Why Your Players Shouldn’t “Look Up to You”

The first time you go out on the field with your new team can be a little unnerving if you’ve never coached before. You may be an important person in your community and a leader in business, but the prospect of facing a group of six year-old boys and girls has your mouth dry and your palms sweaty. The meeting you had with the CEO at lunch was a breeze, but this? This is intimidating.
The best advice I have for you when coaching small children is to make yourself small as well. When you talk to kids individually, or in team meetings, take a knee. Take two knees. You can even sit in a circle with your players so that you’re more like one of them. Too many coaches ignore this simple technique, consequently, their players always have the feeling they are being “talked down to”, instead of coached. The younger your players are, the more time you should spend on their level. As you know, most things are already kind of big and scary to kids this age. Do what you can to make the coach less big and scary, and they’ll listen, behave and perform better.
The best thing about this technique is how it benefits you. Because when you get down to your players’ level and begin to feel more closely connected with them, you see things from their perspective, and many of the barriers and fears you both may have had in the beginning disappear.

Take it seriously, but have fun

There are many kids you’ll coach who don’t have the same skill level as your son or daughter. Though you are probably fairly involved in your child’s sports activities, (as evidenced by the fact that you’ve volunteered to be a coach or manager), many parents are, for whatever reason, not as committed. You’ll have kids on your team who have never played before, or who don’t have as much passion as others. This means that there will be many boys and girls to whom you will be the first instructor, mentor, and coach. In many cases these kids will remember you for the rest of their lives. The rewards for managing a team at this level are many, but the responsibility is great. Keep in mind that, above all else, your mission is to make each child want to come back and play again next year, and you’ll look back on your season as a success, regardless of wins or losses.

Where Did “Coach” Originate?

I find if interesting to look at the origins of the word, “Coach”. The word originates in England, from “coach” as in “carriage”; a vehicle that transports one from where they are now, to where they want to be. University students in 19th century England likened their instructors to carriages, “guiding” the students through their classes and exams. The word in that sense first appears in the written record in 1848. The “instructor” sense was then applied to sports trainers by 1885. If you hold the belief that your job as a youth sports coach is to transport the children put in your charge from where they are now to where they want to be, you’ll be on your way to great success.

So You’ve Decided to Coach the Team, (or have been talked in to it)

You are about to embark upon a journey that will be fun, challenging, and at times frustrating, but in the end, exciting and rewarding. There will be times you’ll have your patience tested and your nerves frazzled, but along the way you’ll laugh a lot and maybe even once or twice wipe a wet eye. You’ll win some games and lose some games, but you’ll also experience the unparalleled reward of watching young players develop skills you’ve taught them. And through it all, you’ll learn as much as you teach. Here is a link to an article describing my greatest moment as a coach. I hope you have many similar experiences

What Makes You a Good Coach?

Why are so many parents reluctant to volunteer to coach their son or daughter’s youth sports team? I believe a large reason is that they are afraid of appearing incompetent. Let’s face it, being the coach is putting yourself out there on display in a very public fashion. And since most only measure success in terms of winning or losing, the tension and fear of failure are heightened. However, there is a single, easily attainable goal that any coach can achieve, which would result in their season being judged a success. Here is an article that explains what that goal is, and how to accomplish it.

Why Did We Develop CoachDeck?

CoachDeck was created out of a deep passion for teaching and coaching. I am raising four children who are all actively involved in numerous sports and I see young players of various skill levels and abilities. And just as I see a wide range of ability level in young athletes, I see an equally broad spectrum in the talents of their coaches. Because for the most part, the coaches in youth sports across America are just moms and dads with their hearts in the right place, but with no formal training, and in most cases, no real roadmap or plan. CoachDeck is designed to provide you, the coach, with that formal roadmap. The purpose of our product is to guide you along your journey of becoming a great coach and to give you the confidence you need to succeed.

Why Do You Coach and What Are Your Goals?

There are many different reasons, some better than others, that people get into coaching. Some do it for the love of sports and because they would like to share their knowledge with others. Some coach for more selfish reasons, because they want to make sure that their sons or daughters have as many advantages as possible. Others sign up for the first time because they see other coaches who are in so far over their heads that they’re sure they would be an improvement. And some people end up coaching because there are simply no other volunteers willing to take the job and they heroically “step up to the plate” and volunteer to carry the equipment bag to practices and games.

Whether you’re coaching for one of these reasons or a combination, whether you’ve ever coached before or not, and regardless of how many years and at what level you’ve played the game yourself, you’ve been given a great responsibility, opportunity, and privilege.

If any of this talk of “responsibility” makes you nervous, don’t let it. It’s mostly a lot of fun. And though there are some fundamentals you’ll want to know and teach to your team, its not that complicated. The four basic cornerstones to this season should be:
1. Keep it safe
2. Make it fun
3. Teach fundamentals
4. Make every player want to come back
That’s it. If you can keep those four goals in mind through every practice and game, you’ll have done a great job.

Letter from a Volunteer Coach

By Brian Gotta

I’ve coached dozens of teams and hundreds of kids. I’m pretty comfortable being “The Coach.” But today I was thinking about the average volunteer who may only be coaching because no one else was willing to do it. I thought it might be useful if some of the parents who don’t volunteer their time, but are quick to criticize those who do, could see things from the coach’s perspective. So what is written below is a letter to those parents from a volunteer coach who could be anywhere, coaching any sport:

Dear Parents,

Today I heard a comment made about me behind my back. I started to turn around and look, but then decided better of it and kept my eyes on the field. My wife hears things like this more often than I do, because many of you don’t know who she is. She tells me what you say. I have received angry emails, full of “suggestions,” about who should be playing where and how I lost that day’s game for the kids. I thought I’d write an open letter to all of you parents, even though I might never send it. I’ll start it this way: “I am a volunteer.”

I’m the one who answered the call when the league said they didn’t have enough coaches. I understand that you were too busy. I have some news for you. I’m not retired. I’m busy too. I have other children and a job, just like you do. Not only do I not get paid to do this – it costs me money. I see you walk up to the game 15 minutes after it started, still dressed for work. Do you know I’ve already been here over an hour? Imagine if you had to leave work early nearly every day. I’ve never seen you at a practice. I’m sure you’re plugging away at the office. But I’m out here, on the field, trying my best to teach these children how to play a sport they love, while my bank account suffers.

I know. I make mistakes. In fact, maybe I’m not even that great of a coach. But I treat the kids fairly and with respect. I am pretty sure they like coming to my practices and games, and without me or someone like me, there’d be no team for them to play on. I’m part of this community too and it’s no picnic being out here on this stage like this. It’s a lot easier back there with the other parents where no one is second-guessing you.

And I also know you think I give my son or daughter unfair advantages. I try not to. In fact, have you ever considered that maybe I’m harder on him than on the others? I’m sure he hears plenty of criticism at school from classmates, who hear it from you at home, about what a terrible coach I am. And if, even unconsciously, my kids are getting a slight advantage because I know them better and trust their abilities, is that the worst thing in the world, considering the sacrifice I’m making? Trust me, I want to win too. And if your son or daughter could guarantee we’d do that, I’d give them the chance.

After this game is over, I’ll be the last one to leave. I have to break down the field, put away all the equipment and make sure everyone has had a parent arrive to pick them up. There have been evenings when my son and I waited with a player until after dark before someone came to get them. Many nights I’m sure you’ve already had dinner and are relaxing on the couch by the time I finally kick the mud off my shoes and climb into my car, which hasn’t been washed or vacuumed for weeks. Why bother cleaning it during the season? Do you know how nice it would be if, just once, after a game one of you offered to carry the heavy gear bag to my car or help straighten up the field?

If I sound angry, I’m not. I do this because I love it and I love being around the kids. There are plenty of rewards and I remind myself that while you’re at the office working, your kid is saying something that makes us all laugh or brings a tear to my eye. The positives outweigh the negatives. I just wish sometime those who don’t choose to volunteer their time would leave the coaching to the few of us who do.

Sincerely,

Coach

Author: Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck LLC, (www.coachdeck.com)

More on Safety: Teaching Young Baseball Players About Handling Bats

When coaching youngsters, I institute three rules from Day One. 1) No kids pick up a bat, or, for that matter, even touch one, until they are handed one by a coach. That’s an absolute. 2) Never swing a bat without looking around first to make sure the coast is clear. 3) When we’re up to bat, no one gets up off the bench unless it’s their turn to hit. (Some organizations allow for an “on deck hitter.” As long as the “on deck” area is clearly defined, safely away from the dugout and the plate, this is OK if your league rules allow. There is never an “on deck” batter allowed at any level of Little League). I’ll make them repeat the rules to me to ensure that they understand all three. Yet as you know, sometimes, kids don’t listen or remember really well. Safety is one issue where I can justify having a coach raise his voice to young players because, (assuming he’s not yelling the entire season), it makes an impression. (I’m not saying you have to reduce the kid to tears, but I’ve been around some coaches who are seemingly so hesitant to speak up and make firm corrections that the kids don’t even know they’re running the team). So if you see a kid doing something that endangers others, it is OK to get his attention verbally.

Do Really Young Kids Need to Stretch Before Practices?

While most kids this age are pretty limber by nature and don’t have much in the way of muscles to pull, it is always a good idea to get them to warm up their throwing arms before every game and practice, and to have them do some stretching exercises. I also recommend you start each practice and game with a short, medium paced jog out to centerfield and back. And though it is unusual to see muscle pulls and strains in six and seven year-olds, it is still a good idea to get them stretching at an early age if nothing more than for the good habits it forms for later. Besides, it’s fun to watch a group of six year-olds in a circle together trying to touch their toes and doing jumping-jacks.