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The January issues of our OnDeck Newsletter went out yesterday. In case you missed our baseball issue featuring eight issues your league must address before Opening Day, you can view it here. Our soccer edition, containing an article providing tips for smoothing the rift between parents and coaches is here. And, of course, if you want to make sure you always get OnDeck delivered to your inbox you can sign up for either sport, or both.
There are many mistakes – big and small – made by youth sports coaches everywhere. But here are five in particular that seem to be some of the most common traps we fall into.
1). Degrading an opponent: While common sense tells us that most youth coaches know enough not to outright demean a youngster on another team, unfortunately in the worst of circumstances, it does occur. However, what is much more prevalent is when an opposing coach thinks he is being sly or clever and denigrates a player on the other team under the guise of “coaching” his own kids. Examples are, “Get ready to rebound. He has hasn’t made a free-throw this half,” or “Just throw strikes, he hasn’t swung the bat yet.”
2). Becoming angry with players and embarrassing them without coaching: Sure, especially at the youth, recreational level, coaching should be mostly positive and encouraging. The younger the players, the more, “Good try!” and “Get them next time,”s there should be. But as players get older and more skilled, and as winning becomes more important, kids want a coach who will get the most out of them. Even if that means pointing out mistakes. However, the difference between a good coach and a poor one is this: A good coach will address a mistake a youngster made and combine it with something helpful; namely what he could or should have done differently so that he can have success in the same situation next time. A poor coach only gets angry, as if the kid intentionally did something to annoy him, and simply berates. Yelling things like, “What were you thinking?” or “Were you listening in practice?” or “We can’t have that!” certainly serve the intended purpose of making players feel bad, but does nothing to help them improve. In fact, statements such as those have the opposite effect by creating fear, nervousness and lack of confidence.
3). Setting a poor example: When I coached, if our team went to the pizza place after a game, I’d never drink anything alcoholic in front of them. I don’t smoke, but if I did, my players would never know. And a coach should never swear or make crude remarks in front of his players, even if they’re teenagers. These players look up to you and think of you on a level that may equal or even surpass their own parents. Why then let them see or hear you do something you wouldn’t want them to do?
4). Giving up on a team: The coaches I admire most are the ones still working and exhorting their players even in the face of obvious defeat. The soccer coach down 6-0 in the second half who is still up motivating his team to attack and defend. The basketball coach behind by twenty with two minutes left trying his best to cut into the deficit until the buzzer sounds. Or the baseball coach losing by eight runs who tries to make his team believe they can still come back and win. And a sin even greater then giving up on a game, is giving up on the season. When they’re older, the kids you are coaching will be confronted with plenty of adversity. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they learned early in life to never surrender, regardless of the circumstances? You have the opportunity to teach that life lesson.
5). Giving up on a player: We’ve all had kids on our teams who didn’t have the athletic tools to become great. A selfish coach ignores them and focuses on the stars who can help him win. But don’t the players with lesser ability deserve just as much help and instruction as the stars? They need it more. And even a self-serving coach should know that every member of the team is like a link in a chain. Concentrating on only on the strongest links means sometime, in a critical moment, a weaker link is bound to fail and hurt everyone.
The secret to being a great coach is to prepare your players – for the next play, the next game – but also for the next season and for the years ahead. If you can instill in your team tenacity, sportsmanship and self confidence you’ll have taught them to be winners – regardless of your record at the end of the year.
If you haven’t subscribed yet to receive our popular OnDeck Newsletter via email, do so here today! Tomorrow’s issues will be filled with terrific information for all youth sports parents, coaches and league administrators. You’ll want to read “Five Youth Coaching Sins”, by Brian Gotta as well as other useful articles and offers from terrific partners.
If you want to find something to do with those old ball gloves, help our men and women who are serving overseas and feel great about it, Gloves4Troops is waiting for you to chip in. Minor-league player Vance Albitz read about a soldier who said he wished he had a mitt and ball to fill in the downtime while stationed in Afghanistan, and the idea was born. Read Rick Reilly’s story about Vance and his mission, or just get out to the garage and clean out those shelves with old gloves and balls and send ’em off to Vance. He’ll take care of making sure a thousand of our troops have sore (but happy) arms this spring.
by Tony Earp, Senior Director of Programming SuperKick/TeamZone
If you are around youth soccer long enough, you will certainly hear a coach complain about a parent or a parent complain about a coach. This is not news and everyone has accepted this is a part of youth soccer. It is unrealistic to believe a team can go through a season without a conflict or two between the coach and a parent. There will always be difference in opinions in regards to how coaches coach and how parents feel coaches should coach. There is not one right answer and you will get different opinions from different parents and different coaches about what is “right” and “wrong” when working with kids.
Every parent has different expectations for their kids and how they feel their kid should be coached. Some parents may want their kids to be pushed harder by a coach and expect the coach to be “tough” on their child when mistakes are made. Other parents want coaches to be heavy with the encouragement and never want to hear a negative statement made to their child. Some want a balance of both.
Parents’ opinions will differ on what the coach should be coaching and how the coach should do it. Some want more technical training while other parents want more tactical training. Some parents want their child to be taught how to play a specific position and others want their child to learn many positions. Parents may feel a coach does not do enough conditioning and other parents feel the same coach is doing too much conditioning.
Coaches are no different. Ask different coaches what they feel is important for players of different age groups and you will NOT get the same answer from all of them. All coaches coach a little different and feel some things are more important than others at different age groups. Although there are basic principles coaches tend to follow, you can put the top coaches in the world in the same room and have a very lengthy debate about “best practices” when training players and working with teams.
Between the differences in parent expectations and the vastly different types of coaches who work with youth players, a natural “rift” will form between coaches and parents. This rift can often lead to issues throughout the season, long and uncomfortable meetings, kids switching teams, coaches opting not to coach anymore, and a feeling of “us against them” for the coaches and parents.
As there will always be difference in opinions and issues that come up throughout a season between coaches and parents, I do not think the rift needs to be as big as it seems to be made each season. Coaches and parents need to work together to make each season a positive experience for youth players. Not against each other! Frankly, without a collaborative effort and understanding of one another, a season will quickly become a negative experience for the player, the parents, and the coach.
How do we bridge the rift between coaches and parents? Well, here are some areas where parents and coaches must gain a mutual understanding before the season even begins:
Player vs. The Team
Coaches have to walk a tricky line during a season when trying to do what is best for the entire team and each individual player. At times, it is impossible to do both. Coaches have to make tough decisions about playing time and where kids play on the field in an effort to give the team the best chance to be successful. This can put an individual player in a situation that is not ideal for his/her development or not allow them to enjoy playing the game as much. The coach still needs to make the best effort to ensure each individual player gets the same opportunities, but in team sports that is not always guaranteed. It is the nature of being on a team.
From the parents’ perspective, all want the team to do well and have success, but that is not as important as how their individual child is doing. It is not because they are paying for their child to be part of this team and with that comes certain expectations about playing time and opportunities (although it is part of it). It is simply because all parents want the best chance for their kid. When that chance is taken away by a coaching decision, it is irrationally blind for a coach to be apathetic to the parents’ feelings on the matter.
Coaches need to understand parents are going go care more about how their individual child is doing versus the team, but parents need to also understand the coaches have the responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interest of the entire team and individual players at the same time. There will be times when a coach may have to decide between the two. This is not easy. Veteran coaches struggle with it, so a new coach will certainly run into issues and make mistakes.
When this occurs, coaches and parents need to discuss this openly. Both need to come with an open mind and willing to understand the other person’s point of view. Even better, this needs to be discussed before the season begins! How will decisions like this be made? What is the process? What is considered by the coach? Etc…
How a coach makes these decisions will differ in relation to the age of the kids, competition level of the team, the organization’s philosophy the coach has to follow, coach’s personal views, and other pertinent variables. If the parents and coach discuss how this Individual Player versus The Team question will be addressed before the season, it is less likely to be an issue throughout the season. (In Part 2: What’s best for the player and communication)
Tony Earp directs SuperKick/TeamZone Columbus’ Soccer Skills programs. Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. He can be reached at email@example.com