What makes a strong youth team manager or coach? In a 2013 survey by Liberty Insurance’s Play Positive initiative, 77 percent or responding parents believe that their child’s coach being a caring individual is important. Another 59 percent value the importance of their kid’s coach being skilled in the sport he or she is teaching to the young athletes.
Most youth team managers and coaches believe they are strong in these two criteria, and indeed, many volunteers are. Yet, even the best coaches want to improve and be the absolutely best role models, teachers, and strategists they can be for the kids they oversee. Some of this improvement might not necessarily be on the field, court, or ice, but instead in the organizational skills required to be successful. Here are four tips that will make you a stronger youth team manager:
1. Keep the parents informed
Some youth sports leagues feature organized websites, efficiently updated by administrators and featuring parent-friendly access to schedules, calendars, rules, and other resources. Others don’t, leaving much of the communication in the hands of their coaches. Either way, a strong youth team manager is always communicating with parents, whether you are emailing families reminding them of upcoming games, sending them season updates or game stats, or just including parents in the postgame cheer. If your organization does use online league management software, take advantage of all the features it offers to keep families informed and involved.
2. Immediate communication when necessary
Inevitably, rainouts are going to happen, or you will have a family emergency and need to reschedule a practice, or the league tells you of a makeup game three hours before it’s set to start. In these cases, you need to contact the parents of your players quickly and effectively. A phone call to everyone works, but that takes time, and you run the risk of reaching voicemail that some people simply ignore. A more efficient method is to text or email parents with important, breaking news. Online league management software facilitates this process by giving you the means to email or text (or both—it never hurts) from the solution itself, and even from a smartphone or tablet.
3. Plan your practices
A coaching proverb many coaches have told their players is that the way you practice is the way you play come game day. If you are a youth team manager who believes that (and maybe said that to your own players!), then you have a responsibility to make practices as productive, engaging, and fun as possible. Trying to run a workout on the fly may occasionally be successful, but often, it becomes chaotic and unproductive. Therefore, plan your practices ahead of time. If possible, map out the whole season before the first workout—you can always adjust as the season goes along.
4. Remember what’s most important
Winning and losing, especially on the rec sports level, should be secondary to learning the game, working with teammates, exhibiting good sportsmanship, and having fun. Most youth team managers strive toward this goal, but even the best-intentioned coaches find themselves swept up in the moment and lose sight of what’s most important. When that happens, don’t beat yourself up—you’re human, and the desire to get the victory sometimes takes over. Take a deep breath, apologize if necessary, and realign yourself toward what will make your players better teammates and better kids. A strong youth team manager isn’t measured by a win-loss percentage but by the improvement and enjoyment experienced by his or her players.
What tips have helped you become a stronger youth team manager?