Coaching Youth Sports…Lessons Learned

I grew up in that era of coaching where you got clipboards broken over your helmet, smacked on the helmet with keys at the end of a lanyard, stood against the fence with a catcher mask on and baseballs bounced off your mask till you didn’t flinch anymore, bats lined up behind your feet if you stepped out of the batters box, where you were considered weak if you drank water at practice during double days in 100 degree weather, the list could go on and on but you get the point. It was a different time and yes I had a few of those things done to me as a kid.

As a younger coach I don’t recall ever doing anything like that but I have done things close to as bad…running as a punishment for example, making the rest of the team run as punishment as the person who was the problem stood and watched, mop ups, suicides, and other similar stuff. Now, I hide the running in the drills so that the kids don’t learn to resent the running part of practice that has to happen anyways.

So much has changed in my coaching style over the years but even so…there always is room for improvement.

Something that has really sunk in for me now is that…yes we should coach to win and at the Varsity level in high school and higher I still believe a coach should partly be judged on his/her win/loss record and if it is a losing season year end and year out something needs to change either in the coaching staff or the way the person coaches.
(that is another story for another time though)

Something that recently changed for me was my outlook and realization that the senior year is it for a majority of the kids with organized sports. The stats show over all about 1 in 14 student athletes goes on to play sports at college which means yes as a varsity coach you should be preparing those that are going to continue playing for the next level but really you should be preparing these kids…young adults for the next level of life. Life as an adult either going to college (70% of HS students attend college and 60% of them will graduate college with a 4 year degree), into the work force, or living in their parents basement (MOM MEATLOAF!).

With all that said the main thing I stress to student athletes today is this…yes we want to win but we are going to focus on three key things along the way.

  1. Have Fun
  2. Be Positive
  3. Compete to the best of your ability

Have Fun – If you’re having fun…great! If your not having fun…find something you have fun doing. It translates later in life too. If you are not having fun at your job. Find a job that is fun. I don’t mean quit being a doctor and becoming a dog walker but if your not happy in your current job situation that is no way to go through life (1/3 of your life is spent at work…let that sink in) Maybe fun is a job you don’t hate that has all weekends off so you can ride your jet ski on weekends. I also, often say find a job you don’t hate. You may not love it…but if you don’t hate your job that is a huge step in the right direction.

Be Positive – If you have a positive outlook on things it will show. People will be more likely to approach you to talk/discuss things. I don’t mean take all the negative things and bury them deep inside your stomach so they are never mentioned again (yes that was me for a long time), but at the same time now when I find something negative rather than just point out what is wrong/complain about it I offer up a solution to whatever the problem is when i talk to someone about what is wrong. Being positive is also about body language. If you are frowning, sulking, crossing your arms…that can be perceived as negative. When you talk with someone look them in the eye and acknowledge them so the person talking knows you are hearing/listening to them. This one is the hardest for me. I like to eat a lone in the cafeteria, I look down when I walk..I am not a real sociable person until I get to know people and have been that way all my life. I have to step out of my comfort zone and make a conscious effort to do it from time to time.

Compete to the best of your ability – If you do this at practice, in games and in life…no one can expect more than that out of you…well they can. They can ask for you to give 110% lol. When you compete to the best of your ability mistakes will happen. If you don’t make mistakes you won’t get better. Don’t make the same mistake over and over…learn from those mistakes and move on to the next mistake. Set goals and when you achieve that goal set another goal and continue to try to improve. Goals should be a combination of short term and long term goals. For example a short term goal might be to get 10 rebounds in the next game where a long term goal in life could be something like in ten years I want to be a department lead in my current department.

A lot of this will go in one ear and out the other as you coach/teach it…but years later the now adult that you coached will be doing something and one of these things will happen and the person will remember back when they were a kid this or this was taught to me by their coach.

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