How to Become a Great Youth Sports Coach
For many of you, just like me, coaching youth sports is something you love. It is a way to get out and spend quality time with the kids, it is a way to share your knowledge of a game you love, It is something that you really look forward to and It has become a way of life. You are proud to be called a coach because you are making a positive impact on the kids you coach.
Some of you, you might be new to the whole youth sports coaching thing. Maybe this is your first season. First, I want to say thank you for stepping up to the plate and making a difference in the lives of so many future champions. Second, I will tell you that there is nothing more rewarding than getting involved in youth sports.
What both new coaches and experienced youth coaches have in common is that we all want to do a great job and make an impact on the players we coach. We all want the kids to have a great time and we want them to learn something along the way. My goal has always been to have the players come back, it is my measure of impact I made during the season.
Today, I want to give you a few things that I think are important to become a great youth sports coach.
5 Ways to Become a Great Youth Sports Coach
I have been coaching now for 9 years. Soccer, baseball, football, basketball, pretty much anything that is an organized sport I have coached. I love it. Over these years and seasons, there are a few things that I have noticed about youth sports coaches that make it and continue to enjoy their time on the field. From my observation, there are 5 things that you as a coach need to focus on to really become a great youth sports coach.
Show Up With A Plan
One of the many life lessons sports has taught me was to always be prepared. I contribute this to playing youth sports and my coaches stressing the importance of being prepared for games.
Fast-forward to my coaching days. I try to teach my future champions the same thing. I stress the importance of being ready to play, getting in shape for the season, and knowing what they should do when the ball comes to them or they are needed for a play.
I try to teach them that as soon as they step on the field, they should be ready to play or practice. The time we have together is valuable.
I also believe that the best way to demonstrate preparedness is to show up with a plan for every practice.
Every practice you will have about 60 – 90 minutes or so to accomplish a lot. Every 5 minutes that you waste is 5 minutes your team could be practicing or learning about the game. When you show up to practice, have a plan. Know the drills you want to accomplish. Know the skills that you as a team need to work on.
Here is my example. I coach a club soccer team. We have been playing together for about 2 years now and we have come a long way. Every game I take notes on the performance of the team. I give it 24 hours and then look at my notes. I do not like to look at them too early because I might still be a little emotional from the game. These notes help me determine the skills we need to work on or need to refresh. If we make sloppy passes, we work on passing. If we could not finish, we will work on shooting. You get the point.
When practice comes around, I know exactly what I want to work on. I have our 60 minutes laid out and we execute the practice schedule. Showing up with a plan is the best way to get more out of your practices, but it is also important to your future champions. This will help them in school, in their future career, and maybe even as a coach down the road.
Practice Extreme Positivity
When I was in 6th grade, I had a baseball coach that almost made me walk away from the game that I loved. This coach was super negative, only pointing out flaws and shortcomings. Up until this point, I loved sports and everything about them. I loved competition, I loved the comradery, I loved everything about sports. Sports were my life.
As a coach, it can be easy to be negative. Especially when you have the Bad News Bears kind of team. I have been there, done that. I have also made it my mission to be extremely positive when coaching because I believe you are going to connect with the kids better through positivity.
Furthermore, I believe that positivity is going to build the kid’s self-confidence. Think of it this way. Your future champions are growing up in maybe the hardest time ever on this planet. Not physically, but emotionally. They are told that they are too small, they are not smart enough, and they can do it. They also are comparing themselves to every highlight reel on the internet via social media.
It is hard to be a kid these days.
Coaches, you have an opportunity to do something special for these kids. You can show them extreme positivity. You can give them 60 minutes per week to start. It is not about being the best in 4th grade. It is about becoming better at the sport of their choice. It is about becoming a better person and developing their potential.
I had a kid on one of my son’s football teams that had never played before. He was a little goofy, but he worked hard. I mean he worked and never stopped. This is what we highlighted for the young man. Guess what? He came back the next season and worked all off-season. He became one of our studs because he was able to unlock his potential. His parents told me that because of the way we coached and how good he felt after each game and practice, he worked all season. He was excited to join the team again because he wanted to show me his improvement. It was special.
The positive vibes showed this future champion a different way, it helped him become better because he did not get discouraged. Coaches, your body language says a lot about you. Your team is going to pick up on it. Keep it positive.
Always Have Fun
I really debated about talking about patience, but I think that patience in youth sports should be a given. I also think that if you and your team are having a good time, patience is baked into the equation. If you are having fun, your team is going to be engaged.
Remember, 99% of your kids are not going to play sports past High School. However, 100% of your future champions are going to enter the real world at some point. Read that again, it will put your job as a youth sports coach into perspective.
Here is what I know. When you are having fun your team will respond. They will want to come to practice next week. They will show up early to practice because they want to be there. They will try harder during the drills you have laid out for them. Sports should be fun, it should not work.
Here is a pro coaching tip. There are times in practice when it is okay to play freeze tag and get away from the game you are coaching. There are practices that are just not going to happen. Maybe it is the day after Halloween and the team is full of sugar. Maybe it is a full moon. Whatever the reason, if it is one of those practices, go with it. Have some fun and build morale around the team.
Remember, wind sprints are not fun.
One more note on having fun in sports. Sports might be an escape for these kids. This might be the highlight of their week. Their family could be going through a hard time. They could be struggling in school. Your practice matters, it might be the best part of their week.
Get the Team Involved
This is a hard one because we all get those teams where there are one or two players that are super inverted. Yes, this happens on the younger teams more than likely, but this is their first impression of sports. Getting the entire team involved is a critical step when coaching youth sports.
I am going to admit, this might be one of the hardest things to do when you take on a team. I will also let you know if you are coaching with no assistant coaches, it is even harder.
Here are a few ways that I have found to help get the team involved from the beginning of the season.
- Team party at your house or the house of one of your teammates. This does not have to be anything crazy, just a time to get to know everyone outside the stress of learning a new sport.
- Ice cream on the first day of practice. This is another easy way to get everyone involved and who does not like ice cream?
- Show and tell at the first practice. Have each kid bring something small to practice that they can share with the team.
Getting the entire team involved can be difficult. There are some kids that just do not want to participate. Maybe, they become your assistant coach. Maybe they become the owner of a task each practice. Whatever you can do to get them involved is vital to the players.
Sidestory: My daughter is very introverted. She is also very athletic. During her first year is soccer she would take the field and just stand there. We asked if she liked soccer and she said “yes”. She ended up being named Defender of the Year. It was kind of a joke because she did nothing all season. She would just stand there. Fast-forward to this last year, she is one of the better players on her very competitive soccer team. The point is she was involved and had a purpose, defender of the year. It kept her in the game. It kept her playing.
Every interaction with your team should have a life lesson associated with it. Just my opinion. Teaching life lessons is what separates coaches from great coaches and I know you want to be a great coach. I know what you are thinking, I am not a motivational coach. I am just a volunteer that wants my kid to play. Well, that is one way of thinking about it.
I believe that each practice when you huddle at the end, you should be able to talk about something that relates to sports and life.
For example, sportsmanship is something that my team talks about almost every practice and game. We take pride in the way that we compete. We have made it a point to focus on sportsmanship with the other team, the referee, and the parents. It is my belief that doing this is more important than the final score. Yes, we want to win, but we want to win the right way. We also want to win in life.
We chat about more than just sportsmanship, we talk about a variety of topics from week to week. Many times, the topics we discuss come from the prior week’s game. The hope that I have is for the future champions that I coach to take this life lesson with them to their next chapter. I hope that playing on a team that I coached helps them become a better person.
How to Become A Great Youth Sports Coach
“A coach will impact more people in one year than the average person will in an entire lifetime.” – Billy Graham
In my experience, you do not have to be an ex-professional athlete to be a great youth sports coach. In fact, you do not even need to have played the sport before. Just showing up on the field day after day is just as important. Being a great youth sports coach is not that hard, if you follow these 5 things, you will be doing better than 95% of the youth sports coaches out there.
Final thought, a youth sports coach is a super important position in life. Yes, it is most likely a volunteer position, but as a youth sports coach, you are going to impact the lives of more future champions in one year than the average person will in a lifetime. Make these moments count and remember why your coach youth sports.