A National Alliance for Youth Sports resource helping coaches, parents and administrators provide the best youth sports experiences for children.
Buzz Williams: "Care for their hearts more than their skill"
By Greg Bach
Virginia Tech returns to the NCAA tournament tonight for the first time since 2007, led by Buzz Williams, their passionate, energetic and caring third-year coach.
We caught up with the Hokies head man, who dispensed valuable insight for volunteer coaches on being more than simply a teacher of the game.
Beyond the fundamentals and X’s and O’s, he encourages today’s volunteer coaches to focus on being positive influences on young lives.
IMPACTING YOUNG ATHLETES
Volunteer coaches have incredible opportunities to impact young lives well beyond the sport being played.
So never take the position lightly.
And always strive to be a difference maker in a young athlete’s life.
“Don’t just be a coach, be a father,” Williams says. “Treat each of your players like they were your own. You will be surprised by the influence you have on their life.”
Of course, teaching the skills of the sport is important. But so is weaving life lessons into your interactions with your players that they’ll carry with them into adulthood.
“Teach them how to pass, then teach them how to be polite,” Williams says. “Care for their hearts, more than their skill. That is where I find my reward.”
Coaches naturally want to teach their players – and there’s usually a lot to cover.
But don’t overwhelm kids.
And don’t fall into the trap of believing that a blanket approach will work in connecting with everyone.
Kids have different personalities, they learn at different paces, and they respond differently to instructions and feedback. One of your many challenges is figuring out what works with each child.
“Be patient,” Williams says. “Even at the college level we want our students to learn faster and compete harder. However, each player learns differently. It’s the ability to address those different habits in your teachings that will make you successful.”
Williams knows all about success. He’s been a winner wherever he has gone. In just his third year at Virginia Tech he has the Hokies back in the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade.
This year alone he has led Virginia Tech to wins over Duke, Michigan, Virginia and Miami.
And to help volunteers get the most out of their teams so they can enjoy success too he stresses the importance of running well-planned practices.
Young players need structure – and that doesn’t happen when coaches are throwing together a practice plan five minutes before the kids arrive.
“Be prepared and be organized,” Williams says. “Your practices must be very structured and do not be afraid to hold them accountable.”
Mistakes are going to occur during youth sports games, but the defining moment is all about how young athletes react to them, says super-talented Orlando Pride midfielder Kristen Edmonds. What do your players do?
Coaches naturally instruct players during the heat of the game day action – it’s part of the job. But allowing kids to make some of their own decisions can pay dividends in their development, too
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