Quote for Wednesday

“Helping others is just as important as helping yourself.” Courtesy, Jeter’s Leaders. We’d say maybe even more important. And how much does this apply to being a volunteer coach?

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Ten things soccer coaches wish soccer parents would do

This comes from a client of ours, Auburn (IL) Soccer Association. Great stuff:

1. Get the players to practice on time, fully equipped and ready to go. Coaches understand that some kids have back to back activities, but there’s no reason for a player without a previous activity to arrive at the field the minute practice starts wearing high heels or sandles. Players should arrive 5-10 minutes early, ready to play, with cleats/shinguards on and a water bottle. Leave the toys at home – no balloons, skateboards, electronic devices, etc.

2. Let coaches know more than 6 hours in advance if your child won’t be able to make practice or a match. Based on the number of players who can’t make a given event, it can affect how coaches plan to run things. You don’t need to ask permission – just let them know a couple days in advance if you can.

3. Pay attention at practices. If you have a child that can be, er, a handful – stick around at practice at least once a week and watch. If your child starts to become a distraction to the team during practice, ask the coach if they want you to step in and take care of it. Some may, some may not. But don’t just drop your child off and run away, knowing they may be disruptive. It’s not fair to the rest of the team. Also don’t ignore the obvious because it’s your child. Coaches want EVERY child to have a chance to play and enjoy the game, but disruptive children sometimes become too much for a coach to handle and a parent really needs to step in and handle things.

4. Refrain from coaching from the sidelines. Coaches want the players to focus on the game and any instruction they may shout out from the team touchline. So stick to cheering and encouragement. If you find the urge to coach overbearing – ask the coach if they need an assistant!

5. Put your folding chairs at LEAST 2 yards away from the touchline. Our fields include ‘parent boundary lines’ which allow the players to take a step or two to throw the ball in. It’s also a danger to players trying to make sliding saves or who collide/trip/lose control near the parents if you’re sitting too close.

6. Respect the coaches decisions and, if you have a problem, approach them about it. Don’t bottle it up inside, let it stew or share it among the rest of the parents. Coaches are not perfect, but perhaps given some additional explanation you might understand what they did. If not, at least you know why they did what they did.

7. Try to have your paperwork, fees, and any other administrative stuff taken care of well in advance with the league. Coaches just want the kids to play, have fun and learn. The less that paperwork intrudes on that, the better.

8. Don’t scream at your kids on or off the field if they make mistakes. That’s how they learn. Coaches tell their players ALL the time that they’d rather see them take a risk by trying out a soccer move and losing the ball, than taking the safe route using the inside of their foot all the time or passing the ball as soon as they get it. Too many players are afraid of making mistakes at a young age on the field. Risk taking and creativity should be encouraged.

9. Volunteer to help the league. Coaches and the league administrators do not get paid. They donate tons of time ensuring the league operates smoothly. So when they ask for help doing concessions, paperwork, field maintenance, fund raising, etc., offer to help. If you look at other programs in the area, our recreational program is dirt cheap because it is run by volunteers. Where else can you get 2-3 hours a week of healthy activity for your child for $30-$40 a season? Too many leagues rely on a core group of committed but overworked volunteers to run things because parents aren’t willing to donate an hour or two during the season. We aren’t asking you to commit to multiple hours every week for the entire season (though we’d love it if you could!). Just an hour or two a month.

10. Have fun. Youth soccer should be fun for kids AND adults alike. By keeping a level head and a positive attitude, you can have about as much fun as your child does. So keep things in perspective and have fun!

More from yesterday’s post

Below you can read the follow-up conversation we had with the coach who asked us our opinion about what to do about a woman who posted something critical of him on Facebook.

Coach’s email:

Thanks for the quick reply.
 
I coach 9-10 baseball in a small town in Arkansas.  Our games are 6 inning or 1.5 hours long.  We practiced with her son at the catchers position during 4 or 5 practices but decided to go with a couple more boys because he son does not hustle and missed a lot of pitches. 
 
I have copied her post below.  It may not sound like much but I am not used to being criticized.   
 
“Really proud of my (name removed) today!! He’s been bat catcher for the entire 6 years he’s played ball. (Since he was 4.)This year, it’s apparent he won’t get to, even though the other kids on his team don’t really want the position. He had a rough game yesterday between not getting to catch & sitting out 2 innings & was pretty upset & pretty much gave up for the 2nd half of the game. We had a talk on the way home about not giving them the satisfaction of giving up. Today he went out there at practice & did what he had to do, even though tomorrow we have to find out if he has a broken or jammed finger. He didn’t let it get him down, even when he was yelled at for taking off his glove in the outfield when he was hurting… and I never saw tears in his eyes until we got in the truck. I’m very proud of the way he played today & that he didn’t give up even when he very clearly was in pain & upset. He has way better of an attitude about things than his Momma for sure! Way to go son!”
 
Her son took his glove off during the last 3 batters of practice and was just holding it under his arm.  I told him to put his glove back on and that he wasn’t ready.  I was on the 3rd baseline and he was in LF so I wasn’t yelling at her kid. 
 
Any more feedback is appreciated. 

Our response:

I would ignore it and just do what you think is right in terms of playing time/positions. If she does it again, then tell her you would like to speak with her privately. I think I’d also report it to the league just so that they’re aware in the event it becomes an ongoing issue. Real shame what she’s doing to her kid.

New wrinkle to Parents and Playing Time

One of our most-read posts just garnered us question we haven’t heard before. For all the good of social media, there are downsides as well. Parents, don’t use Facebook to complain about your child’s coach. Send and email or pick up the phone. Would you want someone posting a complaint about you at work for all to see? Especially if you didn’t get paid to do your job?

The reader writes:

I just read your article about dealing with parents because one of the mothers of my kids I coach posted a lengthy message on Facebook about her boys playing time.  She was upset that her son had set out 2 innings during our practice game Saturday and that I told him to get his glove on during practice yesterday.  She mentioned on Facebook that he might have a jammed finger but I was unaware of this at practice and nothing was said to me or the other coaches about an injury. 
 
Do you suggest letting this go or should I contact the mother directly?  I had even thought about sharing your article on Facebook without pointing anyone out.  
 
I just want to do what’s best for my team.  I spend countless hours and money trying to make these kids better and have fun.  
Thanks,
Our response:

Thank you for your note. I appreciate you reaching out.

Usually when I receive these types of inquiries I always say that I am only hearing one side of the story and that I’d need to hear the other side to be able to make a fair assessment. So I don’t know enough about what type of league this is, whether two innings is standard, and don’t know what this mom’s issue is with you telling her son to put on his glove.  You say the post was lengthy buy only mention two complaints so since I haven’t seen her post I can only assume there is more.

With that said, however, I can answer your question: You absolutely should contact this mother directly and very firmly tell her that her posting a grievance on Facebook was completely inappropriate. Let her know that in the future, you’d appreciate it, if she has an issue, that she  communicate with you privately and that you’d be willing to speak with her about situations that way but that you are not going to address anything via social media. In a perfect world she understands that she shouldn’t have done that, apologizes, and then you can have a conversation from there. My concern is that she doesn’t feel she was wrong and defends her actions. My advice would be to not get into any back and forth on Facebook and if she persists using that as a forum, get the league involved.

Hope this helps and please don’t let one person ruin the experience for you or your team.

Make them Feel Appreciated

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

In any relationship – marriage, employee/employer, coach to player – we know the personal dynamic suffers if either party is made to feel unappreciated or neglected. So why do so many leagues virtually ignore their volunteer coaches, and then complain each season that it is difficult to get anyone to be a coach? Here are some tips to make your coaches feel appreciated.

All too often we, as league administrators, have so much to do that once we get people in place to coach our league’s teams we think, “That’s done. I can move on to the next job.” But meanwhile, unless we hear complaints, we don’t give another thought to these coaches who are out there working for free every week. What if we created a “Coach Appreciation Committee” that focused all season on making sure coaches had the support and encouragement they needed?

Communicate with them
What are some things we could do to show we care:? How about an easy one for starters: Periodically during the season send an email to your coaches. Ask them, “What can I do for you?” or “Is there any help you need?” Maybe they’ll tell you about an equipment issue they’ve just been putting up with. Perhaps there is a parent who shows up late each practice, forcing the coach to wait around. There could be many small things your coaches won’t bother mentioning, but that annoy them. Imagine if you could fix some of those issues to make their jobs easier. And, even if they don’t request any help, which will usually be the case, everyone likes to be asked.

Pick up the phone throughout the year and call them just to see how they’re doing. You’ll be surprised how much mileage you get with this simple touch. Plus, as a board member, you’ll gain invaluable feedback about the inner-workings of your league.

Communicate with parents
Send an email to all parents with a message such as: “Please be sure to help your coach at practice. If you can’t help at practice then please offer to help in some other way. Get involved with field prep or breakdown. Offer to bring snacks to games. Organize a post-season team party and coaches gift.” Encourage them to simply thank the coach after each game and practice. Get parents to realize that there is something they can contribute even if they aren’t directly involved with the team.

Thank them in person
League officials can swing by a game or practice every now and then and tell the coaches they did a great job and thank them. Point out something positive that was observed. Tell the parents in the stands that the coaches are doing a great job. This goes a long way when it comes from a third-party and a board member.

End of the year volunteer reception
Lots of leagues do this but if you don’t, you may want to consider it. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate soiree, just burgers and sodas at the park would do. But letting the coach and a guest have a nice meal, “on the league” will sure go a long way towards rewarding the season’s hard work and even soothing any frustration that may have accumulated.

Do you have other ideas? What are some things you do in your league to make your coaches feel special, (besides give them a CoachDeck, of course!). Send us your suggestions to info@coachdeck.com. We’d love to hear from you. Have a great 2017 season!

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

Baseball and Softball Drills

If you’re contemplating coaching a baseball or softball team this spring, but you’re worried that you won’t know how to run a great practice, we’ve got your solution. CoachDeck is the number one resource for youth, volunteer coaches. Our handy pack of 52 drills in a deck of cards allow you to instantly put together a professional practice plan on the fly. Just show up, and while the players are getting loose, choose a few cards and you’re ready to go. Your league needs your help in the coaching ranks. But you won’t be on your own. We’ll help you, help the league.

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