I recently had a conversation with someone unfamiliar with youth athletics. During the conversation, my friend brought up several key phrases such as “burn-out,” “ultra competitiveness” and “parents pushing their kids.”
This gave me an awesome opportunity to talk about what I believe youth sports are about: having fun, creating lasting memories, and teaching life lessons. These are principles my parents instilled in my brothers and I as we were growing up and principles that I have helped reinforce in almost 20 years of coaching youth athletics.
With thousands of Lee’s Summit kids participating in youth sports over the course of the year, there will be a need for good coaches who will do the right thing by putting life lessons and fun above winning. For some, coaching can be an easy task. But for others, while their heart might be in the right place, they lack the direction or knowledge to execute the principles that are the foundation of youth athletics.
It is my goal over the next couple of weeks to take some best practices and help educate Journal readers on things they can do as coaches and parents to help make their child’s little league season a success.
There are many reasons why people volunteer to coach. There are those who are there because their child is participating and they have knowledge that will help develop those on the team. Some are there to fill a vacancy the league may have for coaching. In my case, my coaching career began as a way to give back to my community and a way of paying it forward from my time as a competitor.
My youth wrestling coach, Tom Morrow, played such a huge role in my sporting life and the lives of so many others. As a volunteer, Morrow’s unique style of coaching blended positive reinforcement and life lessons with an emphasis on having fun. For years, he selflessly donated his time and energy to kids and I felt the most appropriate way to thank him would be to teach others what he taught us. Little did I know that I would have so much joy seeing young athletes develop into young adults.
There are many reasons why people become coaches and whether you are a first timer or a seasoned vet, you should be able to answer with conviction why you have become a coach. Too often, people coach for the wrong reasons. For them, it is a way to elevate their social status, a way to live vicariously through kids, or worse, a way to enhance their dating life. Little good has ever come from these motives as these coaches are unable to see the bigger picture.
Think back to your youth sports experience as a kid and remember your first coach. Whether your coach was a good coach or bad one, he or she left a lasting impression upon you as an athlete and ultimately helped shape you as an individual.
When the season ended, your enjoyment of the sport and all of the lessons taught through the sport depended upon their effectiveness as a coach and mentor. Through the years, the best coaches recognize this and seize the opportunity to use fun activities to teach young people things that will better prepare them for life.
As a coach, you need to understand the lasting impact you will have on the athletes you will be a mentor to. You have the ability to create great memories and reinforce positive lessons with every interaction. As a kid, I learned from reading Spider-Man, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Coaches and parents who understand this and can instill the positive fundamentals of youth sports will be able to create not only amazing moments in the lives of our children, but super heroes on and off the playing field.
Mike Gempeler has coached youth sports for 18 years and is a regular contributor for the Lee's Summit Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.