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5 Lessons to to Know when Coaching Youth
I have coached girls over the years in two sports. I played softball for over 30 years and have coached little league for 9 years. I also coached boys baseball for 2 years and boy are they easier than coaching girls. I also coached a travel girls basketball team for 7 years and these were the best years of my life. I learned a few things over the years and thought I would share some tips to make your life easier while coaching kids.
First lesson: always have fun, and make it fun for the kids. If you are having fun, they are usually having fun as well. During practices, have some sort of incentive to get them to practice hard. Such as bring some candy, toys, or other type of "prize" to get them to do their best. I learned at practice they do not try as hard as they do at a game. In order to get them to work hard at practice you need an incentive, make a competition out of some drills and reward the winner with a "prize".
Second lesson: Sportsmanship! Always teach them to have respect for the other team and coaches. Teach them to shake hands at the beginning or end of a game. To clap if an injured player walks off the court or field. Give a hand to an opposing team that is on the floor, help them up. Always have respect before, during, and after the game whether they win or lose. This is the most important part of being a coach.
Third lesson: You are in charge! Do not let the kids walk all over you. Do not let them make the decisions for you, although you can take suggestions from them, but in your terms. If you allow them to pick and choose and run practices, you have lost their respect, lost their attention and sure enough, lost a lot of games. Keep a plan of attack during games and practices. What I mean by this, is be organized and know what you are going to do at practices, who is starting, who is subbing and what you need to work on during practices. Be organized! You need to always have a plan. Keep your eye open for kids getting better, and make some changes.
Fourth lesson: Stop Talking!! Kids get bored easy, so at the beginning of a practice, have a brief meeting about what you are going to work on, and then get to it. They don't need a full blown briefing on what they did wrong at the last game, they probably already know why they lost, or why they won. Point out a few mistakes to the whole team, not individuals. Just get down to business of practicing.
Fifth lesson: Reward them win or lose. If you won the game, take them to the nearest Dairy Queen or ice cream shop. Collect from parents throughout the season or do some fund raising to reward the kids. Even better, let the parents take turns rewarding them. If you lose, still give them something, such as candy or pop at the end of the game. This will teach them that they gained something win or lose. Appreciate each and every one of the kids, starters and subs. Again just let them have fun!
I have also learned that parents are your hardest to overcome during coaching. Their kids are not playing enough, their child should be playing in this position, or how come my kid is sitting the bench. These questions are hard to answer sometimes, but you have to also let the parents know that you are the coach, you are doing what you feel is best for the team. I have had to say this to a few parents, and well it worked most of the time. "You could have volunteered the same as I did." or "I am the coach, so I'll make the decisions". I have also ignored them, or tried being very nice. Sometimes it works sometimes it does not.
If you are coaching a little league team where everyone has paid to play, then every child must play. Depending on the sport how often they get to play not how good they are. You must play every child. You have to decide how often a kid gets to play and what position they are good at and will benefit the team. While coaching this type of league, I learned to just alternate as much as possible, it is a difficult decision to make, but it is easier to just put your best kids in at the beginning and end of the game, no matter the sport. Sometimes in this competitive league winning is not everything!!
Now, if you are coaching a travel team or an all star team where you are raising money for the team to travel or if you are paying yourself then it is an altogether different situation. You are usually the one holding the tryouts, finding the places to travel, and choosing the best kids for your team! It is to your discretion whom plays where and how long they get to play. Of course, there are rules for each sport that say a kid can only play certain amount of quarters or can only pitch so many innings. However, you must hold a "parent only" meeting and discuss how you will handle these rules and regulations. Be upfront with the parents about their child! If they are mediocre then let them know they will not be playing a lot, if they are good, let them know they will be playing most of the time. Best thing to do in these competitive teams, is to be honest and upfront.
Just remember kids have feelings, that get hurt easily. Always remember the first lesson; HAVE FUN! Kids are like sponges they soak up everything they hear and learn. Make sure you are just as respectful to the kids as you want them to be to you!! Good luck and I hope you have fun teaching, loving, and coaching your kids! I had a blast and learned a lot about the sports, the kids and most of all, myself!