The Youth Sports Coach
Coaching youth sports is a challenge. Most of our kids are
really happy to have us step up to the plate and coach and,
despite the time we give up, most parents find the experience
equally rewarding. However, there are some major things that
every coach needs to do and understand before they start the
season: 1) coach with the proper attitude; 2) coach with the
proper fundamentals; and, 3) learn and teach the difference
between the "Dad Hat" and the "Coach Hat".
Coaching the Right Attitude:
We all love our kids and, let's face it; we also love playing
sports with our kids. For me, it's the way that I spend most
of my free time and it is right up there as one of my favorite
things to do. That being said, I also need to realize that
statistically, none of the kids that I coach will ever play
professional sports, nearly all of them will not play sports
in college, and many of them will not even play varsity sports
in high school. So, what does this mean for us as a coach?
We need to emphasize all the other aspects of sports and the
life lessons that make us love playing the game. Mostly, we
need to make the experience fun!
In 1988, Robert Fulghum wrote the book "All I Really Need
to Know I learned in Kindergarten". I've often told people
that you can learn everything you need to know by playing
sports - especially youth sports. Many of the same lessons
apply, but on an even bigger scale where kids learn success
and failure, wining and losing, sportsmanship and teamwork,
and how to respond in many pressure situations. None of these
are easy lessons. Winning with grace is just as hard to teach
as losing with dignity. How can you do this and make sure
that everybody has a great season? That's the trick.
Every team you ever coach, especially teams with younger kids,
will be split between kids that are talented and kids that
are not. The goal that you have as a coach is to make sure
that every one of those kids has a great experience and wants
to play again next year. I take the most pride in the job
I did as a coach when the worst kid on the team loves the
sport and keeps playing year after year. The way that I do
this is to emphasize things other than on field performance
- I try to stress effort, trying your best and hustle.
There are several practical things that you can do to emphasize
these "other" characteristics. In basketball, for example,
instead of emphasizing and keeping stats for scoring, keep
stats on hustle, picks set, good defense, rebounds, filling
a lane, or just being in the right position. After every game,
point out something positive that every kid did during the
game. Award a point for each time a kid does something you
emphasize and give stars or sew on patches when points are
accumulated. You'll see that these kids will do anything to
get a star on their uniform, even pay attention in practice!
Coaching the Right Fundamentals:
Kids of any age can learn to do things properly. They may
not have the motor skills developed yet, but they can at least
try to do it right. One of my favorite misconceptions is that
"practice makes perfect". That's totally wrong; practice doesn't
make perfect, practice makes PERMANENT. What I try to teach
is: "Perfect Practice Makes Permanently Perfect". That's a
pretty big difference!
Of course, this really changes things for a youth coach because
we need to teach the correct fundamentals or we'll simply
be reinforcing the bad habits kids develop. The hardest thing
to do as a coach is to try and correct a flaw that a kid has
developed over years of "practice". This is even harder when
the kid is good, because correcting the fundamental flaw generally
means that getting worse before getting better. That means
the kid is going to be reluctant to try this "new" way and
may not stick it out. In the long run, the difference could
be huge. While we've already acknowledged that that we're
not developing professional athletes, there is no reason to
limit the ceiling on how well each child may develop.
The solution is simple: we need to learn the right fundamentals
before we start coaching. It's a responsibility that we accept
when we volunteer to coach. Now, up front, I want to make
sure to state that most of us think we know much more about
sports than we really do. We think that because we played
and we were pretty good that we clearly know how to teach
a kid to play baseball or basketball. That's simply not true.
Much of what we learned was wrong. We may also not know the
right way to communicate what we know to kids. Or, we may
not know anything about the sport if we're stepping in and
coaching soccer or another sport that wasn't "big" when we
Fortunately, there is help. Many leagues do a good job teaching
their coaches the fundamentals of the game. Some leagues even
offer mandatory coaching clinics for their coaches. These
are really good starts, but generally not enough - especially
as the kids you coach get older and better. Before every season
that I coach, I'll watch several instructional tapes to review
the fundamentals and also learn new material. I re-watch tapes,
often with my kids that we've seen before and buy a couple
of new ones to add some wrinkles. Of course, at SportsKids.com,
we do offer 1,000's of instructional books and videos, but
the point of this section is to simply say to use whatever
method you choose to make sure that you teach correct fundamentals.
Every kid, even young kids, can learn with good coaching and
remember: "Practice makes Permanent".
The "Dad Hat" and the "Coach Hat":
There is a huge difference between being a "Dad" and being
a "Coach". Each has different responsibilities and relationships
with the kids. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of overlap
between the two roles. I literally have two hats: one says
"Dad" and the other says "Coach". Over the years, my kids
and I have learned to separate the two so I don't wear the
hats too often, but it does make the distinction more literal.
Coaching your own children is one of the real challenges of
youth sports because sometimes, you child wants or expects
to have a dad when you're the team's coach. If you can separate
these roles, and both of your expectations, you and your child
will have a much better youth sports experience.
Copyright Ken Kaiserman - http://www.sportskids.com
Ken Kaiserman is the president of http://www.sportskids.com
, a leading youth sports website featuring games, sports news,
sports camp and league directories, community features, and
Kid Sports with over 150,000 products.
Ken coaches youth football, basketball and baseball. He also
serves on the local little league board of directors as well
as the Park Advisory Board. You can read and subscribe to
the SportsKids blogs at http://www.kidstore.blogspot.com
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