By Greg Bach
During spring and fall football practices at Franklin College, a Division III school located 20 miles south of Indianapolis, head coach Mike Leonard delivers an all-important message to his coaching staff.
It’s one volunteer coaches of all sports – at all levels – can learn from.
And use with their teams.
“Our head coach always talks to the staff about this that every guy we coach is somebody’s son so we are always out on the field conscious of being respectful in terms of how we coach, in terms of how we teach and making it fun,” says Bud Boughton, who helps out with the offensive line and also serves as the team chaplain. “So, when they walk off the field hopefully they feel better about the progress they made, whether it was just in that one practice session or certain drill, or whether it’s over a period of two or three months during the season where they see themselves progressing and doing things better.”
Boughton has been a fixture at Franklin College for the past dozen years – coaching everything from the offensive line to tight ends and receivers – and the tireless 67-year-old has a deep reservoir of passion and energy for youth sports and coaching kids the right way, too.
“You’ve got to remember that it’s an honor and a privilege to be coaching at the youth level and to be doing what you are doing,” says Boughton, author of Coaching is Teaching at Its Best.
Boughton has coached a variety of youth sports through the years; he is a certified official with USA Hockey and U.S. Lacrosse; and he is a member of the Ashland (Ohio) University Hall of Fame, where he played college football.
We caught up with Boughton to talk about a subject he loves: youth sports. Check out what he had to say:
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What’s a common mistake volunteer coaches make?
BOUGHTON: I think once they go on the field sometimes the coaches try to coach too much. I see youth coaches screaming from the sideline and trying to reposition players and the kids are looking to the sideline and they have this confused look on their face. Once you are into the game let them play and when they come to the sideline that’s when you can coach, and you can do it in a quiet, confident way. The shouting creates a sense of panic in the kids that lots of times makes the situation even worse. I officiate lacrosse and I see that a lot on the field.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What’s the best way for volunteer coaches to measure their success?
BOUGHTON: When you are out there coaching you have to remember it’s not about you – this is about the experience we are providing for these kids and we want it to be positive and fun and uplifting and we want them to learn valuable life lessons that they’ll take with them. And the way you really measure your success as a youth coach is if you have 12 or 13 kids on your flag football team the next year when it’s time to sign up for the league if you’ve got 11 or 12 or 13 of those kids that come back and want to play then you probably did a good job as their coach last year, regardless of your won-loss record. If only four or five of those kids show up to play again then you have to ask yourself what happened to those other eight kids who don’t want to play again. Maybe they wanted to try a new sport, but where did they go? To me, that’s the real measurement of how good a job you did is how many of those kids stay in the sport, continue to play, and want to advance and play at a higher level.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: How important is it for coaches to be flexible with their practice plans?
BOUGHTON: You have to be willing to make a change or do some things differently because even with the best laid plans sometimes it doesn’t go quite as you thought. If a drill isn’t working out as you thought you’ve got to adjust and modify right now – you’ve got to be flexible. And there’s even a life lesson in that. Sometimes you are headed down a path in a certain direction: it might be in your job or schoolwork, and it’s not working out the way you thought it was supposed to and you need to be flexible enough and resilient so that you can go in a different direction. You have to be flexible with these kids.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: As a certified official with USA Hockey and U.S. Lacrosse, what do you do before a game begins to establish a positive tone for the contest?
BOUGHTON: I really respect anybody who commits themselves to be a youth sports coach, I don’t care what sport it is. It’s a commitment of time and effort, so I always respect coaches. Before a hockey game I skate to each bench and introduce myself to the coaches and personally thank them for coaching and the time they put in. And I tell them right up front that I am here for three reasons: to keep their kids safe; I want it to be a fair contest so I am going to call what I see and I’m not perfect so I may miss something; and I want these kids to have fun and I hope that they feel the same way about all three of these things. You can’t argue with any of those and none of the coaches have ever come back to me and said, ‘I don’t care if my kids have fun.’ They all agree with those three things. So I try to set that expectation whenever I go on the ice or on the lacrosse field.
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