Youth sports leagues, and the kids who play with them, need good quality, positive coaches. Here’s why: Coaches are influential. They are one of the most important role models in a young athlete’s life. Often they are the difference between success and failure for an entire team or individual player.
There are many different coaching styles: technical experts, positive mentoring, military-types, etc. What kind of coaches are successful? Research is showing, more and more, that coaches who genuinely care about their players have a huge advantage over coaches who don’t.
The old stereotype of the yelling, tantrum-throwing blowhard is no longer relevant. Too many studies reveal that destructive coaches ruin games and athletes.
Technical knowledge of the game is important too, but it must be partnered with positivity.
Teams are more likely to meet their goals, namely a winning season, with coaches who maintain a friendly and mentor-like coaching style.
Bullying tactics can tear down an athlete, sometimes leading to serious mental health issues. If the athletes are young children, these issues can last a lifetime.
Building up young people, through caring and nurturing, is far better than tearing them down. It’s also more likely to lead to a win.
Here’s how positive coaches can bring out the best in any player.
Model healthy social skills.
Working together with peers toward a common goal is a bonding experience for kids. Building this kind of social skill is one of sports’ major upsides. Kids also get to be around other kids who come from different backgrounds. They learn to communicate both verbally and non-verbally. Their horizons are broadened through diverse interaction.
Coaches develop cooperation amongst players by modeling healthy communication styles. They also help young athletes understand the power of good sportsmanship, positive feedback and healthy constructive criticism.
All kinds of life lessons are addressed in the locker room. This includes acceptance of LGBTQA+ athletes, overcoming adversity, respect for women, and more.
All of this shows students that the ultimate goal is to help, not harm, them.
Encourage kids to investigate, ask questions and learn.
There is always something to discover in any endeavor. The best of the best are constantly learning and honing their craft. This is also true of athletic achievers. Encourage these players to find out more about their sport. What are some new skills to implement? What are healthy ways to improve our diet?
Kids should be a part of the process so they can take their skills to the next level. If they’re encouraged to keep learning, they’ll stay interested in their sport. They won’t get bored. They’ll also see hurdles as opportunities to learn more and improve.
Get excited about knowledge and watch students get excited too.
Honor boundaries and self-awareness.
Great coaches understand that youngsters aren’t developing people, they’re people in development. Works in progress. As kids become teenagers, they’re understanding the world and the role they play in it. This includes reflection and awareness of what drives them from within. For example, they develop core values and belief systems this way.
Believing in these young people is vital. Coaches inspire them to honestly consider their strengths and improvement needs to become more well-rounded people.
Act with integrity.
Like parents, coaches always have an audience. Kids look to them as good examples of how to go through life, or bad ones.
If a coach displays behavior in line with strong values – namely honesty, truth and wisdom – he or she can serve as a good example.
That’s better than a “win at all costs” mentality.
Seven out of ten kids quit sports before their teenage years. Many report it’s because the experience isn’t fun anymore. This can be directly tied to a coach’s behavior and the mood he or she sets for everyone.
Don’t be the reason someone quits.
Grow through adversity.
A coach must teach a young person to see advantage in defeat. Learning lessons and bouncing back is a skill, and it’s often on the field or the court where children first encounter exactly how to do just that.
When they lose, it takes a lot to get back out there and try again.
Wise coaches observe their players and understand what motivates each one. They know when to listen and when to speak. The best coaches encourage this “try again” mindset in a way that resonates with a player. They communicate this message through encouragement and support.
Believe in your players.
When children have a good strong support system, they take healthy risks. They understand that mistakes aren’t the end of the world. Rather mistakes are necessary for healthy growth and achievement. They trust themselves to get through tough patches when needed.
A positive coach challenges kids to challenge themselves. They are also around to provide guidance when needed.
Empathy for others is one of the best ways to show your concern. Your humanity. Recognize what someone is going through and respond in a kind manner. After all, the world is a tough place. Our most resilient athletes and people are in tune to others. Their strength is in their ability to relate.
This is what we must encourage in our children, both on and off the field.
Help young athletes think outside the box.
One of the best things a parent can do when a child asks their opinion is to defer for a moment. Perhaps ask, “Well what do you think?” They listen. Connect. And then parents add their important opinion when appropriate.
This is one of the best things a coach can do, too.
Elicit opinions from the team and collaborate when determining solutions. Encourage them to consider possibilities they hadn’t thought of before. Ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Dare to say, “Let’s try something different.”
The best coaches care.
It’s perfectly natural to get out there and play to win. The score at the end of every game or match is important. Athletes who are supported and encouraged, rather than berated, tend to get that win. And feel better about it at the same time.