What would you say is the “why” for youth sports participation?
Is it to learn and practice self-discipline?
Perhaps it is for the socialization it provides, in a healthy environment.
Or, would you say that it is to develop a skill that will help to build self-esteem?
Regardless of your answer, you probably agree that youth sports participation is for the benefit of the kids. Yet, all too often the focus can shift to the interactions between parents and coaches. When these interactions become negative, the effectiveness of the program is impacted and enjoyment goes “out the window.”
Here are four potential areas of concern with simple strategies to set your program up for success.
What are the goals of your program?
Is it for beginner athletes to learn the basics of being on a team? Perhaps it is a bit more competitive – are you hoping to train up scholarship-worthy athletes? Or are you simply focused on developing a love of being active?
Any of these are acceptable but it is crucial that they are communicated and promoted prior to the start of the season. Families that understand the purpose of a program are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome.
Clear communication before a family commits can make all the difference:
- Be sure that the preseason materials accurately describe the ambitions of your organization.
- Speak to parents one-on-one, about the level of commitment expected from their young athletes before they sign up.
At times it may be difficult to keep a clear understanding of a parent’s role and a coach’s role during a practice and/or game. In fact, there may be times when assumptions are innocently made that lead to frustration and negative feelings on both sides.
The overlap between what is inherent in parenting and what is expected in coaching make this a common area for inaccurate judgments.
Parent meetings are a great platform for a coach to convey what he sees as the role of the parents in a program.
Even better than telling parents what that is, a coach can open up dialog by asking parents what they see as their role. The conversation that ensues can shed light on preconceived notions and help both parties to avoid misunderstandings.
Occasionally, it may become apparent that a coach’s strengths do not perfectly align with the aspirations of the program.
A coach may actually be overqualified for a team that is less about technical skill development and more about exposing kids to the basics. This could leave her bored and disillusioned.
On the flip side, it is also possible that a coach might lack the level of expertise that is required to take a team to the next level.
Provide your coaching staff with the tools they need to succeed. Continuing education empowers your organization one coach at a time. Here are some great formats where this can take place:
- Coaching workshops
- Sports clinics
- Monthly, informative webinars
- Online resources
Parents That Push
Competitive drive in some parents may supersede the motivation in their young athletes. This can create an unhealthy imbalance that leaves the parents perpetually discontented and their athletes feeling defeated.
A pushy parent can sour an athlete’s taste for competition and sports in general.
Inspire and educate parents on how to best support their child’s athletic pursuits:
- Have online resources readily available on the organization’s website that provide practical steps parents can take to show support.
- Weekly parent and coach huddles lasting 5-10 minutes can provide communication that helps parents to feel like they are a part of their child’s development – but in a more positive and structured way.
Clear, consistent, and purposeful communication is the foundation for a healthy program. When effective systems are in place and resources are made available, coaches and parents can come together to achieve the goals of the program – and ultimately, young athletes have sports experiences that are beneficial and memorable.