Tips on How to Succeed in Coaching Youth Sports
What can you do to make yourself a better coach?
Are you new to coaching youth sports? Did you recently get promoted from an assistant to the head coach on your child's team? Are you an experienced coach that is just looking for new ideas on how to get through to the kids that you coach? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, here are some ideas that might help you.
1. Be a friend to your players without losing their respect.
At times, this can be a tough task to manage, because certain players will think they are allowed to stray outside the rules if they view the coach (authority figure) as one of their friends. The key to overcoming this, is to be equally friendly to all the players on your team, regardless of their talent level. This in turn requires the coach to address inattention from all players in the same manner. Every player's needs or questions, need to be met one at a time with the same attention given from coach to player, to each need that is being discussed. Respect will be reciprocated when coaches let their players know that they are there to help them, as long as it is within their capacity to do so.
2. Addressing inattention during timeouts and postgame/pregame talks.
In coaching Youth Sports, yelling is not always the best way to demand attention. The typical youth commonly tends to have a short attention span. Yelling at them may get their attention within the moment, but could lead to future resentment of the coach that yelled at them. A short and clear explanation of why the topic at hand is important, can be the best way to get an inattentive player to re-focus on what is being taught. Emphasis should be on the explanation being concise and clear. As coaches, sometimes we say things in terms that we are familiar with, but the players are not familiar with that terminology or the context of what is said. With this in mind, coaches should consider that unfamiliar terms can cause the players to become inattentive in the first place.
3. An effective way to try to get timid players to perform to their potential.
The first thing that needs to be considered here, is why an individual player is timid within a sport they chose to play. In the typical situation, the player is either timid due to lack of knowledge of how to play the sport, or they just have a timid personality. In some cases, both of these can be true for a player. If the player has a timid personality, they are even less likely to respond well to a coach yelling at them, and this often leads to them just shutting down completely. Extra one on one attention needs to be given to these players, to teach them the game they are participating in, and explain to them how they can find a way to contribute. Pointing out and giving praise to any contribution that these players are able to make, often will lead to them playing more confidently in the future.
4. Emphasizing how small contributions can add up.
When coaching youth sports, you will often encounter a player who really wants to make an effort but does not know their own limitations. They will attempt something that is beyond their current skillset. While this aggressive mistake can be tolerated, it is rooted in that player having the wrong idea of what their role should be as a contributor. Every player wants to be able to impact the scoreboard in a team sport, but they need to start with things that can allow them to get into the flow of the game as a contributor. The idea of playing defense does not always come naturally to young athletes, because they do not see how it impacts the scoreboard until the concept is properly explained to them. To start with, emphasizing little things that can be done differently in certain situations is helpful. Emphasize following up little contributions with more little contributions in another area, and how they add up to becoming something bigger in a winning effort. When the young athlete sees the points of emphasis adding up, they are then able to buy into the contributions as an overall satisfying effort.
5. How to handle players who have advanced skills for the level you are coaching.
There is no one way to coach a star player properly, but in most cases, this player or these players will have a difference in skillset that is very apparent to their teammates, and requires a different coaching approach. While these players can be leaned on to impact the scoreboard in tough circumstances, their skillset often lends itself to helping their teammates become better as well. If stars are coached to facilitate, then other members of the team can gain confidence through easier opportunities to contribute. It is easy as coaches to sit back and watch your stars dominate individually, but coaching stars to be unselfish is a great way to improve the competitive quality within your league, and to improve the competitive quality of the future of the sport you coach in.
6. How to teach your team the fundamentals of your sport.
Drawing up the basic way you want your team to play, and having them practice that way is a great way to create the foundation for the fundamentals. Continuing to teach, by taking time to emphasize where the fundamental aspects lead to success, and finding a few instances where straying from the fundamentals led to failure is a great way to have the fundamental approach grow. This needs to be done without singling out an individual in front of their teammates, but highlighting why certain actions lead to a negative result. Positive reinforcement for carrying out the plan, is always a great way to get the desired results.
I share these tips as a youth sports coach who recently took over as a head coach. Most of these tips come from my own firsthand experience where I had to make choices on what strategy would be most effective in getting the desired results. My experience this year was a learning process in which I found the results I wanted through trial and error. By sharing these tips with my readers, I hope to make life easier on those who participate as coaches in youth sports.
© 2014 Joshua Ruga