As a coach, you have to remember that while you were awarded this position, it doesn’t automatically make you a leader. The title of leader needs to be earned.

In sports, athletes will initially follow their coach’s instruction and directions out of respect for the coach’s assigned job. But as a coach, wouldn’t you rather that they followed you because you inspired them?

Every coach’s goal should be to become a positive motivator for their team.

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Because your character is what you really are, While your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – John Wooden

Whether you want to motivate your team to show up to practice every day, win every game, or just develop their athletic skills, athletes need that inspiration from their coach.

Here are a few ways you can inspire your athletes, no matter the sport or age:

1. Recognition

Recognition shouldn’t be mistaken for simply giving out trophies or ribbons. Recognize the valuable contributions of each and every single member of your team through praise that is specific. Lift them up by letting them know that they each play a key part in the team’s success.

2. Learn From Your Athletes

Listen to your players. Rely on the insight your team can provide that may help you inspire other members. Talk to your team captains and encourage them to share their thoughts about your coaching style. Ask them if you are meeting their expectations and if there is anything you can do to make the experience better.

“A common mistake among those who work in sport is spending a disproportional amount of time on “X’s and O’s” as compared to time spent learning about people.” – Mike Krzyzewski

3. Give Each Player a Role That Makes Them Feel Relevant

Athletes need to know that their hard work and efforts matter. Without a role, they may feel insignificant. Big or small, make them realize that each role plays a part.

“Good coaching may be defined as the development of character, personality and habits of players, plus the teaching of fundamentals and team play.” – Claire Bee, Basketball

4. Give Your Athletes Good Reason to Work Hard

Remind players that success is attainable through practice, confidence and dedication. Share inspirational stories about athletes who were met with challenges and failures and still prevailed through hard work, persistence, and resilience.

“There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.” – Derek Jeter

5. Be a Role Model

Be who you want your athletes to be. Your athletes look up to you and will learn more from what you do than what you say. Show them who you are. Show them good sportsmanship, collaboration, and camaraderie. Prove to them that you value their growth as people, their sports skill development, and having fun more than you do winning.

What do you do as a coach to inspire your team?