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Reflections on a year of coaching

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With tonight’s T-ball finale, in which our Defending World Champion Phillies take on the Brewers, my season of coaching is done.

I’ve done a lot of coaching. Fall girls’s softball manager. Which bled into fifth- and sixth-grade coed rec league basketball head coach. Which bled into seventh- and eighth-grade coed rec league basketball assistant coach. Which bled into T-ball manager. On one hand, I’m sad to see all of this finish for the school year, happy for the chance to bond individually with each of my three sports-playing kids (a fourth, a 3-year-old, is to come). On the other, for reasons beyond just coaching, I’m exhausted and happy not to have to shoulder the responsibility for a little while.

248065914_5c49c3a0f0I know how you feel, pup.

After all, when you’re a youth coach, you’re a volunteer, trying to impart some knowledge to kids while handling their parents and organizing everything from practices to who is supposed to bring post-game snacks. Fortunately, I have generally had supportive parents and good kids, which makes life much easier.

And now, I shall impart some knowledge to any potential youth sports coach or parent, based on what I’ve learned over the past year. (On top of a very good list for coaches here.)

For coaches:

1. It’s not about you and your brilliance. It’s about the players. Your job is to never give up on your players so they do not give up on you and your sport.

2. Just because sports is supposed to be fun doesn’t mean you can’t insist on everyone being focused and being respectful to you and their teammates. You don’t have to yell, but you have to establish you’re in charge if you don’t want chaos.  The players, and their parents, will thank you for it.

3. Kids keep score, even if you don’t. (Most) kids get over losing quickly, even if you don’t. All of this is to your benefit.

4. It’s not your job to force a player to keep playing a sport, or for you to force parents to keep their kids on your team if they don’t feel like it’s the best fit. Youth sports is about self-discovery for the child and about the parents’ discovery of their child. You’re just there to help.

5. Speaking of parents, they are not the enemy. They are doing you an enormous honor by entrusting their child to you. Treat them with respect and the knowledge that they are taking a big risk in putting the future of their baby in your hands.

For parents (particularly those with younger kids or athletes competing in the first time):

1. It’s not about you and your parenting skills. It’s about the players. Your kid might be great, he or she might not. Your kid might love the sport, he or she might like picking dandelions in right field. None of it is a reflection on whether you’re a good parent. However, barking at your child about it either way is.

2. Just because sports is supposed to be fun doesn’t mean your kids won’t get hurt sometimes, physically or emotionally. Part of your task is helping them determine the difference between what comes with the sport, and what should not. Part of your task is helping yourself determine the difference between what comes with the sport, and what should not. Err on the side of not freaking out right away — your coaches, kids, fellow parents and their kids, will thank you for it.

3. Kids keep score, and maybe you do, too. (Most) kids get over losing quickly, even if you don’t. All of this is to your benefit.

4. It’s not your job to force your child to keep playing a sport, or for you to keep a child on a certain team if it’s not the best fit (as long as there are viable options, like other leagues or other sports). Youth sports is about self-discovery for the child and about the parents’ discovery of their child. You’re there to find out what your child likes and dislikes, even if he or she doesn’t know it yet. If you feel like the coach is the problem, you have a right to speak up for your child without become one of “those” parents.

5. Speaking of coaches, they are not the enemy. They are doing you an enormous honor by taking the time to teach your child. Treat them with respect and the knowledge that they are making a huge commitment to volunteer to help in the development of your child. Even a bum of a coach is putting in some time, and like your child getting a bad teacher, can provide valuable lessons to you and your child on how to handle it when someone in charge isn’t effective — a lesson that will come in handy in the working world.

Written by rkcookjr

June 22, 2009 at 5:00 pm

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