The Orem Recreation Department utilizes volunteers as youth coaches. These volunteers are often a parent of one of the participants on the team. A typical scenario has mom or dad registering their kid, and being asked to volunteer as a coach. Oftentimes, a parent will even sign up to be an assistant coach and then find themselves named the head coach because no other parents volunteered. However you were selected to coach, thank you for being willing to help out.
Did you know . . . coaches are one of the most influential people in the lives of athletes. They have the opportunity and the responsibility to teach valuable lessons that can impact the development of a child… for a lifetime.
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MANY FIRST-TIME COACHES FIND THIS ROLE HARDER THAN THEY EXPECTED, SO HERE ARE A FEW TIPS TO EASE MATTERS AND HELP YOUR YOUTH ATHLETES.
1. Introduce yourself
2. Emphasize the importance of sportsmanship! After emphasizing sportsmanship at the pre-season meeting, discuss it every single week so everyone knows that sportsmanship is a priority. Expect it from everyone at practices and games and then acknowledge examples of good sportsmanship – or even better, ask the kids to point out the good examples. As the coach, set the standard – be the example! One person practicing sportsmanship is far better than a hundred preaching it.
3. Review the league rules and any specific team rules you might have.
4. Discuss schedule (games and practices, which are typically held once a week). Hand out copies of the game schedule or email copy/link later. Also distribute picture packets.
5. Review what equipment will be needed for practices and games. Share when and how they’ll get the uniforms.
6. Concussion review
7. Share Expectations: What can players and parents expect from you? What do you expect of players and parents?
8. Recruit the parents to help. One adult should NEVER be alone with the kids. Furthermore, it often helps to have some parents pitch in at practices and games. If you invite them directly, they will likely support you with a few extra hands. Getting them involved at your practices also makes it more likely they’ll be comfortable practicing the sport with their child outside of official practice time.
- Welcome each player by name at every practice and game. When kids arrive to coaches who are smiling and greeting them by name, they feel welcome and positive from the start.
- Plan practices that keep kids active. When kids are moving and active, they are more likely to stay focused. At the younger ages, avoid lines. Bring plenty of equipment, so kids are not standing around waiting for their turn. Find games/drills that give kids a lot of repeated practice of the skills. Additional help at practices will assist in keeping the kids active. Consider having “stations” where a different skill is taught at each one and the kids will rotate through the various stations.
- Be brief! Six 60-second conversations with your players at a practice are much better than two 5-minute conversations! Make the most of the 30-60 seconds you’ve got their attention! A suggestion: when you’re talking to your athletes, get onto their level (at least physically!) by taking a knee, so you can (literally and figuratively) see eye-to-eye. And be positive!
- Pick 1-2 areas of focus per practice/game. You likely only have one hour for your practice. Pick one topic (two at the most!) to introduce and repeat over and over again. At the start of practice you might say, “Today is going to be all about passing.” Then each time you bring the players in, ask them, “What is our focus today?” Then have this same focus for your competition that week. Whenever you see it being executed well, let your players know it, “Milo, awesome pass to Nathan!”
- End practices/games on a positive note. At the end of practice or a game, call in all of the athletes and the parents. Ask the kids: “Who saw one of your teammates do something well?” The kids are actually good at answering this question. Then ask the parents, “Parents, what did you see that you liked?” This gives the parents a nice chance to recognize specific, positive things they saw, and it ends the practice/competition on a high note. This would be a great time to review sportsmanship and identify those who exemplified it.