Every season plenty of sports moms and dads register their children to play soccer, baseball, basketball, and other youth sports for the first time. Some of those sports moms and dad might even volunteer to coach for the first time and those parents deserve a big round of applause for stepping up when needed! But even if mom or dad was a super-star athlete in their own time, coaching youth sports is a whole different ball game (pun intended!) Being great at throwing, dribbling, shooting, or skating is one skill, knowing how to pass that knowledge on to a group of 6-year-olds is an entirely different skill.
Like any other skill, becoming a great coach takes a lot of practice and many new coaches look to the pros for ideas on how to run practice, what drills to use, what skills to focus on and how to “be” a coach. And while there is nothing wrong with looking to the pros for a little guidance it’s important to remember that running a pro football training camp and organizing a Little League practice are not the same! At the end of the day you are working with little kids, not pros, and how you coach them has to reflect that.
You might have an objective of being an engineer or a physicist, which both require proficiency in calculus and differential equations. However, you wouldn’t try forcing practice of them with your 13 year old students when they are still learning algebra I, because “this is what the pros use in your field.” But when it comes to youth sports, we abandon this rational thinking regarding development.
Chris makes a great point and we think it’s one that every youth sports coach, new or experienced, should take to heart. Just because the pros are doing something in a certain way that doesn’t mean it’s the best/only way to run your team, especially since you are dealing with young players. Complicated drills might look cool, but what good is a really involved passing drill if the kids don’t know how to dribble properly? Why are you so concerned about teaching plays when your team can barely throw? Youth sports programs are the place where every professional and Olympic athlete got their start and someone had to teach them the basics.
Like anything else in life, you have to learn the fundamentals before you can worry about the “cool” stuff. You don’t expect a baby to walk before they crawl, right? So why are you pushing your youth athletes to learn pro skills when they still don’t have a solid understanding of the basics? As a youth sports coach, your job is to teach the fundamentals of your given sport to the kids—be it throwing, catching, dribbling, swimming, hitting, passing, shooting, skating and so forth. As the players get older you can start to worry about more complicated drills and techniques, but don’t get so hung up on what the pros are doing and forget that you’re working with kids!