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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Three simple questions that can make you a much better youth coach…

It’s always good to walk by a sports field or arena and see a youth coach working with youngsters who is passionate about and really committed to what they are doing.

When that passion turns negative, however, it’s a concern.

When we conduct seminars for youth coaches, we try to stress some simple but important notions.  One is this:  as a coach, you make a very big impression on the young people you interact with every day.  The other is:  youngsters will remember your words and actions for a very, very long time.  So you should always ask yourself, as a coach, “How do I want to be remembered in 20 years?”

It’s a pretty important question.  Because if you want to be remembered as someone who made a real and positive difference in the lives of the young people you worked with, if you want to have had an impact on their values, their desire to “succeed”, their ability to overcome challenges and the hurdles that they will inevitably encounter, then the opportunity is there for you.  You can be the kind of coach that teaches them every day—about sports and about life—and makes them feel better about themselves and their potential.

Or, you can stress the importance of winning over all else, play favorites, laud (and also exemplify) the wrong kind of “leadership” and perhaps even destroy confidence through negativity, poor behaviour and/or constant yelling and negative reinforcement.

There are shades and nuances of course.  Most coaches are not all one way or the other, when it comes to the traits I just described.  But in all cases, whatever impact you have and memory you create, you are writing the script every day—right now— for what your athletes will say, feel and think about you 20 years from now.

Sometimes as youth coaches there is so much focus on winning that you inevitably try to find the biggest, fastest and most skilled players to achieve that goal.  As a result, your real role as a youth coach is sometimes lost.

Every youngster learns differently.  Some need to hear the lesson.  Some need to see the lesson.  Most need to repeat the “skill” asked of them over and over to build the confidence that they can do it “right” in a game situation.

But of course, there is much more to coaching than developing the skills of your players, as important as that is.

For example, do you ever ask them why they love the sport they play?  If not, ask the question.

Do you ever ask your young players what really motivates them, personally, to want to come to the field of play in the first place?  If not, again, try asking them.

I can’t tell you how many coaches I’ve worked with over the years that neglect to ask these most elementary of questions.  Yet the answers can reveal so much.

By taking the time to speak one-on-one with the young people you are responsible for as a youth coach, and asking these simple questions, it will be a window into their world.  You may be able to connect even better with them, truly understand their feelings, aspirations and dreams-  and also help them be even better than they were before. 

It may also help to make you a much better coach.