As the coach of a youth sports team, it is your responsibility to outline the expectations and team rules for your players. You have to make these rules very clear from the get-go so there is no cause for tension or confusion between you and your players or their parents.
Here are 3 things every coach should fully explain at the beginning of every season:
1. What happens if they miss a practice or a game?
At the beginning of the season, clearly identify the consequences of missing a practice or a game, regardless of why. Explain that conflicts are going to come up and you understand, but that players who miss a practice will have to sit out the next game (or whatever scenario you deem appropriate). You aren’t trying to punish players who miss a game because they had to go to the dentist, but you need to give playing time to those who’ve made the team a priority.
2. What kind of behavior is appropriate?
Above all, youth sports should focus on teaching sportsmanship and how to be a team player. Your athletes will carry these skills with them long after they’ve stopped playing football or baseball. Let your players know you will not tolerate any kind of taunting or bullying behavior (amongst your players or directed at the opposing team) and that they are to treat officials with respect even if they don’t agree with the call. Remember that you are their coach and that puts you in a unique position to shape the way your players act on and off the field. *
*This also means that you have to practice what you preach. You can’t scream at the officials, other coaches or parents and expect your players to not emulate you actions. You also have to hold the parents accountable.
3. What do you expect from a practice?
Make it very clear that practices are just as important as the games. You expect your players to stay focused during a drill and execute it to their best of their abilities. It’s ok to make mistakes in practice, that’s how you get better, but you expect your athletes to take their practice time seriously.
If you can lay out the team rules beforehand, you eliminate confusion down the road. You can’t expect players to live up to your expectations if they don’t know what they are! Having rules like this in place makes sure everyone is on the same page.