By Gary Schwind
When you think about great coaches in professional sports, you probably think about those with a great career record who have won a lot of championships. However, coaching youth sports is an entirely different beast, and the things that make a great professional sports coach aren’t the same qualities that make for a great youth sports coach. If you’re coaching youth sports, here are some ways you can be more effective.
No matter what sport or age group you coach, patience is something you need in great supply. When you coach youth sports – particularly when the athletes are younger than 10 – you will have some kids who are less interested than others. It will be clear from the first game or practice that these children are only there because their parents registered them. Specifically, they will test your patience by not paying attention or by wandering away from the team. That being said, every kid on your team will test your patience at some point, simply because that’s what kids do.
Teach The Fundamentals
No matter what sport you’re coaching, you want to make sure that your players know the basic mechanics and terminology of the game. For example, if you are coaching flag football, make sure to ask your kids if they know what a handoff is. The kids on your team may or may not move on to higher levels in the sport. However, if they do move on to higher levels, they will have you to thank for teaching them the basics they were able to build upon.
Focus On Improvement Above Winning
As Herm Edwards once said, “You play to win the game.” That is true – particularly in professional sports. However, when you’re working with young people, if winning is the most important thing in their minds, they are being set up for disappointment. After all, not even the best professional teams (in any sport) win every game. Chances are that at the beginning of the season, you’ll have a group of players that don’t know each other. Getting them to play together and improve over the season is proof that you’ve done a good job as their coach. Plus, seeing your players improve is rewarding enough without having to worry that you win every game.
Teach Your Players How To Win And Lose
Anyone who has ever played anything – including board games – will tell you that winning is preferable. There is nothing wrong with wanting to win. However, as previously mentioned, no team wins every game. Therefore, it is important for your players to know how to respond to both victories and defeats. In both cases, your players should be gracious. One of the best lessons to teach your players is that – win or lose – you congratulate your opponent on a game well played. Never let a kid skip out on the end-of-game handshake.
Identify And Involve Your Leaders
Whenever you listen to people talk about professional athletes, the topic of leadership always comes up, and rightly so. Leadership is important for any team – regardless of age group. You need to have leaders on the team to help the other members of the team improve. No matter what age and sport you are coaching, you will notice that some are natural-born leaders. They will be the ones that give you their best effort in every practice and every game. Do whatever you can to let these kids assume a leadership role, whether that’s allowing them to lead drills in practice or be captains for a game. This takes some of the burden off of you, but also allows the leaders of your team to assume leadership roles and gain confidence in the sport.