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Article Source: http://www.spongecoach.com/coaching-youth-sports/

Coaching Youth Sports: 15 Things To Understand Before You Start


It’s a great honor to be asked to coach your local youth sports team. Not a lot of people are asked to do so because coaching youth sports is a difficult task. Being asked says that you’re seen as a leader/role model, that you have the competency to understand and teach the game, but most of all it says that you have the emotional intelligence to teach the players not only how to be better athletes, but how to be better people in the game of life.

Coaching can be one of the most rewarding and most humbling experiences that you can ever have in life. However, great responsibility comes with having that opportunity to mold young minds.  Everything that you say and do is being watched and soaked up by all of those little sponges you’re leading.

Now that you understand that its a great honor and responsibility to be asked to coach, you need to understand what can – and usually does – happen throughout the season to decide whether or not the job is for you. In today’s world of crazy youth sports parents and unrealistic expectations, coaching youth sports can be one of the most draining experiences  known to man. So before you start, understand that:

Whatever you perceive the commitment level to be, you must double it – at least.

You may have had parents tell you “oh it’s only a couple of hours a night, two days a week of practice” or “The season is only 8 weekends and a couple of tournaments.” Ha. Yeah right – it’s not. That’s the selling point to get you hooked and considering coaching. You’re going to need to triple, or at least double your time commitment over that if you want to be a good coach (which, we’re assuming you do.)


There are so many responsibilities that come into play: roster rotations, practice planning, practice execution, post-game and post-practice meetings, talking with parents, coordinating travel for tournaments, scheduling games and practice times – the list goes on and on. Don’t forget that you’ll probably need to fundraise and convince other parents to join you as assistant coaches too.  Then, you’ll all need to meet to go over your strategy for everything.

See how everything adds up? You need to understand this so that you don’t jump into the coaching pool with two feet and then want to get out of the water after 5 minutes because you now realize how deep the pool is. After you realize the commitment level, you need to:

Ask yourself why am I considering coaching youth sports?

Is it because there’s nobody else available? Maybe you were a former player or coach and that group thinks you’re the best option?  Is it because you were approached by parents and asked to coach the team? Those are all valid scenarios as to why you were asked, but those are all things you need to wipe out of your mind when considering coaching.

The question is: Why are YOU considering coaching and what is your reason for wanting to coach? You need to put down a list of all the reasons why you want to get into coaching youth sports. You need to list what you’re excited about with the kids, what sparks your interest and enthusiasm about the group, and what you want to teach them both in competition and in life as well.

If your reasons are because they have nobody else, or they need to have someone who “knows what they’re doing”, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. Coaching youth sports is a massive responsibility and you should consider and think deeply about how you’re going to impact the kids’ lives – because they’ll remember it forever. After that, you should realize that:

Realize that parents today are absolutely nuts

And, they’re going to give you their “advice”, even though you didn’t ask for it.  That’s because they know everything and have all of the answers – just ask them and they’ll tell you all about it. If the parents don’t share their opinions with you, just be prepared to hear what they think about you through the grapevine.

Mike Matheny, head coach of the St. Louis Cardinals and author of The Matheny Manifesto, has coaching youth sports summed up in one sentence: “I’ve always said that the best team to coach is a team of orphans.”

Parents are nuts, and you’re not going to change the culture by committing to coaching youth sports. What you need to understand is that those parents are going to be nuts regardless if you decide to coach or not.  You need to ask yourself if you have thick enough skin to not care about the parents and keep the focus on the kids.  Because, at the end of the day when you filter out all of the noise, the whole reason why everyone is there is because of the kids.

And, they’re going to voice their opinion and try to call you out.

Parents today have zero filter. They’re going to tell you their opinion because they believe they are entitled to since they pay for their child to play. This is where thick skin comes into play and realizing that amongst all of the B.S., you’re there to coaching youth sports because you want to make a positive impact on the kids.

No matter how heated parents get, you have to ask yourself if you have the ability to be a leader and stick to your guns. As long as you were doing what is best for the team and the kids, you don’t need to worry about what the parents say or do. Also, when it comes to parents, you need to understand that:

Parents can be demanding, trying to make you think that you work for them

You don’t. Don’t cave into them. The last thing that you can do as a coach is to cave in on a parent’s demands. You need to decide if you’re the type of person that can deal with that. Parents are like toddlers: When they don’t get their way, they escalate their behavior trying to get you to change, then eventually blow up from frustration, and go back down the rabbit hole. You need to understand before coaching youth sports that these blow ups are going to occur, but if you have the right guidelines in place, you will be able to handle them with grace.

But understand that a parent’s lack of self-control and low emotional intelligence are the reasons why they’re blowing up in the first place.

It’s not your job to fix their problems. But, it is your job to set rules, guidelines, and expectations so that parents don’t cross the line and become a distraction to the kids. You will need to think about drafting up a set of rules for parents to abide by, much like a code of conduct, and have them sign it. A code of conduct will hold parents accountable for their actions and communicate right off of the bat that you don’t accept that type of behavior from the kids, let alone the parents.

Once you commit to coaching youth sports, you’re going to feel overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed is a natural, but don’t let it take your focus away from what you want to achieve.  Coaching youth sports is not a complicated process, even though many coaches out there make it to be. You need to consider if you have the necessary patience and the ability to stay on an even keel when others get all hyped up before you jump into coaching youth sports. As long as you can remember to stay centered while navigating the rough seas of coaching youth sports, you will realize that the waves get less choppier as you continue to set sail.

And, you need to understand that preparation means everything.

The 6 P’s are what separate the good coaches from the bad ones. Always remember:

Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance

You need to understand that coaching youth sports is all about being prepared.  Do you have the time and the desire to put a process together for your practices? A big part of the process is putting together a progression plan for the entire season that develops the kids mentally, physically and athletically. A plan takes time, a ton of thought and dedication to put together, but ends up making your life 10,000 times easier as the season moves along.

As long as you do your research you’ll be fine

If you don’t have an extensive coaching background, you don’t need to worry.  As long as you understand the game and understand how to structure a practice, you should be fine.  If you don’t know where to start, you need to understand that there are a ton of resources online to help you get up to speed.

Before you jump into coaching youth sports, you need to understand that you will have to constantly do research to find the newest drills and coaching concepts so that you can pass that knowledge on to the players. Youtube is a great resource to start and you can turn up a ton of results with a quick google search of (your sport)+ practice or (your sport) + drills.

And understand that you’re always going to feel like you’re catching up.

Before you jump into coaching youth sports, you need to understand that you’re always going to feel like you’re behind when it comes to coaching and managing your team.  If you want to be an effective coach, you need to delegate responsibilities to assistant coaches and team managers to make sure that everything from tournament entries to practice plans are taken care of. If you’re not the type of person that likes take on everything and has a hard time delegating, you’re limiting your ability to become a successful coach.

Yes, it’s about having fun – but it’s more about hard work, discipline, and life lessons.

The only thing that matters is having fun, right? No. That’s dead wrong.  While having fun is important for enjoyment, coaching youth sports is much more than that.  If you’re a coach that just wants to emphasize having fun, stick to coaching toddlers.  Playing sports is more about learning life lessons and the value of using hard work to stick to a process than it is about having fun.

You need to consider if you’re a person that can identify moments throughout the year that will teach life lessons and have the ability and personality to make working hard enjoyable.  If you are, then you’re good to go. If you’re a timid person that doesn’t like to call out what you see through steadfast leadership, then you’re going to have a hard time coaching youth sports.

Remember that winning isn’t worth sacrificing your integrity over.

Yes, you play to win the game. 100%. But, if you’re the type of person that will teach a “win at all costs” method, then coaching youth sports isn’t for you. Sure, at the end of the year you may have more $14 trophies on your fireplace mantle, but you are missing the point of coaching kids at a young age.  If you ever have to sacrifice your integrity to win a $14 piece of plastic that nobody cares about, then you have bigger problems that run deeper within.

Ask yourself these questions: Would you purposely tell your players to throw a game? Would you tell your kids to go after the other team’s star player? Answering ‘Yes’ in either of these questions is not just a red flag for coaches, but its a red flag for your character.

Realize that if don’t you get paid to win games, don’t coach like it

Unless you get paid to win games, you don’t need to coach like it.  Shortening the bench of an 8U, 10U, 12U team because you’re nervous about a player’s athletic ability is pathetic. The biggest life lessons that you learn are from failure and shielding kids away from failure at a young age by holding other players on the team back is wrong.

You may feel like you’re doing the right thing by giving your team a chance to win, but if you have a couple of players on the team that can’t athletically play the game, that’s your job to show them and teach them. Are you the type of person that can park your pride and play everyone?

And understand that coaching youth sports is not about treating everyone fair, its about treating them as equals.

You cannot treat everyone fairly.  It’s impossible. Life isn’t fair.  Before you decide to get into coaching youth sports, you need to understand that successful coaches can make everyone on the team feel equally important, despite their athletic ability. A team is like a car: Your best player may be the steering wheel and your worst player is that rusty little lug nut at the bottom that holds the frame together.  While the steering wheel is important because it drives the car, that rusty little lug nut on the bottom is just as important because it holds the car together.

Coaching youth sports is all about making the kids feel as equals.  Everybody is important and everybody works together. If you can’t work together as a team, you can’t win together as a team.

Understand that coaching is a thankless job

At the end of the day, coaching youth sports is a thankless job that comes with a lot of criticism. When considering if you want to get into coaching or not, you need to understand that the job will require you sacrificing your time without receiving any meaningful recognition in return. It’s not a job that a lot of people can do.  You will deal with parents that have molded their children into these little humans of entitlement.  Most of all, before you get into coaching youth sports you have to understand that you won’t be able to please everyone.

And, realize that coaching youth sports is about being a role model and teaching them about life.

If you’re the type of person that can teach with patience and educate your players about the intangible qualities of grit, perseverance, dedication, punctuality, work ethic, and teamwork, then coaching youth sports is right up your alley.

Coaching is all about showing kids the right path to take in life and the hard-to-master character traits that are important to stick with if you want to make it to the top. It’s about being the ultimate role model.

When considering coaching youth sports, you must understand it’s your responsibility to impact the kids’ lives in a positive manner and teach them lessons that will stick with them forever.  That’s what makes all of the sacrifice and criticism worth it.

Hopefully this list hits home for you and makes you realize the responsibilities, dedication, and sacrifices that comes with coaching youth sports. It’s one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences you can have as a parent or former player, but it’s not for everyone. It takes patience, selflessness, grit, and dedication in order to be successful. Now that you understand the commitment, the scrutiny and the effort that goes into coaching, it’s up to you to decide if coaching youth sports is right for you.