Yesterday, me, my brother, and our cousin with whom we grew up from just down the road in our little town were all coaching youth sports teams on the same day. Social media confirmed this. The latter two are both doing basketball right now; I’m doing an indoor soccer team and we’re about to start basketball for the kids as well. And this got me to thinking…
Why most of us do it: the kids are really fun as pre-teen participants, of course, and it’s great to be part of their team-sports development. We can all list the stock positives for youth athletics. Most of us who pick up the coaching gauntlet also feel like we know a little something about the sport at hand; we have some knowledge or wisdom to impart.
There’s also a darker more controlling aspect to all this – one you need to be aware of and acknowledge. As the coach, your position of authority means you set the practice schedule (within limits), control the training, and more importantly, who plays where. We’ve all seen coaches who are there to make sure their kids play or make the team. Make sure little Johnny gets some QB time or some reps at shortstop. You also have guys and gals who are super-competitive and intense and are trying to imbue (and in most cases force) this attribute on the kids. These coaches can end up shouting and barking at the kids – we’ve all been there – which results in a) the kids tuning them out, and b) ruining the experience for everyone.
I know I definitely have some of the latter in me. I know I can get intense – the eyebrows get angry, the tone of voice gets gruff… Some of the kids won’t remember the positive reinforcement, they’ll only remember a loud male voice. Hopefully, the fact that I realize this, combined with the wife’s careful eye and feedback from other parents keeps me to the good side. As far as the control aspect – well, it’s good to have some assistance there as well. If you’re an organized person, setting up schedules, communications, etc., probably comes relatively easy. If you’re not and organized person, find someone to help. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that parents really appreciate knowing what’s going on. And if you do have a good assistant or c0-coach, hopefully they can help with those my-kid-blinders to which every parent is susceptible.
The vast majority of us realize that youth sports are primarily for fun – even as the teams get more competitive. That’s why we played when we were kids, after all. If we just remember this, hopefully everyone has a better, more positive experience.