Hong Kong’s men’s windsurfing representative at the 1996 Games, Sam Wong Tak-sum, partner of Olympic star, Lee Lai-shan, offers insight on how positive coaching can make a vital difference between giving up, winning and losing, especially for kids with few advantages in life.
More than 20 years ago, the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) was founded at Stanford University in the US. The overemphasis on winning and losing at that time was causing some teenagers to lose interest in sport. After in- depth research, PCA created a series of training methods that emphasized hard work instead of medals, allowing for mistakes and learning from them. PCA also established training methods to connect young athletes, coaches and their parents in a positive triangle relationship.
In team sports, we watch to see that every student is working hard and among them, we notice how Player A, who is good at the game, wants to share his ideas because he cares about his teammates and wants to help them. All team members benefit from this kind of team spirit, so a positive coach would encourage Player A. His parents would also appreciate the praise he got and offer more positive reinforcement. This process gradually becomes internalized as team members who care and have good teamwork are recognized and appreciated.
I have been doing this kind of coaching for seven years and I can see that in Hong Kong today, as in the US in the past, parents often think that sports are only important for the prizes that can be won. In fact, in addition to prizes, there are many ways in which sport develops character in young people, during both training and competitions. Building a positive sports culture by using sport as a platform to cultivate positive values and good character among young people: that’s what is important.
After doing several workshops with parents, I can see how their perception of children playing sports can change completely. Instead of just focusing on winning and losing, they appreciate the children’s efforts and see how this brings benefits. This kind of result is what a positive coach most wants to see.