About halfway through each youth sports season, I try to take a step back and grade the first half of the season from my perspective in two roles.
I look at what has happened from a coach’s point of view, then I take off my coach’s hat and evaluate the first half of the season as a parent.
When I do this, I forget about the team’s record because there’s nothing you can do about the past and none of the questions that I’m going to pose should be answered based on it.
Let’s start with the role many of us play as the coach. Are you giving every player the chance to try different positions? Just because you have a great punter, doesn’t mean someone who wants to try the position shouldn’t have an opportunity.
Is everyone getting close to equal playing time? Kids register for youth sports to play, so unless you are coaching in an ultra-competitive league that informs kids before they enroll that only good kids play, everyone should get close to equal time on the field.
Are your kids developing friendships? While you can’t control if your players are becoming friends off the field, you can encourage them to be more than just teammates at practice and before/after games. If at this point you still don’t feel that kids are getting along well, try having an off-the-field activity one night, and be sure to invite the parents. You’ll be amazed how quickly the kids get to know one another in a non-pressure situation, and the same goes for the parents.
Now put on your parent hat. Is your child having fun? The best way to figure this out is to ask, but you can also tell by whether or not they look forward to practices and games. If you have to force your child to go to either, it’s clearly not fun for them. Again, the only way to find out why it’s not fun is to ask.
The second parent question to ask yourself is if you feel your child is becoming a better player. In addition to learning sportsmanship, making friends and having fun, parents also want their children to improve when playing a sport. Remember, the number of touchdowns or tackles can’t always be a measuring stick for improvement. But if you don’t think your child is improving and aren’t sure why, ask the coach.
Figuring out how to win more games is always a great question, but I think you’ll agree for the casual youth sports coach and parent, the questions asked above are much more important at halftime of this youth sports season.
Jon Buzby has been involved in and writing about youth sports for the past 30 years with perspectives as a parent, coach and board member. Jon is an award-winning writer and his latest book, “Coaching Kids Made Easier,” is available on Amazon. Send comments or future blog topics you'd like to see to JonBuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @YouthSportsBuzz on Twitter.