One of the most difficult jobs youth league administrators face each season is rounding up enough volunteers willing to coach. If you’ve never coached a youth sports team before, it is natural to feel trepidation and to figure someone else can do a better job. But here are a few reasons why even you should have the confidence to say, “I’ll do it.”
I get it. It can be a little scary. I had a unique background in that my summer job for seven summers in high school and college was coaching a rec baseball league. I was on the field from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM five days a week instructing kids ages 6-15. So when it came time for own children to start playing sports, there was never a doubt if I would be the coach.
However, the first team I ever had was not in baseball but in pee-wee roller-hockey at the YMCA. I had never played hockey growing up. I can’t even skate. I certainly didn’t have any drills or practice plans. But I just figured out some basic exercises for the kids to do and, most importantly, I was enthusiastic. I exhorted them to play hard, encouraged their effort and was their biggest cheerleader. After the season the parents all seemed to think I did a great job, and I know the kids didn’t want to have it come to an end.
In the sports world, how many times have you seen a player with less talent outperform one with more ability because of hustle and hard work? It’s the same principle here. You can make up for lack of knowledge and experience with enthusiasm and effort. If your main objective at each game and practice is to inspire your players to do their best, to eagerly praise every accomplishment and pick them up after each failure, even if you’re not the greatest coach your players will respond positively. And if the players are always giving 100% because they are following your example, if they are having fun because you bring humor and a positive attitude, then their parents will overlook any technical shortcomings. The parents of the hockey team I coached didn’t know and didn’t care that I’d never played or even skated before.
Say you’d love to coach but you don’t have time? I know people with very demanding jobs. But they ask for the time off, make it up evenings and weekends, and their bosses understand. Let’s say we’re talking about a practice and two games per week. Maybe six, seven hours a week total for a few months. Couldn’t you get into work an hour earlier, stay an hour or two later a few days a week and make it happen?
And if it is your competitive nature that is standing in your way, put your ego aside. Its not that big of a deal if your team loses more games than it wins. Who’s going to remember in five years? Can you be a positive influence on a group of kids? Can you teach them that winning and losing isn’t as important as trying their best and being a supportive member of a team? Can you have enough fun during practices and games that they’ll all want to come back again next season? You just read the job description for a successful youth coach.
Someone has to step up and volunteer to coach or there are no youth sports. We all can’t simply expect it to be someone else’s job. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be good at it. Maybe you’ll love it and you’ll come back every year hereafter. And even if you decide that one season is enough, at least you gave it a try. At least for a couple of months, you volunteered your time to help the community. No, years from now you probably won’t remember your win-loss record. But when someone pulls out an old team photo of a group of smiling kids in their new uniforms, you’ll see yourself standing tall behind them. And you’ll be glad you decided to put yourself out there and let them call you, “Coach.”
Brian Gotta is President of CoachDeck LLC (firstname.lastname@example.org.). He can be reached at