3 Simple Tips for New Coaches
In youth sports, the coach often makes all the difference when it comes to how players and their families experience a sport, which ultimately has an impact on whether players return for another season. And believe it or not, a coach’s ability to influence players has little to do with what they know and more to do with where they place their priorities.
This past summer I enrolled one of my sons in a local youth sports league. He’s 8 and didn't have a lot of experience playing this particular sport, but I figured this was guaranteed to improve his fitness and give him some exposure to another team sport. I encouraged him to give it a try. The fee was reasonable and I had had experience with the league many years ago when one of my other sons played. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, sadly, my son’s experience as a player, and our family’s experience, left a great deal of room for improvement. From the stands, it seemed clear that it all stemmed from the coach.
I am the first to acknowledge how difficult it is to coach. I have often said that being a coach is similar to being a CEO of a small business; you are not only responsible for physically coaching the team, but you become the treasurer, the equipment manager, the scheduler, the volunteer manager … and the pay really stinks. I commend, and appreciate anyone that is willing to step forward and volunteer. But taking on that responsibility means you are making a commitment to do more than just show up.
My coaching career as a volunteer has spanned 10 years and I have the added blessing of getting to work with coaches and players in my day job with Right Way. Through our work with basketball associations, we are exposed to a variety of different philosophies, and have worked with parent volunteers with a great deal of sport knowledge and those with very little. At the end of the day, some of the best coaches we’ve seen, prioritize communication and the experience of being part of a team, over the x’s and o’s and wins and losses. They value the relationships they are developing.
Now to be completely fair, many volunteer coaches seldomly receive proper training or support. They are expected to jump right in with little time to prepare let alone get connected to someone with experience. Well, for those willing volunteers, we have three pieces of advice.
Get to know each player’s name
What is a greater demonstration of your interest in a player, or family for that matter, than getting to know their names. It’s an absolute necessary first step in building a relationship, and speaks volumes to the kids on the team.
Be a proactive communicator
Miscommunication, or a lack of clarity can quickly build into frustration, or worse. Take time to let parents know how you intend to approach the season and share as much detail as you can. You’ll find that so many conflicts with parents can be avoided when there is an open channel to not only allow you to communicate but also for parents to ask questions.
Understand what’s important to the association you are representing
You aren’t expected to reinvent the wheel when you put your hand up to volunteer. Draw from resources already available through your association. Ask the executive to share with you the types of things they would like expressed, taught or represented in your coaching style so you can be an effective bridge.
Coaches, in closing, ‘be interested!’ Take your responsibility seriously. You are ambassadors to the sport and you wield a great deal of influence in the lives of your athletes. Seek out the knowledge you require, but be sure to place emphasis in the right areas. And by all means, look for areas to make an impact on performance, but even more simply, begin by getting to know everyone’s name!
This post was written by Right Way Director, Stuart Miles, who spends a great deal of time coming alongside coaches as they work to develop their athletes and shape their team's culture.