Seriously

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

If you’re reading this, there is a good chance you are someone deeply involved in youth sports. You may be a parent or coach and/or a board member/league administrator.  You probably spend many hours each day either thinking about or working on various items pertaining to your team or league. You are to be commended. You are also the exception.

Every year since we founded CoachDeck over nine years ago we have encountered a particular mind-set from some coaches and administrators in leagues across North America. When we approach them about our deck of cards containing 52 drills designed to help volunteer coaches run fun and effective practices, we’re told we’re not needed here. The reason? This league has its own rigid training curriculum, online, mobile or in book form, that has been created to provide detailed instructions for all league coaches so that they run thorough and precise practices strictly according to league specifications.

Doesn’t that sound fun? We’re big believers in coach education and wish that every volunteer coach had the time or the inclination to really study hard to become better. But we know that isn’t realistic.

See, these curriculums are designed by people like you and me, who really take this whole coaching thing seriously. In many cases the folks putting this material together are paid full-time to do this, it is their career. So of course their perspective about the importance of running a by-the-letter practice every week is colored by their own experience. Of course they would go online and watch videos and learn new techniques. Obviously they’d read up on the latest coaching philosophies and incorporate these into their daily teachings. Its what they do. But what these online coaching portals and elaborate training session outlines fail to account for is the human factor. That is, most volunteers just don’t have the time or desire to work at it so hard. They simply want to have fun with the kids.

Imagine you have a job where every step you take is monitored and every task is scheduled in advance. There is no innovation, no improvisation. Everything is laid out for you. And, you must study the night before to learn tomorrow’s planned routine. Now imagine you don’t get paid for this. You’re a volunteer.

I have first-hand experience with this phenomenon. When my sons were little I coordinated the T-ball division for our Little League. I was fired up and was going to be the best coordinator the league had ever had. I created a lengthy manual that explained everything about running a team, included drills, practice plans, techniques to enhance safety and many administrative tips I knew each coach would need that season. When I gave it to them, my coaches asked incredulously how I’d had time to put this together. I was basically handing them a turn-key owners manual to be a successful coach. And then I spent the entire spring fielding calls from them asking questions, the answers to which were contained within the manual they obviously hadn’t read.

The other day I was on a youth league website which offered a “Coaches Corner” page. This page contained links to practice plans for three different age groups. Clicking the link downloaded a PDF, which was created by the national organization. The one I opened for age 10 was forty-seven pages long and included diagrams and paragraph after paragraph of written instruction – thousands of words. If I were a volunteer coach I would not get past page two.

Why am I bringing this all up? Here is a review we found recently about CoachDeck taken off a website that sells our product. It, along with many more like it, has been up there for years and we didn’t even know about it until last week:

I LOVE the idea of this product and am sure I will enjoy this for years to come. Being a youth coach, full time employee, full time dad, full time husband, etc., it is sometimes hard to find the time to make a full practice plan. These cards are great to use as a quick, easy resource on those days when unexpected issues come up in the rest of your life!

CoachDeck was designed by top-level professional coaches, but so as to be non-intimidating, quick, easy…fun – (it’s a deck of cards after all), something something a novice or expert will enjoy using. Not more work.

So if you’ve read this far, you may just think this is a shameless plug for our product…and maybe it is. But my main intent is to convey this message: If there are volunteer coaches with extra time who want to become students of the game, more power to them. The more resources out there for them, the better. But when people who live and die a sport assume that everyone has their same level of commitment – take it that seriously – we may end up getting nothing because we expect too much.

Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com

Your coaches will love their CoachDecks

Feedback we received the other day from a Little League President who ordered CoachDecks which he had just handed out to his managers. He said they all loved the decks and asked if they could have one to give to their coaches. Our handy, little deck of 52 fundamental drills broken into four, color-coded categories is exactly what your coaches and managers need this season since we know they don’t have time for books, manuals or online training sites. They need something they can carry onto the field and use at a moment’s notice while players are getting out of their parents’ cars. Every drill in the deck can be made into a fun and exciting game that kids love so they’ll want to come to every practice.

Why Won’t Coaches Learn Online?

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

It sounds so enticing…online coach training. Drills, streaming videos, quizzes, printable practice plans…everything a coach could ever need or want at his or her fingertips, just a high-speed internet connection away. Its a great theory, but one that fails to account for two things lacking in most volunteer coaches.

What are those two things? Time and Desire.

Before you discount this as an opinion from a biased point of view, please consider a couple of things: First, before there was any such thing on the market as online coach training, we had the idea. We were excited. We launched a site called CoachGuide with all of the bells and whistles, the drills, the practice plans, etc. We marketed it aggressively, even giving it away free to all coaches who wanted to gain additional knowledge. It was a huge bust.

Virtually no one took the course, even though it was user-friendly and full of great information. Now, with CoachDeck, we work with thousands of leagues around North America and get feedback from them as to why they love giving their coaches our decks of cards. And what we hear universally is what we learned the hard way when we were listening to crickets chirp at CoachGuide.

Volunteer coaches are just that – volunteers. They don’t get paid to do this. Yet we expect them to take valuable chunks of their schedules to become educated and prepared? A few will. And they’re the exception. The majority however just volunteered to coach because they wanted to spend some precious time with their kids or because nobody else was willing to do it. And there is nothing wrong with that. We need those folks. But after working at their real job all day, not many will come home, have dinner, put the kids to bed, and then say goodnight to their spouse and log onto a website and watch videos and tutorials. Most just don’t care enough about it.

Think of it this way. Ask anyone you know this question: “Want to spend hours online in a virtual classroom? Or would you rather play cards? Hoping our parent-volunteers will sequester themselves in front of a computer screen (or, for that matter, a coaching manual) and become experts, when they may only be planning to coach this one season and when they’re already devoting so much of their time, is unrealistic. We should simply expect that they are prompt to each practice and game, that they treat the kids well, and they set a positive example of sportsmanship and fair play. Anything else is a bonus.

And that’s where CoachDeck comes in. When coaches show up at practice straight from work they need something they can scan quickly while the kids are getting out of their parents cars. The fact is that if they had watched multiple videos the night before, trying to go from memory the next day they’d be more likely to get things wrong than right anyway. But with our deck of cards there is no guessing. They’re able to run drills that teach fundamental skills and can be made into games that kids love. With no experience, no extensive knowledge of the game and no “studying,” they can run a perfect practice.

The reason coaches prefer CoachDeck is it is not intimidating. In fact, it’s fun. A lot more fun than a username and password and a guy standing in front of a camera grimly explaining proper footwork. Hey, if they want to go online and become coaching experts, more power to them. The more education the better. But if we depend on them to all be as motivated as we are, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.

Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com