Congratulations, you just got talked into coaching a youth sports team! Now, what do you do? Children learn many things from playing organized sports. Your approach to coaching plays a big role in what the team members will take from the experience. There are a few things to think about no matter what sport you were thrown into.
What Do the Kids Want?
Kids essentially want two things from their time on the team. They want to have plenty of field time and to have fun. Don’t focus on building the perfect team or strategy. Let all of your team members have equal amounts of time playing. Otherwise, kids will feel like you are picking favorites, or leaving out the members that aren’t as skilled. If the only thing your team learns is how to work together and be kind to all of their teammates, then you have been successful. Use crystal awards or other trophies to encourage teamwork. Friendly competition within your team can build unity and improve communication.
What Else Should You Know?
Depending on your team’s age group, you will be practicing a couple hours, or more, a week. Be prepared to dedicate the time required to coaching a team. Some coaches punish team members that miss a practice or game. You should consider that they are still children. It may not be their fault they missed a practice or game. Don’t make your team scared of you. Be the person they learn life skills from. Discuss the value of commitment and how an individual’s actions affect a team’s performance. Encourage them to be present unless there is something else they must attend. Even if you know little to nothing about the sport, you can quickly find rules, practice tips, and other ideas online to help you develop a coaching plan.
Is Your Child On the Team?
The best way to handle being the parent and coach is to explain to your child that you have to focus on everyone, not just their needs while at games and practices. Encourage your child, but don’t expect more from them than you do the rest of the team. Always be their parent first and their coach second. Meaning, don’t bring what your child is struggling with off the field and become a nagging parent at home. As a parent, you always want your child to do their best. Let them know that as long as they made their best effort then you are proud of them.
Enjoy the Experience!
When you’re enjoying yourself, your team will enjoy themselves too! Share with the team the value of simply having fun in the game, instead of pushing them to win. Don’t become one of those coaches that yell or insults. Children will not enjoy playing for a coach that is too hard on them. Kids can’t handle standing for long periods of time for drills. Their minds wander and their energy gets the best of them, especially younger age groups. Keep your patience when your team gets irritable and unmanageable. Look for small activities that teach skills in a fun way.
How To Communicate with Parents
Your league or club will have rules about parents and who can participate in the actual coaching. Basically, for the safety of the kids only the coaches, assistant coaches and people who have passed a background check can be involved with the kids. There may be rules asking parents to be encouraging and not coach from the sidelines, and for parents to be civil when at events. Before your first practice, reach out to parents and ask for any suggestions. You might ask if their child has played before and if there is anything else you should know. If you establish open communication and let the parents have a voice, you will have less stress. If you do have a parent that is causing too many problems, talk to the president of your organization so they can figure out the best way to handle the issue.
Let this experience be pleasurable for you. Your coaching style affects how much you and your team enjoys the experience. You can always reach out to the parents and other coaches for ideas and support when you need help.