Kids Sports News Network

Amateur Coaching

As a middle school teacher, I see the assistant principal tracking down and pleading with teachers to supervise various after school activities.  Somehow I got talked into the yearbook, newspaper and test prep programs.  This past year we said goodbye to two teachers who coached our boys and girls basketball and softball teams.  Not, only that, but our new intramural basketball coach was overwhelmed last year with almost 100 students who were all new to any form of organized sport.  Will he do it again this year?  Coaches shoulder a lot of responsibility, but they also have some of the greatest impacts on our children.  Consider this as we head into the fall season.

What makes a successful coach?  Is it wins and losses? Perhaps it’s how much the players like you and how hard they are willing to work for you.  Or quite possibly it may be the fact that the players understand the game just a little more than they did when the season started.  Since there is no formula for what makes a coach successful, here are some simple guidelines that provide a framework of what success may look like for a new coach.

Identify the primary reasons why you are coaching.  Let’s be honest, you were just goaded into coaching your child’s little league team and you have no idea what the heck you are doing.  You are scared and handling your own child can be trying at times let alone other people’s children.  Even worse, you know little to nothing about the sport you are coaching.  This is a normal and common occurrence in youth sports leagues all over America.  Some coaches are tricked into it or need to keep a watchful eye on junior, and coaching is the best way to do this.  Some people genuinely want to serve their community and have a specific skill set in a certain sport that they can offer.  Others are gifted in working with kids, and sports are secondary.  Regardless of the reason, identifying why you are there is essential in helping you move forward with the team.

Set realistic goals for yourself and your team.  Bill Belichek’s goals for coaching the New England Patriots are going to be much different than your goals for coaching the Greenville Thunderhawks.  A paid high school coach and even a travel or club team coach are going to set goals weighted more towards winning and losing and specific player performance.  Consequently, if you’re a volunteer, you have the luxury of not being burdened by wins and losses.  How important is it for you that your players get to know each other?  How much value do you place on teaching teamwork, respect, sportsmanship and leadership?  These are important questions to address as you will likely be coaching kids that don’t even know the rules of the sport they are playing.  Forget strategy, if each player has improved by the end of the season, that’s the biggest victory you could have.

Have a game plan.  Don’t make the mistake of coming to an hour long practice with 3-10 year olds without a game plan.  There is no shame in having a clip board with specific drills and the allotted time you would like to spend working through them.  Furthermore, don’t be afraid to solicit assistance from parents.  Have a backup plan if a drill flops, and mix in some “get to know your teammate” drills at the beginning and fun time in the end.  Children need both structure and authority, and if implemented correctly, success on the field is sure to follow.

Partner with parents.  This will prove to be the most challenging but rewarding task.  Make it your goal to get to know the parents as well as the children.  Mobilize parents to create a snack schedule, take photos and help with practices.  Communicate with them effectively, and reach out to them individually to find out about things like food allergies, sicknesses, and behavioral issues.  Building relational currency with parents will help you relate more effectively to their children quite often yielding positive results on the field.

This advice does not guarantee a championship for your team. It does however provide a framework by which any new coach can approach their new team with the assurance that achieving success is well within their reach.


Author: Melanie Carbine and Desmond Boodram

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