How To Coach Youth Sports Successfully - Football, Basketball, Volleyball, Softball, You Name It!

There are many opportunities around the country to get your feet wet in coaching. It all begins at the youth level. Whether it's basketball, football, volleyball or soccer, countless clubs and youth programs are always in need of a coach. But what is gonig to be expected of you? I'm going to let you know that, as well as the pros and cons of coaching children or teens.

Pre-Season Preparations

Before you even begin organizing try-outs, there are steps you'll need to take. Most likely you will need to get a background check done and have your fingerprints taken, as well as participating in a drug test of some sort. These are all great and don't cost too much, and the association you are working with/for may even pay for these if all turns out well. Although it can be a small hassle, I would question a group who didn't require these checks.

Once you are cleared, you need to get organized and FAST! Don't assume people will take care of things for you. Most programs have very limited funds and can only help with the most basic needs, if that. You should know if you need to supply your own well stocked med kit, full of bandages, ice packs, antiseptic wipes and gloves, if you should bring equipment from home, like a ball pump or balls, and if you need to schedule your own gym time. Gym time is a critical decision because you need to be able to get to practice, the kids need to get to practice, and things like school sports, holidays, travel and more needs to be taken into consideration from the beginning. Switching practice schedules because of poor planning on your part will not be tolerated by most parents!

Paperwork is important as well. Have all of your rules layed out before practices even start. Trying to enforce new rule even a few weeks into the season will not work. Let the kids AND PARENTS know your expectations. Especially with younger kids, parents will expect a lot out of you, and you need to keep them "on your team" be staying organized and playing as fair as possible. If a parent gets upset with a coach, that could potentially limit the child's interest in the sport and respect for the coach could be lost. Having a parent meeting will help you know who you're dealing with and what's expected of you, while you lay out the ground rules for parents and you all start out on the right foot.

Which age group is the most fun to coach? Write why in the comments box!

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In-Season

Practices are finally starting and the fun can begin! Make sure you plan each practice out ahead of time. Going in without a clue as to what you're doing makes you seem less organized to the players and you can start to lose respect. Carry a clipboard with you with a pen or pencil and paper at all times so you can take notes of how well drills are working, who is putting in the most effort, attendance... all things that should be kept track of so that when one person isn't getting as much playing time and a parents comes up to talk to you, you have evidence to show why you are making these decisions, and that you are not being unfair in any way. Although with the younger groups, aiming for even playing time is always the best option. Some kids will grow to surprise you if you believe in them in as little as one season!

Make sure you are taking all of your equipment along with the med kit everywhere with you. You never know when something will happen. In addition to practices, you'll now start playing games or tournaments most likely. Find out the location and times as soon as possible and let parents know right away. Telling them Friday night where the tournament is on Saturday when it's over 100 miles away will not leave you with happy parents who would have rather looked for a hotel a week ago.

Make sure you are at least 15 minutes early to everything. Parents will drop kids off early because they have somewhere to be, and if no adult is present they will feel very uncomfortable with leaving their kid there. Especially if you are in-charge of unlocking any doors, you need to be the first one there.

You will also be the last to leave. There is no circumstance when it is ever okay to leave a player in youth sports by themselves, or even with another parent who says they will wait with them. That is your responsibility to make sure they get home safely with their intended ride, and if anything goes wrong and you weren't there, it would be your fault.

Post-Season

 You've had your last game, the equipment is returned, and now you are FREE! Except for having a team party. This needs to be planned well in advance and should run right on schedule. You may think your duties are over, but now is when it's time to wrap things up with your kids. And trust me, after even the shortest season, they will become YOUR KIDS. You'll probably have a friendship between each player and that is one of the biggest pros of this job. At the team party, you need to make sure the are fed, have fun, and also have a closing speech of some sort.

At any age, with any size team, it is good to go around and say at least one good thing about each player. Keep all of your praises limited though, and don't expand on certain players. Now is certainly not the time to make anyone feel alienated from the team by saying one good thing about them, and 5 good things about the rest of the team. Whatever note you end on, that is how they will remember the season. So print them out certificates, get them trophies, and make them all feel special and remind them of the good times so they will come out again next year!

Pros and Cons

 I'll give you the Cons first.

-You work mostly on weeknights and weekends

-You aren't often payed much, if at all

-Dealing with parents can be a huge hassle if things don't go perfectly throughout the season

-You will put many hours into what you thought was a part-time job/volunteer work

-You are responsible for A LOT

And finally, the Pros.

-You will build a lot of connections with parents and other coaches throughout the area

-To see your work pay off, even if it doesn't come until next season, will make you extremely proud

-Coach/Player relationships are very unique, in a good way!

-You build up your experience in the sport, which can lead to more opportunities

-You get to teach lessons such as even playing time, team unity, hard work, and many more

-It is just a lot of fun being around kids. If they don't stress you out too much, they will make you younger at heart

In Closing...

 Coaching is not for everyone. You need to be someone who loves to teach and to learn. Kids will teach you more than you would expect. I highly recommend it if you are truly passionate about your sport, because the kids will pick up on it. If you don't completely love everything about it, you will be exhuasted because your world will revolve around that sport at least for a few monthes. Good luck! If there is anymore advice out there I'd love to hear it, as I am one of those people who love learning! Thank you!

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