Youth sports should only be about the kids. Parents can enjoy it, but it’s not about their egos or their pride; nor is it about the coaches’ wins and loss records. It’s not about the school feeling superior or the league touting their excellence.
If you’ve accepted the challenge and the huge responsibility of coaching youth sports, these guidelines will help you keep the focus where it should be: on the kids.
1. Communicate clearly and frequently to parents.
2. Coach individuals. Take time to encourage and instruct each player.
3. Encourage, encourage, encourage. Always give kids positive feedback as you push them.
4. Let the players know you are human. Take off your coach’s hat when you are off the field.
5. Listen to parents, even if you don’t agree.
6. Listen to your players’ frustrations and conflicts.
7. Coaching is not just about teaching a sport; it’s about helping kids learn life lessons.
8. Model respect—towards refs, opponents, and parents.
9. Laugh with your players. Coaches don’t earn respect by being grumpy.
10. Mix it up, make it fun, and make them work hard.
11. Be teachable. Just because you’re coaching doesn’t mean you know it all.
12. Take blame when you lose; give the team credit when you win.
13. Losing isn’t fun, so don’t make it worse for your players by getting mad at them for a loss. Instead, help them learn from it.
14. Always put kids’ safety first. Have proper equipment, water breaks, and first-aid.
15. Winning is great; just don’t sacrifice kids to do it.
16. Encourage players to come talk to you if they have questions.
17. Organize yourself. Parents and players appreciate it.
18. If your player doesn’t end the season a better player and person, then you have not done your job as a youth coach.
19. Your family needs you too. Make time for them. If your family suffers, give the job away.
20. Rejoice in the small victories in each practice and game. Build upon them and they will grow into bigger victories.
As a coach, you will never please everyone. Make it your goal to do what you do for the sake of the kids. If you do, you will be a coach that truly makes a difference in kids’ lives.
Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called jbmthinks.com. Her latest book 11 Habits for Happy and Positive Sports Parents is on Amazon.