By Alex Perdikis
So you’re thinking about becoming a youth sports coach. There is almost nothing as rewarding as working with young athletes, changing lives, building character, promoting teamwork and watching kids grow into strong, independent and caring people.
The values and skills kids learn when they participate in youth sports bring untold benefits throughout their lives. Working with young athletes is one of the most fulfilling jobs you can do. But, not everyone is cut out to coach.
How about you? Do you have what it takes?
Coaching Youth Sports is a Huge Responsibility
Coaching is vastly rewarding and also one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Working with kids is only half of it. You’ll have to deal with parents, administrators and a host of other adults, all with their own opinions that will sometimes be at odds with yours.
Coaching is also fraught with responsibility when it comes to the young players whose lives you’ll touch. Your behavior, style, lessons and actions will leave a lasting impact on every single player you coach.
What will your legacy be? Will the kids remember you as the “mean guy who called me names” or will you be remembered as someone who was supportive and made them feel strong and confident?
Coaching requires patience. That doesn’t mean you don’t have passion. It does, however, mean you realize you’ll be working with children, not miniature adults. Kids make mistakes. You’ll lose games because of them. It’s all part of a child’s learning process. If you rant and rave after a loss and ridicule team members, you’re not youth sports coaching material.
What Makes a Great Coach?
Coaches have different personalities and styles, of course. But great coaches share common characteristics that make them assets to the lives of young athletes. Here are the 10 top traits a great youth sports coach has:
- Has a deep knowledge of the sport. This should go without saying, but unfortunately it’s not always the case. That doesn’t mean a coach needs to know every obscure rule in the book. It means you have the wherewithal to research and investigate the rules if need be.
- Loves the game and the team. The key to passion is demonstrating a love of the game and the team as well. If you’re passionate, your team will be, too.
- Is committed to safety. Safety comes first is the motto of a great coach. Great coaches complete safety and first aid training, such as CPR, first aid, injury prevention techniques and various sports-related injury treatments. That includes not only what goes on in game play, but watching out for events that might put the team in danger. For example, outdoor games or practices may have to be called due to the dangerous weather conditions. Lightning, even if it looks far away, is no joke. As a coach, it’s your job to keep everyone safe, even if it means stopping in the middle of a game.
- Demands civility and respect. The coach is first an example of respectful behavior and then an enforcer. Great coaches don’t allow disrespectful behavior from players or their parents.
- Is flexible. Coaching is not a one-size-fits-all vocation. Rigid teaching methods won’t work in youth sports. You’ll have players with differing abilities, perhaps players of different genders and your team’s talents and capabilities will vary from year-to-year. The best coaches adapt training programs and teaching styles to meet the needs of the team.
- Knows his or her players. Each child is different. Each child needs personal attention. A great coach learns what each player needs to stay motivated and grow.
- Promotes teamwork. A great coach uses techniques to bring members together. Team-building activities such as parties, cookouts and fundraisers builds a bond between members and encourages teamwork rather than individual achievement.
- Has a way with words. The best coaches know how to communicate. They speak equally well to children and adults.
- Lives the life. Coaches lead by example both on and off the field. A coaching career goes with you to your home, job and social activities. It doesn’t matter what you do, you’ll have to uphold a high standard and a caring, empathetic demeanor.
- Is humble. Even great coaches make mistakes. Tempers are lost sometimes. When mistakes are made, however, they own up to them. They apologize. They make sure what happened was an exception, not a pattern. You’ll make mistakes. It’s how you deal with them that matters.
There you have it. If you think you can handle the job, by all means take the plunge. Being a youth sports coach is one of the most rewarding jobs you’ll ever have.