Don’t Be That Awful Youth Sports Coach
I will start off by saying: I am not a youth sports coach. I do have 10 years experience coaching kids at the high school level, but have never coached youth soccer, youth baseball/softball, or anything of that sort.
The first thing I learned coaching high school track and field is: know what you’re working with. Is this kid here to cream the competition? Or, is this kid here to get out of a PE requirement? Each kid is coached appropriately. Do I need to push this kid to be better? Or do I need to foster his love of the sport?
With that said, I’ve seen a full spectrum of youth coaches when it comes to my kids sports. Anything from a (dad) coach who is clueless, but just wants his kid to have a fun time; to a coach who thinks he’s coaching relief players for a professional team. I will also note, I keep my mouth shut regardless of the coaching style. I am not the one putting in my time to help these kids have a good experience.
My daughter has been playing recreational league softball since she was 5 years old. My son was always a soccer kid, but after being dragged to all of his sister’s softball games, he decided at the age of 11 that he wanted to start Little League baseball. He wasn’t horrible, he could throw, catch, run, hit the ball. One thing I noticed, was that at that age, “daddy” coach didn’t do any coaching at all. He just ran the kids through drills, and my poor beginner son, had no idea what he was supposed to do. Luckily, my husband, with lots of experience playing baseball, was allowed to shadow our son through practice to give him the teaching techniques he needed.
Needless to say, based on coaching decisions and behavior, we didn’t finish that season. I’m not one to pull a kid from a sport, but it was a very bad situation for everyone.
Flash forward a few years… my daughter is now playing 12U softball. She’s still at the rec level. Since she’s so young, we haven’t ventured into travel ball only to keep her from burning out before she has the chance to play high school ball.
We are playing on a team right now for a coach we’ve played for a few years ago, but I’ve noticed a big change: the coach coaches these kids appropriately for their age AND for their skill level. If you’re stepping out with an “All Star” helmet on, he’s harder on you than if you’re a beginner and don’t know what you’re doing. Do I mind if he yells at my kid during a game? No! She’s wearing an “All Star” helmet, she can take that extra push. But, what does he do with a first time player up to bat? He gives all the encouragement in the world, is patient, and celebrates ANY action at the plate, even if its a strikeout. Of course, a strikeout isn’t something to be celebrated. BUT, the young athlete is learning and growing. Did she swing and miss? That’s progress over just standing there watching the ball go by.
I feel that so many parents forget why they are involved in kids’ sports: FOR THE KIDS!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to the ball field to see a dad ripping into his 8U or 10U daughter about how terribly she played. Hey, dad, guess what? It’s youth rec ball, it’s not the Angels, relax!
I don’t like traveling to different city fields and seeing either signs mounted on the backstop, or sandwich board signs reminding parents how to “act” at a youth sports game. Come on!?!
My advice to parents: be patient, and know what level your kid is playing at. If they’re playing club sports, you can expect more out of them than just playing rec. Let the kid learn to love the game before you ruin the experience.
My advice to coaches: know what you’re working with! Are you working with little girls in a rec league or high school kids? Know the difference, and coach appropriately.