According to US Youth Soccer, 3,055,148 were registered to play soccer through that organization in 2014. If you average about 10 players per team (remembering that at younger ages, the rosters are smaller because fewer kids are on the short fields at any one time), the number of coaches is in the neighborhood of 300,000. Most of those coaches want to do right by their players. Winning is great, of course, but not the ultimate goal for these volunteers—and nor should it be.
Youth leagues across every sport have a responsibility to provide the tools necessary to be an effective coach. Updated equipment, coaching manuals, online resources, and the support of administrators are important for teams to be successful—with the understanding that victories do not define success. Plenty of winning teams are ineffective, and many “losing” teams are wildly successful. Are the tools you and the other volunteers in your league use to coach effective? Here are some factors to consider when making that determination:
The Kids Are Improving
A wise youth basketball coach once told her team’s parents that their kids at the end of the season will look nothing like the players they see at the beginning of the season. Improvement, from first-time rec players to year-round comp athletes, is an essential benchmark of success and an important goal for all coaches. Victories will come and go, but the excitement a young basketball player feels at finally making a free throw is lasting—and confidence-building. When enthusiastic, patient coaches have the correct tools (such as decent equipment or quality workout plans) at their disposal, improvement will naturally follow.
Your Players Are Practicing on Their Own
When kids are excited about their sports, they want to get better—and might even practice on their own to do so. Simple footwork exercises for soccer or dribbling workouts for basketball can help develop the skills players want. Coaches can assist with this endeavor, not only by showing these at-home exercises during practice, but also by emailing their teams links to websites and videos that offer additional instruction. Leagues facilitate this process by hosting such content on their websites and even shooting their own videos for the benefit of coaches and players.
Parents Are Communicating
Another gauge of how effective coaching tools are is how much the parents are buying into the process. Usually, parents on successful teams, whether they are winning or losing, support their coaches and communicate with each other. Online league management software facilitates this communication with easy access to emails and phone numbers and team message boards. If, for example, a player needs a ride to practice, his or her parents won’t have any trouble asking other families on the team. Furthermore, proactive parents are often best at informing that their children can’t make a game or practice, thus making the coach’s job easier.
Everyone Is Having Fun
We’ve all heard stories of winning teams on which players are sniping with each other, parents continually harass officials, and coaches scream at kids in a way that would make Bobby Knight blush. In short, no one is having fun despite the victories. Losing teams might struggle with fun, too, particularly if frustrated coaches do not have the tools they need to be effective and receive no support from parents. Win or lose, kids should have smiles on their faces after competing, and those smiles should be evident on the pictures that parents post to the team’s website. The tools leagues provide their coaches can, and should, help achieve this.
Do you feel your league’s coaching tools are effective at fostering success and fun?