When a player, nervous in the spotlight of a roaring crowd, makes a mental error, it can be easy for coaches to feel frustrated and let down. As they struggle with enforcing the technical aspects of a sport, Greenhill coaches also work to make sure their teams are mentally prepared for any game or challenge they face.
One of the biggest aspects in coaching is the formation of trusting bonds between coach and athlete. Head Field Hockey Coach Brittany Johnson ’09 attests to that, noting the difference in relationship with her players between this year and last year, her first as Head Coach. In that challenge of establishing trust, coaches are left with a difficult decision of balancing their own emotions and coaching style with how best to get through to their players.
Coach Johnson began coaching at Greenhill in fall 2016, following the departure of Coach Mayer. Senior Mahima Akula has noticed the positivity and encouragement that Coach Johnson brings.
“Coach Johnson feels a lot more approachable. She has a better influence on us. She understands that we obviously have the desire to win. She’s just there to give us the tools to play our best game,” said Mahima.
In Cross Country, a sport perceived as individual, Head Coach Jason Yaffe said he is impressed by the power of the team’s compassion, and how they lean on each other for support in order to have success while running.
“Yes, when the gun goes off, it is individual. You’re trying to bring about a kind of accountability, not just in races, but how you practice and treat each other,” said Coach Yaffe.
Although Coach Yaffe emphasizes the importance of the team, he says that a runner’s primary motivation must come from themselves, and that they all need to know why it is they are out there and what their personal goals are, whether it be to simply fulfill a P.E. requirement or win an SPC championship.
Girls’ volleyball Head Coach Tatiane Deibert said she went into coaching because of the lasting impression her coach left on her when she played. As a player in Brazil, Coach Deibert had an intense coach who emphasized the importance of practice. Coach Deibert now uses her as an inspiration for her coaching.
“I always loved volleyball, and once I started it was always very intense right away. I clicked with my coach who I had for about 10-12 years. The [passion] that [the coach] started carried over and by 16 or 17 I already knew I wanted to be a coach,” said Coach Deibert. “He was ridiculous and passionate and I learned a lot from that.”
Although coaches can often show signs of impatience and frustration, many Greenhill coaches have said that they prefer to take a calmer approach to coaching.
“I try to have positive rewards [for my players] instead of making them scared of something,” said Coach Johnson.
Although Coach Yaffe embraces coaching with positivity, he understands that all athletes have different ways of being motivated. For this reason, he has all of his runners’ complete self-evaluation forms after each race, labeling their strengths and weaknesses.
“Doing this gives me a window into what that athlete’s performance was. If there’s frustration that comes out of that, then [coaching] becomes very individualized,” Coach Yaffe said.
Coach Deibert also stressed the importance of knowing each athlete on an individual basis.
“[It’s important] to know the players personality. I know I have some kids that respond well to yelling and they’re going to shake it off, and there are some players that if I yell at them they’re pretty much done for the game” she said.
Coach Deibert’s players appreciate her dedication to learning each player’s nuances and goals.
“She makes sure that each player has individual goals, as well as team goals. Her attention makes everyone feel like they’re very much an important part of what makes the team work together,” said Senior volleyball player Audrey Berner.
Despite the importance of winning for many coaches, they recognize that this is not the most important aspect of Greenhill athletics. They view scholastic sports as a way to mold better humans.
“At the end of the day, the most important part is that people are having fun, that they’re enjoying the sport. But winning is fun in itself,” said Coach Johnson.
Story by Stephen Crotty and Ross Rubin
Photo by Tim Kaiser
Originally published in the November 2017 print issue