Here’s your chance to rate kids’ coaches

11/6/2008

Let’s face it, without all the moms and dads and other individuals who step forward to coach teams around the country every year organized sports programs as we know them would simply disintegrate.
   These volunteers – the ones that surrender time after work to run practices during the week and devote their Saturdays to coaching games – make programs happen. How they interact with the kids, design practices, teach skills and behave during games, among many other areas, directly impacts whether the youngsters have a positive or negative experience.
   It’s also a major factor in whether the kids decide to continue with the sport or bail out.
   Sure, most of these folks do a fantastic job and I applaud them for being positive role models and changing young lives for the better. Yet, at the other end of the spectrum, it’s downright scary how we continue to allow far too many coaches out there on our fields and courts – you know the types I’m talking about – that shouldn’t be overseeing children.
 
Bad coaching breeds problems       
 
We’ve got a lot of coaches out there today who are working with limited knowledge when it comes to children and sports.
   Now, I’m not talking about the X’s and O’s of the sport.
   I’m talking about the really important areas: Building kids’ confidence and self-esteem, teaching sportsmanship and winning and losing with grace, abiding by the rules and respecting officials. These, as well as so many other key qualities that are molded through positive sports experiences that we want to send children out into the world equipped with.   
   Think about it this way: We require school teachers to have specialized training and go through job performance reviews to weed out the lousy ones and those who just aren’t cut out for teaching our children.
   Yet in youth sports – in which I’ll argue with anyone is equally important in a child’s development as what happens in the classroom – a lot of programs don’t have an answer for the lousy coaches in their communities.
   They rant and rave on the sidelines, disrespect officials, deflate their players’ confidence, slice away at their self-esteem and show up again next season at league sign-up time to do it all over again.  
   Since many programs have hundreds of coaches, there is no doubt that tracking the behavior of every single volunteer and determining who’s really good and who really shouldn’t have a whistle and a group of kids calling him coach can be next to impossible.
   Until now.
 
Rating the coaches  
 
The National Youth Sports Coaches Association, the organization I started to help volunteer coaches get a good handle on their roles and responsibilities, has been the nation’s training leader since 1981. We’ve launched a state-of-the-art evaluation system through our Web site (www.nays.org) that allows recreation agencies to identify the coaches in their programs who are doing things the right way as well as those who should be sent packing for the negative impact they’re having on the kids.
   In brief, the system allows league administrators who are affiliated with the National Alliance for Youth Sports, to provide a digital link for parents to evaluate a particular coach. The link can either be placed within an email or posted directly on a league or organization’s website. The questions hit all the key coaching areas, such as safety, sportsmanship, how well they teach skills, and so on.
   It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
   Coaches can log on and see how parents rated them. The parents’ answers are confidential, but the coach can see his or her average score in each category. A coach may find a couple areas that they only got so-so marks in and can work on improving them.
   For the league administrator, low overall scores probably signal a problem that needs looking into. Perhaps a brief chat with the coach to reinforce the program’s philosophies is all that’s needed to get him back on track. It also provides administrators the chance to validate or negate complaints from parents. If you get a call from a parent about a particular coach, you can ask the other parents to evaluate that coach and find out if the complaint is valid or if that parent might just not be happy with their son or daughters playing time!
   If a league’s true desire is to have the best program possible, with only those coaches involved who are doing what’s best for the kids, we have to have evaluation tools in place and hold coaches accountable for their actions.
   We’re accountable for our behavior in all other areas of society.
   It’s time we held our volunteer coaches accountable, too.
  
   Fred Engh is founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in West Palm Beach, Fla., which has been advocating positive and safe sports for children since 1981. He is also the author of “Why Johnny Hates Sports,” which is available on Amazon.com. He can be reached via e-mail at fengh@nays.org.
 
 

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