What makes a good coach?

Posted: May 26, 2023

Minnehaha has strong tradition of top coaches

For many teen-agers, a critical part of their high school experience is athletics, and the most influential people in young people’s lives can be their coaches. Minnehaha Academy has developed a strong tradition of athletic success built on the foundation of having top-quality coaches.

But what makes a coach excellent? Often, the number of wins that coaches pile up does not adequately measure how much they actually impacted students’ lives. Student-athletes at Minnehaha generally agree that the top attribute that a coach could have is the ability to build healthy relationships. Especially important is the level of trust that the players themselves have with their coach.

“One of the biggest things I think a coach can do is develop a good relationship with the players,” said sophomore Miles Korman, a member of the soccer team.

Junior soccer captain Berit Parten echoed this point.

“It makes everything work better when you feel like the coaches are actually there for you,” she said.

One of the hardest things for a coach to balance is the point between tough love and being too hard on their players. Someone known to have a good balance of this is Coach Lance Johnson, the boys basketball coach.

Senior captain Rolyns Aligbe said that he does a good job “balancing teaching and not being too aggressive.”

Another important aspect in the eyes of Minnehaha student athletes is holding people accountable. Obviously, it is important to have lots of fun in high school sports, as one of its main focuses is to provide a safe environment for all students to feel comfortable with trying new things, but there is also another side of it.

Minnehaha has developed a brand as one of the highest-academic schools in the Twin Cities along with having some of the highest-achieving sports teams. Along with this comes high expectations for not only players but coaches alike, which definitely has an impact on coaching styles.

Scott Scholl, a math teacher, has been in the coaching world for decades at Minnehaha, gaining lots of experience and knowledge of things that work to motivate student-athletes and also things that don’t.

“You’ve got to not only care about the sport, but you’ve got to care about the athletes,” said Scholl, reflecting on one of his main opinions on coaching.

He has worked with many different sports, and currently is an assistant coach for football, girls basketball coach, and track.

Many of his remarks echo the same exact opinion of many student athletes.

“It’s really important to me that I feel like the coach cares about me,” said sophomore B Sahlstrom, who is set to be a volleyball captain next season.

There are many other aspects to what make a “good” coach, but the real answer is there is no one filter to see exactly whether or not a certain individual’s coaching is liked or effective.

There are many lessons that coaches learn throughout coaching as well as the players.

“I’ve learned tons of lessons through playing basketball,” said Aligbe, “and my coaches have really helped me develop certain life skills.”

Scholl himself has also learned important lessons over the course of his coaching years.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that the sun is going to come up the next day no matter what,” said Scholl. “You have to be able to turn the page over and move on.”

This advice is very applicable to sports, but also life, and it is one lesson that everyone can take away no matter what sport or activity they participate in.

Another big aspect of having a successful coaching style is communication. Whether it is between coaches and players, coaches and parents or coaches and other supporting staff, communication is key.

Emily Kennett, assistant to the athletic director, deals with all of the behind the scenes work with coaches. Whether it is dealing with parent questions, team finances, transportation or other details, Kennett is in charge of communicating all of that.

Dealing with every sports team at Minnehaha, Kennett has gotten the opportunity to work with a variety of different coaches. One of the most important things when working with coaches, to her, is communication.

“Sometimes a coach can be great at the sport and know it very well,” said Kennett, “but they can lack the attention to detail and might forget to communicate with me when there’s been a schedule change.”

Lack of communication can cause issues with logistical things such as if a team has a bus, or how much funding a team has depending on if families actually pay the activity fee or not.

Kennett also encourages coaches to reach out when they may need help with something.

“Some coaches recognize that and they can work with their assistant coaches or captains, parents, etc. to help delegate the work that they’re not as good at,” said Kennett, “so those people end up working with me to make sure things stay up to date, and that works really well, also.”

There are people in our community that love playing sports, and there are coaches that are truly passionate about doing whatever their players need in order to be successful.

“My job is to bring out the best in my athletes,” Scholl said, “and if I do that in the right way, I am a happy person.”

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