Did you ever notice how kids are more receptive and learn better from having fun? Fun is a great way to keep your young athletes involved in the game, increase their participation and retain their attention. It makes them enthusiastic about playing well, learning, and playing more. Of course, if something is boring, you are less likely to pay attention. Think about some boring movie you watched or a boring sporting event. Exactly! You lose your attention and wander off counting the minutes until the torcher ends. Now, think about your young athletes practicing or playing in the game. If it is not fun, they check out.
Here are some great tips for you to be a more successful youth sports coach.
1) Number one, have fun!
Coaches need not get caught up constantly being competitive. There is nothing wrong with competition but learn to bring fun to the competition. You have to remember that your young athletes are children. And children don’t like to do anything that is not fun. Fun is the key component to teaching them new skills and boosting their participation. If it is not fun, kids will get bored and mentally tune out. Fun is mistaken many times for weakness, and it is the exact opposite. Children and youth are more receptive and learn more when the drills, games, or practices are enjoyable. That is why it has always been said, don’t take the fun out of the sport no matter what age you are, even for paid professions. Greatness is created by people enjoying what they do.
2) Have friendly competitions and challenges.
Young athletes love to challenge each other for fun. “Hey, I’ll race you to the cones.” However, if your practices are filled with repetitive drills, they will equate them with doing homework or house chores. Boring! Young athletes need excitement, motivation, and inspiration and do not see playing sport as belaboring as cutting the grass in the summertime. It is a chore they are not interested in doing.
3) Be positive.
Being a nagging negative nelly is a no-no. As a coach, remember you have a ton of personal experience. Recap what it is like when some nags you, makes you stress or is negative. It is not productive, beneficial, or enjoyable. It is positivity that leads to trust, self-confidence, and a positive nurturing environment. And, this helps develop young athletes physically, mentally, and emotionally on the field and in life.
4) Understand your athletes.
Each athlete has a different way of learning. As the coach, it is your job to understand what makes your athletes tick and the best way to teach them and enhance their skills. Fun is the bait. Once they take the bait, you can help them adjust their skills by creating a fun drill for them to do at practice and at home. Before each practice, the athletes should work 15 minutes on their weaknesses and deficiency, but, make it fun for them. Knowing your young athletes’ strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and needs allows you to individualize your coaching. This improves your young athletes’ ability and capability. Finesse and flexibility are essential to understand personality, motivation, and how to adapt them to learn.
5) Establish good relationships with their parents.
Your team is bigger than you think. You forgot to include your young athletes’ parents. As a youth coach, it is beneficial to have a good rapport and connection with their parents. Remember, kids are king when it comes to observation. They see and feel everything that happens around them. When your young athletes see you have a good relationship with their parents, it teaches and structures them about how to have good relationships. Effective and friendly communication with parents is essential. You need to understand the parents’ personality, motivations, and emotions, just like your athletes, to convey your information, ideas, and thoughts properly to each one of them. They all have different ways to receive information too! Coaches need to be chameleons. They need to blend and adapt to various and different players, parents, people, and environments.
6) Ensure players show good sportsmanship.
Sportsmanship develops and derives positive qualities from playing sports that ramify through life. It is the glue that adheres respect, fair play, and honesty together. Never forget, sportsmanship is just as important as developing their performance skills. Sportsmanship leads to self-confidence and self-improvement. For example, be nice to the referees, the other team, the coaches, and parents, even if they are not goods sportsmen. Stand up for your principles and values and learn to rub off on people to help them understand sportsmanship. It only takes a spark to start a blazing fire.
8) Don’t scream at your athletes for mistakes on the field.
Screaming at your athletes makes them fearful. And fear will diminish their performance and hamper their ability to play well in the future. Nothing is going to be perfect.
9) Think like a kid.
You were a child once, so, think like a child and use what works to develop their future selves. As a coach, you know the qualities that when taught as a kid, what will broaden their horizon through life.
Fun, fun, fun! Follow this principle and you cannot go wrong. Fun leads to being positive, and being positive leads to motivation. And motivation enhances potential. As a youth sports coach, try to remember, “All kids need is a little help, a little hope, and someone who believes in them.”- Magic Johnson
And in the great words of the legendary basketball coach, John Wooden,” In the end, it’s about the teaching, and what I always loved about coaching was the practices. Not the games, not the tournaments, not the alumni stuff. But teaching the players during practice was what coaching was all about to me.”