The first year of coaching youth sports can be exceptionally stressful for parents. Some parents may have extensive experience in the sport they’re coaching but realize they’re woefully unprepared to coach a pack of unruly 8-year-olds. Some parents are pressured into coaching due to a lack of volunteers within the local youth sports club, even though they have little practical knowledge of that sport. The good news is that youth sports across the country run with the effort of parents who want what’s best for their kids – not professional athletes or people with extensive coaching backgrounds. As long as you keep a few things in mind, it’s going to be a great season!
The first thing to realize is that children are not small adults. There is a level of mental development and physical maturity that does not exist in younger kids. Not understanding this basic fact is the cause of a lot of frustration as rookie coaches grow irritated that they can see what the children need to do, but no matter how much they explain to the kids, it doesn’t seem to get through. Remember to keep things simple from the start, and be ready to drop a drill or plan if after 10 or 15 minutes you can see it’s just not clicking with the kids. Remember to never take your frustration out on the kids.
If the kids complain that they are tired, drills are going too long, or are too boring, or if they seem disengaged, take the hint! If a child is on a sports field and is associating the sport with tedium and misery, then something is seriously wrong, and you’ll find few players returning to the next season. Do something to unleash the innate drive for play and competition in kids; a coach can’t forget teaching the basics, but try to fit the basics into more lively and interactive activities. For example, instead of just setting two kids next to each other and telling them to pass back and forth in soccer, let a group play “keep away” against one or more children.
In life, just like in sports, you have to take losses with wins. This is an opportunity for you to grow as a coach and for children to get all the benefits and lessons that come with playing a team sport. The children are learning to work together; they’re stretching their minds and bodies in new ways, making friends, and developing character. It’s easy to get caught up in winning games, and it can be hard to ignore long losing streaks. Remember, though, a group of kids that has fun and comes back to play again next season will be a better team in the long run. Often when teams are set up to win in that season, children are placed in fixed positions, little room is given for error or trying new things, and many of the kids sit on the bench for games. A team like this will lose most of their players and fail to develop the best players in the long run.
Parents who take time out of their schedules to coach youth sports are unsung heroes. Coaches provide lessons that go far beyond the field or court, and many will live on in the children’s minds into their adulthood. It’s important to remember the great responsibility a coach has in the development of their players and not to lose sight of their own development in the process. Remember it’s just a game, and most importantly, have fun!
If you’re a parent hoping to help their child get the most out of their childhood sports, consider subscribing to coaching from 3 Sport. 3 Sport is the only skills coaching subscription website created for youth sports, where you can subscribe to four sports at once. You can get access to coaching videos for baseball, basketball, volleyball, and football with an all-access pass or choose just one sport.