The volunteer coach is the lifeblood of youth sports. Without him or her, the huge youth sports network that we have today would cease to exist.
Unfortunately, that does not mean that all youth sports coaches are doing a good job. Sports parents recount story after story of coaches that don’t care about winning, care about winning too much, always yell at the players, never yell at the players, play every player on the team equally, or give some players little to no playing time—I’m sure you can add to the list of complaints.
It’s important to understand, if you are a volunteer youth sports coach, that you will never, ever please every parent every season. It’s just not possible. You may have a rare good season where every parent seems content, but hang on, because there is no guarantee that will repeat itself.
However, the parent temperature on your team should not always be the indicator of your coaching success. In fact, if you are following this list of guidelines, you can know that you are doing a great job as a volunteer coach, even if you have a few disgruntled parents.
1. Coach with a positive attitude. This doesn’t mean that you don’t tell a player what he does wrong, it simply means that you weave positive feedback into your coaching more than negative. Kids get tired of always hearing what they do wrong and not hearing what they do right.
2. Don’t belittle a team for losing. They feel bad enough and it’s not your job to make them feel worse. Talk about the mistakes, yes and discuss what they need to work on to improve. But emotional beatings will not motivate them to improve. Always remember to point out the small victories—they are in every game.
3. Take the blame when your team doesn’t perform and look to see how you can help them improve. Your job is to make them better and give them a chance for success.
4. Stay teachable. A good coach is always looking to be better by learning from other coaches, studying the game, or just listening to the suggestions of others.
5. Put winning in perspective. Of course you want to win, every coach does. But remember that your job as a youth sports coach is to teach fundamentals and help the kids learn to love the game. Strive for a winning season, but don’t neglect a good team experience for your players in the process.
6. Keep the bigger picture in mind. Youth sports can teach kids numerous lessons about working hard, being a team player, and getting along with others. Don’t waste this opportunity you’ve been given to impact tomorrow’s leaders.
7. Communicate openly and regularly with parents. In fact, it’s better to over- communicate than to under-communicate. Parents love a coach who is organized and who always tells them what they need to know way before they need to know it.
8. Get others to help. You will do a better job at coaching if you let others help you with administrative work. Pick a strong team parent and encourage him or her to delegate duties to other parents on the team. With everyone pitching it, all the volunteer duties will get done and you can concentrate on the players, practices, and games.
After 22 years of being a sports mom dealing with nearly 100 different coaches, the ones that stand out the most were the ones who loved my kids, knew how to motivate them to be better, and who taught them how to love the game. How will your players remember you?
Janis B. Meredith is a sportsparenting blogger, podcaster, and life coach. She provides resources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Her book 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents is available on Amazon.
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