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The field guide to youth sports coaches

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If you’re new to the youth sports world, maybe because your first young child is playing, you are satisfying terms of your first community-service order, or you are scouting first-graders for Clark Francis’ Hoop Scoop, you probably don’t have an intimate familiarity with the kinds of kooks, whacknuts and Jekylls-gone-Hyde that populate that peculiar place.

For your benefit, whether you’re a parent, coach, parent/coach or creepy scout, I will give you a four-part field guide to the major players in youth sports: the coaches, administrators, parents and the children themselves.

Today I start with the coaches, mainly because I can adapt a piece I already wrote that piece four years ago for Flak Magazine. Also, because these will be the first people to screw up your child’s athletic experience, if you haven’t already (as the parent, not the coach. But maybe you’ve already done it both ways!)

Before I start, please understand I use “he” because the vast majority of your youth coaches will be men. No offense intended to any female coaches who could fit comfortably into any of these categories.

They are:

The Genial Incompetent

Characteristics: Friendly and outgoing. Brings treats. Makes sure everyone is having fun and plays an equal amount of time. Doesn’t have a fucking clue about the sport.

Reason kids quit: Even the most gentle children — those raised on ultrasensitive PBS cartoons where everyone wins, sportsmanship is paramount, and everyone wears a helmet and pads while riding a bike — don’t like getting their asses beat game after game.

The Sgt. Hartman

Characteristics: Drill sergeant lite. Or heavy. Never likes what he sees. Will run 5-year-old soccer players for three hours after a game if the little shits don’t look like they care enough. Thinks making children cry is the most effective form of motivation. Often bearded.

Reason kids quit: Tinnitus.

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Your kid’s coach introduces himself, sets ground rules, sets tone for contentious relationship with dumpy player.

The Budding Belichick

Characteristics: No matter what the sport or the players’ ages, has a 3-inch-thick playbook for the kids to memorize. Keeps a clipboard tucked in the back of his pants. Takes it out to cover his lips while talking, in case another team has hired a lip-reader. Has full-time videographer for Thursday “film sessions.” Tells kids that if they can do long division, they sure as hell can figure out the three options for modifying a pass route on the fly depending on if the defense plays Cover 2, a Mike Blitz or straight man coverage.

Reason kids quit: To engage in a hobby less complicated. Like calculus.

The Starfucker

Characteristics: Identifies the top player early, and ignores everyone else. All plays boil down to “Get the Ball to the Star and Get the Hell Out of the Way.” Hopes to glom onto the young star to become future agent, shoe company liaison, acceptor of college recruiters’ hundred-dollar handshakes.

Reason kids quit: Coach won’t let them be part of the posse.

The Stage Parent

Characteristics: Parent coaching own child on team, which can go one of two ways. One, adopting a Starfucker-like focus on own prodigy, turning other children and parents into the Hatfields to the coach and child’s McCoys. Two, and more aggravating and/or entertaining, adopting a Starfucker-like focus on own spazz. When the coach puts own child into position of being the hero, and the child flops (again), other parents can take solace in fantasizing about the extremely uncomfortable dinner conversation and family counseling sessions sure to follow.

Reason kids quit: They have enough drama in their own families, thank you very much.

The Vaguely Creepy Guy

Characteristics: He’s the reason so many leagues insist on having at least one team member’s parent as coach. Loves to travel, shoot the breeze, share bathroom stalls with young charges. Always will to give players “private lessons.” Lots of butt-slapping. Lots of team pool parties. Lots of butt-slapping at team pool parties.

Reason kids quit: To make the bad man stop.

1499195364_c11918ad20Time for layup line, kids!

The Dream

Characteristics: Always organized, always communicative with parents and children. Teaches kids skills and wins. Ends season with lots of attaboys from parents, a few gift cards, and an invitation for illicit, extramarital sex that the parent knows the coach is too upstanding to take. Ruins your child for any coach in the future who inevitably can’t live up to this example. Extremely rare. Most often seen on the sideline opposite your child.

Reason kids quit: Intense, self-loathing feelings of not being worthy to breathe the same air.

Written by rkcookjr

September 1, 2009 at 8:07 pm

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