A National Alliance for Youth Sports resource helping coaches, parents and administrators provide the best youth sports experiences for children.
How does your child's coach stack up?
At the start of each season children race to the fields, rinks and courts to meet their new coach and teammates. Chances are you’ll probably be interested in learning about the coach, too; like their history working with kids and their coaching philosophy.
Volunteer coaches spend countless hours each season planning and holding practices, preparing for games and so much more. Coaches spend lots of time with youngsters and can leave them with positive – or negative – experiences that may affect whether they play sports again.
So how do you know your child has a good coach? Listen to your gut feeling and keep these key traits in mind, too:
Focuses on FUNdamentals
A coach should understand that a positive youth sports experience gives children a solid foundation for long-term sports involvement. This should be a time that children learn the fundamental skills that they can build upon as they progress in sports. This should also be a time of fun. When sports aren’t fun for a child, they won’t want to play anymore. So, a good youth sports coach should focus on helping their players learn while keeping practices fun.
Trained in coaching kids
When someone starts a new job, there’s a probationary period where they are trained in their position and learn what is expected of them. Coaching youth sports is no different; after all, they are in charge of young, impressionable athletes. Coaches should go through a training program, like the National Youth Sports Coaches Association, that prepares them to work with children and offers sports specific training to make sure practices are safe and age-appropriate. Additional training in CPR/AED, first aid, bullying awareness, concussion prevention and abuse prevention would also be great.
Offers individualized coaching
Youth sports coaches should understand that each child is unique. Even children within the same age group can vary in their level of development. Some children are gifted athletes, while some need more help to catch on to even the most basic skill. Each child has their own strengths and weaknesses. Coaches should be able to identify a child’s unique needs, as well as what works and doesn’t work to motivate their players to do their best.
A good youth sports coach will be a good two-way communicator. Not only will they be able to effectively communicate messages to the children and their parents, but they should also accept feedback, like listening to players’ ideas to make practices more fun.
Coaches should keep parents in the loop, as well. Ideally, they will hold a parent meeting at the start of the season where they go over their team rules, provide a schedule of practices and games and give out information about the best way you can contact them with any questions throughout the season.
Walks the talk
Coaches should promote positive values like respect and sportsmanship. It’s not enough to just say these things are benefits of playing youth sports. Coaches need to actually model these behaviors for their players to see. That means they ignore hecklers from the sidelines, accept the official’s call and shake hands with the opposing coach after a loss. Of course there are many more examples for displaying respect and sportsmanship, and if the coach operates by a child-centric approach to coaching youth sports it will be easy to see them.
Helping children learn life lessons through failure and disappointment that everyone experiences while competing is an important role for coaches and parents to handle. Are you ready for it?
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The Press Box is a weekly e-newsletter bringing you the latest news stories in youth sports, research on youth athlete safety and wellness, and more. Stories are carefully curated to bring subscribers only the best quality content and news.