Coaching the Player as a Whole Person

By Janis Meredith | Posted 4/1/2020

One of the top objectives of the new Football Development Model as laid out by USA Football is

Whole Person and Multi-sport Development, which basically means that it’s not enough to make players better at their sport. It’s important for coaches to build on lifelong values and lessons of the sport and go beyond teaching skills by focusing on the mental, emotional and social side of a person.

So, what should this actually look like?

Coaches and teams that embody this objective have these characteristics:

•   They encourage athletes to push themselves beyond what they think they can do. I’ve learned this even at my age while doing Crossfit. When someone is there to push me, I do far more than I thought I could. Pushing is not a bad thing; it’s a combination of challenging and encouraging.

•   They create an environment where athletes are allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. Kids should not be shamed when they mess up. They should be asked what they can do differently next time and if they are struggling to answer that, then coaches must show them.

•   They engage with players as people apart from the sport. Coaches who see athletes as more than a body on the field, seek to understand the whole child; they care about school, grades, team dynamics, family life and other challenges that a child may be facing. A child never comes to practice or a game as just an athlete; there are always other things in their lives that influence their youth sports experience.

•   They focus on creating leaders. Every child on the team today is a leader tomorrow and coaches who strive to develop leaders out of every athlete on the team—not just the captain or co-captain, but every player—are creating tomorrow’s bosses, dads, community and national leaders.

•   They focus on the bigger picture of youth sports. With a husband, two daughters and one son-in-law coaching youth sports, I’m the first to admit that winning is fun and losing isn’t. But win or lose, the bigger picture is always more important. Sports is more than playing time, playbook stats, awards and accolades; who your child becomes in the process trumps all of those.

If your youth sports experience is not incorporating the objective of focusing on all areas of development, not just skills, then neither you nor your child are getting all that it has to offer.

Janis Meredith is a family life coach who wants to help all parents raise champions. You can find out more at


USA Football's new model for youth football is designed to make the game safer by reducing contact and by teaching the game based on an athlete's age, the skill they are learning and game type.