view, this is accomplished not just through individual relationships, but through the thoughtful creation of a team environment in which athletes are not just challenged to achieve, but actually empowered to achieve their best. The coach's job goes beyond traditional responsibilities of command and control of athletes to active engagement and elevation of athletes as individuals who have worth above and beyond their athletic persona.
This philosophy may seem too 'touchy-feely' to some traditionalists, or just too impractical to others. If this is your viewpoint, hold on - don't close the book yet. As Dr. Lynch lays out chapter by chapter, creative coaching is compassionate but tough, and surprisingly practical (even efficient) to implement. Perhaps most importantly to us competitive types, throughout the book the author presents ample evidence that creative coaching wins.
Dr. Lynch begins by grounding Creative Coaching in the reality of the modern athlete's needs and expectations. As he notes in the preface:
Over the years I have polled more than two thousand athletes at the professional, Olympic, collegiate, and high school levels asking them why they need a coach. Most of them focused on the need for a coach to inspire, guide, encourage, and teach, to help athletes be their very best. When asked how this is effectively accomplished, most agreed (to my surprise) that a coach needs to create an environment in which listening is possible, one that is based on respect and understanding. Such responses led me to conclude that coaches could benefit from some creative new methods of coaching to help fill this role. (x).
This research clearly informs Dr. Lynch's definitions of successful coaching. Successful coaches connect with their athletes not just to make them 'feel good about themselves,' but to give them confidence to take the risks which are prerequisite for high-level performance. Specifically:
Creative coaches understand that the true battle in athletics has less to do with external events than with internal battles against losing enthusiasm, courage, fearlessness, and compassion. They are teachers who discover creative ways to instill these qualities and help their athletes cope with failures, mistakes, and setbacks. They create a program that seeks a winning tradition, knowing that loss is an essential ingredient on the road to success. And they truly love to win. (xi)
Thankfully Dr. Lynch is able to actualize this philosophy in a series of practical lessons about how to be a creative coach. In every chapter he provides real-world examples of coaches and athletes in action to illustrate the power of the creative coaching principles. A listing of the three main sections and ten chapters provides an apt description of the content of the book.
Part 1. Developing Qualities of Successful Leadership
1. Cultivating Character
2. Communicating Effectively
3. Creating an Atmosphere of Service
4. Forging Cohesiveness
Part 2. Leading with a Purpose
5. Providing Guidance
6. Developing Discipline
7. Instilling Inner Strength
Part 3. Unleashing Prepared Athletes
8. Strategizing with Focus
9. Succeeding through Victory and Defeat
10. Implementing Mental Tactics
As you can gather from this review, Creative Coaching was an inspirational influence on the Elevation Model of Athletic Development. We highly recommend this book to any coach who is interested in winning and changing lives through positive youth development. You can purchase the book at Amazon.com.