One of the most enjoyable (and I feel important) things that my wife and long-time business partner Mary-Louise and I have done in recent years is to utilize our background in communication to conduct seminars for youth sports Clubs. Our focus is on how better communications can help coaches, for example, to do some simple but important things to build better and much more positive relationships—and outcomes— with their players (and with parents, too).
More than just communicating a bit better, coaches can and should work to build confidence and character in their young players. (In fact, that’s the title of our talk: How better Communication can help build Confidence and Character in young players.) A lot of that can indeed be accomplished by being better at putting themselves in the shoes of their players—and the parents they interact with, too.
As parents ourselves, Mary-Louise and I made our share of “sports parent” mistakes over the past 25 plus years. (Our eldest of four sons, now 33, first became involved in youth sports when he was 7 years old.) While we encountered some wonderful people along the way, we also witnessed attitudes and behaviours that were toxic from some coaches and fellow parents. This life experience as “sports parents”, along with our background in communications and working in the amateur and youth sports field, has led to our offering the seminars that we do.
Lately, we have also begun hosting a program expressly for parents, to help them recognize small ways they can be better at understanding the needs of their own youngsters and also how they can become better at developing relationships with their child’s youth sports coaches. In fact, we just conducted a parent seminar recently for a large soccer Club in the Greater Toronto Area, and we were thrilled with the very positive response we received.
No coach—and no parent—is ever perfect. Sadly, coaches too often coach to “win” at the younger ages when the real opportunity and focus should be to develop the skills and attitudes of all their young players—not just the select few who are bigger and faster and who seem to have the most obvious “potential”. This “win at all costs” mentality often results in kids leaving sports at a young age, because it simply isn’t enjoyable any longer.
Surely the “job” of a youth sports coach is not to “win” but to ensure that all players learn, improve and enjoy the overall experience so much they want to stay in the sport that they loved to begin with. In our talks we sometimes say to coaches: if nothing else, at least do not kill the love that your young players have for the game.
And that can apply to parents as well, because we too often bring our over-invested emotions to the table, and it causes us to act out in the youth sports arena in ways that we never would in any other setting. It’s not just “living through” our own children, though that can be part of the problem. We push, criticize and develop expectations that are, in some instances, not realistic. We ask for higher standards on the field of play from, say, a 9 year-old, that we can’t possibly attain ourselves in our everyday life.
In the end, we can do damage to our own kids, and that’s never good.
There are ways we can all be a bit wiser, more thoughtful, more positive, when we are part of the youth sports landscape. If you represent a youth sports Club and would like to find out more about our seminars and how it can be a benefit to coaches and parents (and therefore to the youngsters at your Club), send me a note at Michael@prospectcommunications.com