What are the qualities that make a good youth sports coach? What skills should coaches have in order to be effective with children of different ages and levels of athleticism? How can parents help their kids throughout the coaching process, whether it is through volunteering or donating money for equipment?
The “how to be a good youth sports coach” is a question that comes up frequently. The article will provide tips on being a good youth sports coach.
Note from the editor: Mike McInelly contributed this guest article.
I grew up being hauled to hundreds of my siblings’ games and competitions as the youngest of four athletic brothers and a three-sport all-state sister. I recall going to areas like Pflugerville, TX as a kid to see my elder brothers play under the ominous “Friday night lights.” I recall watching such games in amazement and fantasizing about the day when it would be my time to take the field.
As a result of my family’s relocation across four US states and a period in Alberta, Canada, I ended up playing on a number of teams throughout my childhood and was exposed to a diverse range of coaches, coaching methods, and ideologies. I was lucky to be able to play Division I football at Brigham Young University after playing soccer, basketball, and football. I would be exposed to competent professional coaches at BYU, from whom I would learn a great deal about how to play the game at a whole new level.
On the sporting field, I learned some of the most important lessons of my life. I learnt the value of dedication and what it takes to succeed. I learnt how to react to failure with courage, perseverance, and an attitude that inspires a desire to achieve. I have direct experience with the ideas of collaboration and the importance of cohesiveness. I became more self-assured. I also discovered how important excellent leaders are in life, both on and off the field. I had the opportunity to work with some amazing instructors as well as some less-than-stellar ones. I spent endless hours with these gentlemen, and they had a huge effect on me at a formative period of my life. These events shaped the remainder of my life, not just as an athlete, but also as a career professional, a spouse, and, finally, a parent.
I felt thankful to these wonderful men and coaches’ sacrifices as a result of their mentorship, and I wanted to assist other young people benefit from the critical development chances provided by sports.
Getting a Job as a Youth Sports Coach
This past autumn, I had the chance to fulfill this ambition when I signed up my eldest son Jack for his first year of contact football. We’d just relocated to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where football is almost the state religion. This became clear to me on the first day of the season, when my 7-year-old was put through a skills combine and then a full-fledged draft.
I offered to coach Jack’s team, and when our team was put together, I immediately learned that the majority of the players had never played tackle football before. We were forced to spend valuable practice time reading the rules of the game while other teams were busy running the I-formation. We were pounded by teams consisting of redshirt 2nd graders in our first few games of the season (it’s popular in Oklahoma to keep kids back only for athletic reasons – thank Malcolm Gladwell!).
Our opponents, on the other hand, had a slew of hot-headed coaches who acted as though we were competing for the Lombardi Trophy. Don’t get me wrong: I am fiercely competitive. I just believe in a different mentality that encourages youngsters to work together to succeed while having a great time doing so. I believed we had a shot heading into the playoffs if we adopted a different strategy and were able to progress at a quicker pace than our opponents. Now, I had to figure out how to encourage a group of seven and eight-year-olds to make those changes. But I relied on my recollections of the most successful coaching approaches I had encountered as a child, and I went to work.
Sure enough, we were soon on a fast upward trajectory, with week-by-week improvements. We went from being a mishmash at the start of the season to winning six of our final seven regular-season games and recording five defensive shutouts. We were seeded second in the playoffs and went unbeaten, winning the title game 18-13. We were without a doubt the league’s best improved squad!
What route did we use to get there? Here are six ways we used to work with the kids (and their parents!) that helped the team and the coaches have a pleasant experience:
Use Positive Reinforcement as a starting point.
When dealing with children, positive reinforcement is essential. Too many young players have cowered and wilted in the face of irritated coaches’ hostility. Few things are more irritating than attempting to teach 7-year-olds how to wrap up. Negative criticism, on the other hand, makes students less secure and timid, which is the exact opposite of what any coach wants.
Instead, making positivity the major engine of education reinforces the positive, making the child more sensitive and open-minded to constructive criticism. Positive reinforcement as a way of training has proved to be considerably more successful in helping students of all sorts acquire the proper behaviors and abilities, according to studies I’ve done in behaviorism and operant conditioning.
2. Maintain a straightforward approach
In young sports, you’ll often see “Uncle Rico” coaches who arrive with too complex methods devised while watching Monday Night Football. But that’s the incorrect approach to use with young children who are just getting started in a sport. The foundations are crucial in child sports.
KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are the essential qualities that contribute to success in any sport. For our team’s defense, for example, we focused on three core KPIs. To keep things on an eight-year-level, old’s I termed them the “rules.” They were as follows:
- Find the ball (at this level, this is a challenging challenge!).
- The ball should be attacked.
- Do not come to a halt until the whistle has been heard.
On every play, every player was required to grasp those three notions. The regulations were frequently repeated during every drill, and even in the midst of the game between practically every play!
3. Tailor Instruction to the Level of Each Child
We could go on to more technical skills that would help them master their specialized position if a player exhibited a strong mastery of that basis. At these ages, children’s mental and physical maturation is so diverse that they need individualized training to keep them motivated.
Our approach was similar to that of Khan Academy, in which each player is given 1:1 teaching in a manner that allows them to advance at their own pace while yet keeping the team’s shared underpinnings. This was achieved by first determining which abilities were acceptable for each player and then enlisting the help of as many fathers as possible. We could be more in touch with the players and do high-repetition workouts to reinforce a technique that leads to KPIs if we did it this way.
4. Be Mindful of Your Relationship If Your Child Is on the Team
Being both his father and his coach, one of my major problems as a coach was balancing my connection with my son. I found myself holding him to a different standard than his colleagues on a regular basis.
As a father of four children, I’ve learned the hard way that everyone has their unique internal wiring and that I must adjust my parenting/coaching tactics to each of them individually. In this example, I discovered that Jack may be extremely sensitive to my input at times, and that he would usually react better to others than to me. As a result, I soon modified my strategy to rely more on the other coaches for input.
You must figure out what works best for you. Working one-on-one with your child or appointing another coach to be their main teacher allows you to take a step back emotionally and treat all players equally. I don’t believe there is a correct solution for all instances; it just depends on your child’s personality and your relationship dynamics. Just don’t be that parent or coach that has their child in tears because they were too harsh with them when they made a mistake. You must be able to step back and assess the situation in order to choose what is best for your child, as well as be objective enough to pick the ideal method that will allow them to develop, build confidence, and ultimately have fun.
5. Inform parents of your expectations.
You’re not only managing the kids when you coach young sports; you’re also managing their moms and dads. As a result, you must explain your plans for the season and your expectations for the team’s culture to the parents from the beginning. Don’t be an unapproachable dictator, however; establish the tone early by revealing your email address and phone number, as well as making yourself accessible after games and practices with an open mind and heart. Leave your ego at the door and be open to listen and accept criticism.
I also think that if parents are passionate about their children’s sports experience, they should volunteer to coach! We see dissatisfied parents criticising coaches from the luxury of their reclining camping chair all the time. Coaches of youth teams often purchase team equipment on their own own and spend numerous hours planning uniforms, practice and game schedules, and facilities. Coaching children’s sports is a thankless task that few parents are willing to take on. As a result, coaches must be coachable and open-minded, and parents must support the coach’s sacrifices.
6. Instill in children a sense of resiliency.
Resilience, or “grit,” is the major predictor of a child’s capacity to become a successful and content adult, according to substantial studies mentioned in the book How Children Succeed. As a coach, you have a unique chance to influence how your children see failure for the rest of their lives.
The difficulties your young athletes may encounter might range from completing a single evolution of a drill at practice to executing a play during a game. You must assist them in developing the proper mindset and learning to respond with a willingness to work harder in order to conquer the problem they face. Remind them that the only way to grow stronger is to push themselves physically. Tell children that losing a game should motivate them to strive harder and improve, not make them feel sorry for themselves (as is a common reaction in kids). Assist them in understanding how a negative response suggests there will be no progress.
Having these “discussions” during the physical conditioning part of our practice is a fantastic chance. We speak a lot about the importance of hard work and how you can only develop stronger and better if you put in the effort and show fortitude. We tell them that games are won not on the field, but in times like this, when you’re giving it your best in practice and there’s no one else around. Connecting such dots for your gamers will encourage them to participate more willingly. And it’s those early teachings that will help them get through finals week in college or a high-pressure task at work.
Become a Coach and Mentor to Strengthen Your Community
It was a really rewarding and emotional experience to witness those 7 and 8-year-old boys beaming ear-to-ear, clutching their enormous medals, knowing how hard they had worked and how much they had progressed after winning the championship game. They were champs, and they knew something amazing was going on. They will never forget their championship season, and the lessons they learnt will hopefully stay with them for the rest of their lives.
The coaches that young men have in their lives may have a big influence on their growth and future. We have a responsibility as males to instill in the next generation the values of hard work, self-confidence, leadership, resilience, and collaboration. Our communities need us to take action and mold those early experiences for youngsters so that they are better equipped for adulthood. Whether you have children or not, find a way to participate. Contact your local sporting groups; they are usually in need of extra volunteers in all sports!
Have you ever coached children’s sports? What are your recommendations for working with children? Let us know what you think in the comments!
The “how to be a fun coach” is a guide on how to be a successful youth sports coach. It includes tips on what to do and not do as well as advice from other coaches.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes a good coach in youth sports?
A: A good coach in youth sports is someone who knows the sport, understands how to teach it, and can do so with passion.
What are 3 skills youth sports coaches need to be successful?
A: Coaches should be able to motivate players, understand what motivates each individual player and have an understanding of the importance of physical conditioning.
What is the most important skill set for youth sport coaches?
A: The most important skill set for youth sports coaches is leadership and coaching skills. Coaches should be able to effectively lead their teams, motivate players, develop plans that will work in practice and competition, allocate duties among team members as well as know how to address situations within the game or on the field of play.
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