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

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Making the Right Coaching Decisions

I received an email from a mom of a sixth-grade boy who was playing basketball for the first time. She said that, while her son does get to play in games, his coach has instructed him never to dribble. When he gets the ball he can only pass to someone else. She asked if I thought this was wrong. I told her that I absolutely did. But I then also gave her some advice I’m not sure she expected.

My first thought when hearing this story was that this was a coach who had his priorities skewed, who only cared about winning and not about developing players. And I still believe this is probably true. But while this may be an extreme example, every youth coach in the world has to walk the fine line each day of doing what is best for individual players and doing what is best for the team. Because they might not be the same thing.

Some kids want to win. They love playing their best, scoring goals, getting hits, diving for balls, giving all-out effort to do their best. Other kids don’t care about winning. Don’t really care as much about accomplishment as with simply playing and having fun. In youth rec leagues both these types of players and everything in between are blended together onto one team. How does a coach make everyone happy? If he plays the best players most of the time and rewards them with wins and championships he is often considered a “win-at-all-costs” “over-the-top” jerk. If he only cares about “having fun” and doesn’t even notice the score, then is that fair to the players assigned to him who are competitive? What is the perfect balance? In fifteen years of coaching with four kids, I struggled with it with every team I had.

In the situation with the coach who wouldn’t let the player dribble, I told the mom I felt this was one of the few times it might be appropriate for her to have a discussion with him. But the advice I don’t think she expected was that it would also be great for her son to try to improve on his own. I don’t know how much time the coach spends with this boy at practice on ball-handling, and if he’s a good coach he should work with him to get him to get better. But if he has no one to help him, then all of the individual attention he gives to this one player would be attention he can’t give to the rest of the team. If this boy were to practice 20-30 minutes a day, on the street, in the garage – anywhere – he’d develop skills pretty quickly. (There are 13 really good dribbling drills in our CoachDeck for Basketball). This youngster could, in a short period of time, go from being one of the worst ball-handlers on the team to one of the best if he worked on it.

So whose job is it to ensure that a player gets what he wants? That he plays a specific position, or certain amount of minutes. That he be allowed to dribble. Is it the coach’s responsibility? Or the player’s? Because these lessons carry over to life. There have been many times that one of my kids has been assigned to be part of a group project in school. And often I’ve heard stories about one of the group who “couldn’t make it” when they all got together on the weekend or who contributed nothing to the project, but who still got the same grade as the students who did the work. Is that fair? And isn’t that kind of the same thing we’re talking about on youth teams?

The dynamic of player, coach and parent is one that so often causes controversy and extreme emotion. Yet for some reason, when you read or hear about friction in youth sports it is almost always the coach who is made out to be the bad guy. Maybe that’s one of the reasons it is so difficult to get volunteers to do it. We all react to what we see happening to ourselves. But being part of a team means being part of something bigger. In all cases, if you’re a player, a parent or a coach, it will be helpful to understand that this is about more than just you.

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