Mentor: A Hat that Coaches Wear

11 Feb

Mentor:  A Hat that Coaches Wear

Written by Kevin Sutton Assistant Basketball Coach

George Washington University


“Mentors: They guide us and they challenge us to be our best. They shape our faith and our lives. Good mentors create good leaders,” said Tony Dungy(former NFL head coach).  As a coach/educator you wear many hats.  But there is no hat more important than the hat that is labeled “Mentor”.  Being a mentor is such a huge responsibility.  It is a role that should be taken seriously.


Coaches should be mentors to their student/athletes.  In society today the student-athletes that colleges recruit more than ever are coming from diversed  backgrounds some of which may be dysfunctional and economically disadvantaged. This can lead to a variety of the social, emotional and behavioral issues that can be seen throughout sports at all levels.


Coaches as a mentor need to address these 6 areas when acting as a mentor:

1.  Being a good listener.

2. Help the student/athlete solve the puzzles

3. Be truthful with the student-athletes

4. Keeping the line of demarcation clear.

5. Develop relationships

6. Develop/earn the student athletes trust


Coach/Mentor as a good listener:

A big part of teaching is having the ability and opportunity to listen. It is often through what we hear when we are active listeners that we learn what needs to be taught. I am of the opinion that a “good listener” hears with not only their ears  but more importantly with their heart. Listening allows for a potential  connection to be formed.  The emotional connection can lead to an all important level of trust.


Coach/Mentor as a puzzle solver:

For the most part,student/athletes are divided into three categories: high maintenance, low maintenance and no maintenance.   This is often a direct correlation of their maturity level. Thus the mentor is often left to solve the puzzles that are associated  with each group. The mentor has to anticipate potential “puzzles or problems” that will need to be solved.  The puzzles can range in their severity thus making it important for the mentor to be a quick thinker,  have patience,  and use sound judgement all the while maintaining their professionalism.


Coach/Mentor must be truthful:

It  is imperative that the mentor is truthful with the student-athletes.   He must tell them what is necessary to help them reach their potential.  The truth  has to be  told to them in every way possible.  Misleading the student-athlete will only make it more difficult to mentor him.  Using  as  many teaching aids, strategies and statistics as possible to drive the necessary point home is paramount.   A mentor must always take in to account the following factors of the student/athlete: 1. Their ability to process information. 2. Their ability to handle the information and . 3. Their emotional state.


Coach/Mentor must not cross the line of demarcation:

As a coach/mentor at no time can you cross the line of demarcation.  There is a well understood line between the coach and the player.  The coach at all times must act  and carry themselves like a professional.  While earning a players trust they must maintain a healthy relationship.  The “levels”  between the coach and the student-athlete can NEVER become even.  If the line is ever crossed the relationship between the mentor and the student-athlete has  become unbalanced and true mentoring can not longer take place. The respect has been lost.


Coach/Mentor needs to develop a relationship:

Once a coach/mentor understands who the student-athlete is, where they are from, what is important to them, who is important to them, what drives them then real mentoring can begin to take place.   Spending time with them in different areas of the student-athletes life(during practice, at a meal, walking to class, before or after practice, on the bus, in an airport an other venues can prove to be helpful when developing a relationship.  Through effective communication a relationship can be formed.  These are times when the most mentoring can and will occur.


Coach/Mentor needs to develop Trust:

Before any type of mentoring can occur, trust has to be earned and demonstrated by both parties.  Trust requires time. Trust requires both parties to be placed in a situation where they must live out with their action and their spoken convictions.  It is in these “defining moments” that trust will solidify a relationship.  Trust is a by product of our faith in one another. Trust is built on the foundation of truth.


The coach as a mentor is a ladle that pours in to the bucket of your student/athletes. You fill them  with knowledge so that they may overflow/mature at the right time with all your teachings  and support to become that which they  can become.  The coach/mentor is a GOOD  LISTENER that tries to SOLVE the many PUZZLES with TRUTH, all the while never crossing the line of DEMARKATION in the RELATIONSHIP that has been built on TRUST.


4 Responses to “Mentor: A Hat that Coaches Wear”

  1. Functional Basketball Coaching February 22, 2013 at 5:42 AM #

    Hi Coach,

    Being a mentor is a really important part of many coaches roles.

    Understanding the difference between coaching and mentoring is important, and they both have a part to play in coaching a team throughout a season. Coaching develops players and Mentoring develops the person.

    Great Post!


    Functional Basketball Coaching
    Twitter: @funbballcoach

    Like Us on Facebook!

    • bfy123 March 6, 2013 at 1:54 PM #

      A comment from someone from you previous “neck of the woods” 🙂 (Orlando/Clermont)

      Could not agree more about importance of developing a mentoring relationship between coaches & players. Basketball is much more than just Xs & Os. It’s been proven over & over again that athletic performance is greatly influenced by athlete’s “mental state.” Mentoring relationship between coach & player creates a “communication channel/tool/opportunity” for coach to help his/her players achieve such an optimal “mental state — MENTORING IS ALL ABOUT A TWO-WAY HONEST/CARING COMMUNICATION & MUTUAL RESPECT.Effectively, this sort of a relationship between a coach and a player creates an opportunity to improve player’s performance on and off the court. It is a win-win situation for both coaches & players.

      Thanks for posting!

      Jay Yurkiewicz
      Twitter: JayYurkiewicz

  2. Cheap earphones July 11, 2013 at 6:31 PM #

    I’m gone to say to my little brother, that he should also pay a quick visit this weblog on regular basis to get updated from most up-to-date news.


  1. Basketball Coaching Digest February 13, 2013 | Justin T. EganJustin T. Egan - February 13, 2013

    […] Mentor: A Hat that Coaches Wear […]

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