Prospect Communication's Youth Sports Blog - "Taking You Beyond the Game!", features our own articles and commentaries that deal specifically with youth sports. Browse the site to read any articles that may be of interest to your sports organization. The articles are copyrighted to the authors (Michael Langlois & Mary-Louise Langlois) and they may not be reproduced without permission. To inquire about licensing the right to reproduce any of the site's content please contact us at inquiries@prospectcommunications.com

Prospect has a unique and specialized approach to communications skills and issues management geared towards those involved with youth and minor sports. Michael and Mary-Louise's work in this area is ideal for parents and coaches who want to make the most of children's involvement in sports.

Some of Mary-Louise's articles on the youth sports experience appear on the Suite.101 website found at -

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Missing too many late bloomers in youth sports

In observing the youth sports culture over the past almost thirty years as a parent, it has been a relief in recent times to notice what I hope is a permanent shift in attitude.  There is at least a spoken commitment these days (we will have to wait and see if actions follow words) regarding the notion of developing young players for the long term.

That strikes me as a very good thing.

I raise this in part because it has been my experience over the years that, too often, youth sports coaches focused on building winning teams at the expense of helping all the players on their roster get better. This approach tended to include selecting and/or giving the most playing time to the biggest, fastest and oldest (those born early in the calendar year) kids and any youngsters who were really outstanding at the early competitive ages.

On the one hand this is understandable, I suppose.  Coaches naturally gravitate toward young athletes who stand out at those early ages (e.g. ages 9 through 14). They want to create a roster that will win games today if they are involved in competitive leagues.

That “win now” focus may create some short-term team success in terms of winning medals, but often at a much larger cost to kids who deserve better.

If coaches (and parents) step back and reflect, they will recognize that the vast majority of kids play sports for fun and to be with friends. Sure they like to compete, but most aren’t thinking (at least not seriously) of a professional career in athletics.

So what do most youngsters want, when it comes to their experience in youth sports?

They want to play, they want to have fun, and they want to improve their skills so they can enjoy the game even more and compete better.

If a coach is really doing his or her job, then they are also looking to build the skills of all their players.  Even the really good young players may suffer if a coach does not have the ability to really develop players to their potential, because the coach doesn’t help them improve their overall game.  Too often coaches with the “win now” mentality just focus on the things those gifted youngsters do well to help their team win today, when they could also be helping that youngster become an even better player.

And what about the other, supposedly less talented players?

Many young athletes develop later than others their age.  Physically or emotionally they may not “find their game” until they are older.  These youngsters often may be extremely coachable, have big hearts, work hard and do all the right things.  But maybe they may lack the technical skills, speed or size to compete at a high level when they are very young.

Over time, however, if their level of dedication remains high, they improve by leaps and bounds and become very good players.  By then, however, the system has often passed them by, and there is little or no chance to get noticed for opportunities to compete at the more elite levels.

Of course, really good players can sometimes find their way through that system later than others, thankfully.  But my concern is for those youngsters who may lack the confidence early on to continue on in their sport.  How many kids do we lose because they are deemed “not good enough” in various sports when they are only 12 or 13?

Hopefully the current focus on long-term player development in sports will have a carry-over effect that ensures youth coaches (and scouts for higher-level teams at the provincial/state and/or national levels) always keep an eye out for that player who may emerge later in life than some of the early obvious standouts.

Those coaches just have to know what to look for.

Sometimes the late-bloomer can win the race—if given a chance.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Confidence and young athletes

Maintaining confidence can be an elusive thing for the very best professional athletes.  So it’s no wonder that many young athletes need support when it comes to their own development in this area.
Even highly paid professional athletes go through times when their confidence is quite fragile.  A “goal scorer” who doesn't score for a few games, a baseball player who goes a few games without a hit and suddenly, they start questioning what they’re doing, even wondering if they’ve “lost it”. And these are the best of the best, proven over many years as absolutely outstanding in their field.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

“Are You an Inspirational Youth Sports Coach?”: our new eBook now available…

We’ve written here over the years about ways that youth coaches can better connect (or connect even better, in the case of those who already do a great job) with their players.

It’s always easy to give advice—much more difficult when you are the individual with the responsibility of working with, teaching and leading young people.  But because the task is indeed so important, almost everyone who cares about being their best can look in the mirror and find ways to do a better job of instructing, motivating and inspiring young athletes.

And it’s worth making the effort to do just that.

That is why we have developed, “Are You an Inspirational Youth Sports Coach? ”.  In this new eBook, we bring together a number of the original articles that we have developed over the years—articles that provide youth coaches with tips and ideas for building better relationships with their players. 

In the seminars that we conduct on building confidence and character in young players, I often remind coaches in the audience that, if nothing else, the one thing they must never do is to kill the love a young person has for their sport.

That’s a minimum.

And as important as that is, I think coaches can do a lot more than that.

If you’re interested in checking out “Are You an Inspirational Youth Sports Coach?”, here is the link to the Amazon book preview page in Canada.

Acknowledging there is room for personal growth and improvement is a good start. So whether coaches are looking to be better when it comes to issues management, want to improve their overall communication skills or recognize that they simply want to connect better with youngsters, this book can be one more tool at their fingertips. (There are also a number of articles in the book geared toward parents that will assist them in navigating the youth sports experience and help them to help their own youngsters.)

Really good youth coaches are always looking to inspire their players to be their best on and off the field of play. We hope “Are You an Inspirational Youth Sports Coach?” will help you—and your players.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Finding the right youth sports coach for your child: 10 things to look for

Those of us who have been through the youth sports “system” over the years (close to 30 years as a sports “parent” in my case) know one thing: whether your child loves—or hates—the experience will have a lot to do with the coach.

There’s no question that we, as parents, also contribute significantly to either the joy or misery that our kids will experience in youth sports. That’s a subject that I’ve written about before as well.  But it’s important to keep in mind that how youth coaches behave around and interact with their players is something youngsters remember for a long, long time.

While most parents likely feel they have little option but to accept whatever coach (volunteer or paid) is put in charge of their youngster’s team by their local Club, I would suggest there are some things to think about before you commit fully to a particular youth sports program.

Here are some questions you may want to reflect on as you begin to observe the environment you are walking into:  

Monday, January 6, 2014

Five tips for youth sports parents before New Year’s resolutions are forgotten

A new year inevitably brings talk of personal “resolutions”—things that we want to do better or differently going forward.  Sometimes individuals are very good at staying with their new plan, but it can be a challenge not to fall off course.
We have written a lot here at our “Taking you Beyond the Game” site over the years about what we believe are important values to uphold when it comes to the world of youth sports.  Whether as a coach, parent, volunteer or Club administrator, there are certain principles that should matter.
From a parent’s perspective, here are five simple thoughts that might be worth trying to use as a guide throughout the coming year—especially when emotion gets in the way:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Humility is a key ingredient in the overall development of athletes and coaches

One of the important traits I have emphasized frequently over the years in my writing on youth sports is one that I believe is under-valued: humility.  That may seem to be a foreign notion given our modern-day propensity for believing that “success” is driven by positive self-esteem and self-confidence. But humility, to me, remains an essential individual quality—a true virtue, to use an old-fashioned word—in the ongoing and healthy development of young athletes (and people in general).

As important as a healthy ego, good self-image, confidence and self-esteem are (and they surely are), most successful people—business leaders, coaches, athletes…  Continue reading

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

7 traits of highly effective youth sports coaches

Coaching youth sports, whether as a parent, volunteer or paid professional, is a daunting task—but also a wonderful opportunity to influence the lives of young people in such a positive and lasting manner.

While seeking to constantly upgrade one’s skills and experiences is certainly crucial, being a “certified” coach in and of itself is not a guarantee of quality.  Some outstanding youth coaches have no certification at all, but do possess invaluable life experience, intuition and sensitivity.  They are somehow instinctively able to connect with young people to help them achieve their best.

Some “qualified” coaches bring only that to the table:  levels of certification and courses that they “passed”, but seem to bring little else in the way of, say, communication skills or the ability to actually demonstrate what they want from their players.  They too often lack the ability to connect, motivate and inspire.

So here is a short primer of traits, qualities and characteristics that players and parents (or Clubs looking to hire a coach) can look for:
  • Do the coach’s players look forward to the next practice/training session?  Generally speaking, a coach who makes practices and training sessions a great experience engenders in his or her players a desire to want to improve and work hard while training.  They make practice a real challenge but fun at the same time. If your son or daughter jumps out of the car to get to the playing field to train, that’s usually a good sign.
  • Does the coach really know how to communicate with young people?  The ability to listen—really listen—is often the first step in being an effective communicator.  The youth coach who spends at least as much time listening as talking themselves knows they don’t have all the answers. As a result, they are always trying to be better at their job—and better at developing the skills and strengths of their players while also ensuring those players improve in the areas that they might struggle in.
  • The coach who focuses on and rewards behaviour, effort and attitude over outcomes sets themselves apart from the crowd. Too many youth coaches reward an isolated play that helps their team “win” a game, as opposed to a player or players who consistently support teammates or show leadership and team spirit in a variety of subtle ways—ways that only a truly perceptive coach will notice.
  • A good youth coach does not have to yell constantly or berate players during games.  A coach may be a yeller, and that is acceptable if it is understood by all that yelling is their method of instruction—and not intended as heavy-handed public criticism.  But a really good coach prepares their teams thoroughly and, as a result, the players themselves are able to make decisions on their own on the field of play.
  • A really good youth coach not only allows “mistakes”, he/she actually encourages their players to try things in order to improve their skills and become more comfortable on the field/ice/court. A player with a great attitude, spirit and work ethic does not deserve to be put down for a mistake—mental or physical.  Young players with the right attitude will grow through trial and error.  The good coach allows for creativity and experimentation.  The coach who creates fear in their players kills development.
  • The wise youth coach remembers what it was like to be young themselves.  They know that a young boy or girl can’t enjoy a sport (or grow and develop and improve their skills) if they feel as though they have a piano on their back all the time when they are playing in a game—that is, adults who constantly tell them what to do, when to do it, or that they are always somehow doing it “wrong”.
  • If, as a parent, you have identified a youth coach who knows how to inspire youngsters, you have found gold. The youth coach that knows how to connect with and make youngsters not only feel better about themselves but can push and challenge young people in a healthy way will have a lasting—and positive—impact on your child.
There are many more things that could be added to this “list”.  But it’s a start. (When Stephen Covey famously authored a book about the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” in the late 1980s, he would no doubt have acknowledged he was only scratching the surface. There are many other traits he could have added.) Everyone reading this has had their own experiences as a player, parent, coach, volunteer or Club administrator and can add to the list. 

I’ll close with something I often say in the seminars that my wife and business partner Mary-Louise and I conduct for youth sports Clubs: if nothing else, a youth sports coach should never, ever kill the love a youngster has for their chosen sport.

That some coaches do, sadly, is one of the central reasons that so many youngsters leave sport as an activity by the age of 13. And it shouldn’t have to be that way.