So you want to coach youth sports? There’s more to it than just putting on your whistle and leading kids through exercises. This is a huge responsibility and cannot be taken lightly. You have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of kids and effective coaches are those who are able to use fun while teaching important lessons and creating a love for the sport.
Over the coming weeks, I will be sharing several ways to help you be an effective youth coach. Before diving into the fine details, I want to give you four "must-haves" before you begin the season:
Coaching can be time consuming and is more than just showing up for the weekend game. Many coaches (and parents for that matter) don’t realize the amount of time it takes to volunteer in youth sports and it’s essential that you’re in attendance for every team practice and competition. For every practice and competition, you’ll want to make sure you arrive on site at least 15 minutes before the kids arrive and when it’s time to go home, it’s your responsibility to make sure that all of the kids are picked up.
For many sports, you need equipment to participate and it’s a good idea to never assume that everybody will remember all of their gear. One year, an assistant coach on my T-ball team wanted to be responsible for storing our baseballs, bats and the hitting tee.
While this alleviated some room in my trunk, it created a huge hassle when he forgot the equipment for a game. Make sure that whoever you put in charge of the equipment is somebody who is trustworthy and understands its importance to the team. I always write a checklist of items I will need before every practice or competition. This list usually includes a first-aid kit and the equipment necessary to play the game. I also try to prepare in case a team member forgets something (extra team shirt and hat, brand new mouthpieces, baseball glove, headgear, etc).
From an administration side, I always pack a rule book, the team roster with phone numbers and extra scorecards or scorebooks.
The ability to communicate
Some of the best youth coaches are those who have great communication skills and can relate to athletes, officials, and parents of all ages. Coaches also need to be organized and able to keep the parents informed on what is going on throughout the course of the season.
Some coaches use text messaging or social media like Facebook. There are even websites to coordinate the team’s communication. Whether you use one of these options or an old-fashioned calling tree, parents should be up-to-date on everything from practice and game schedules to event cancellations. Nobody wants to drive their kid up to an empty field, so when there is a change to the schedule, making contact with every parent should be a top priority.
An open mind
Many people tell me they follow the same routines and techniques that were used when they played during their youth days. For some, thirty years have gone by and coaches should understand that kids are different today. In many sports, the rules have changed to help promote higher safety standards. Because of this, coaches have to continue to build their skills. Attending a coaching clinic, checking out books or videos from the library, or reaching out to other coaches to ask questions can enhance your coaching acumen.
Former Lee’s Summit wrestling coach Don Graham has always made himself available to answer my questions and even invited me to a high school practice to see what he was showing the kids. We have such a knowledgeable coaching base in Lee’s Summit, so don’t be afraid (or prideful) to pick up the phone and ask questions as they’ll be helping you create a positive environment for the kids, which will make everybody’s job more fulfilling.
To some, this may seem like a lot of work. But ask any coach who has employed these aspects into their season and they’ll tell you that following these has helped make their season run a lot more efficient.