Famous author, speaker, and philanthropist, Steve Maraboli, says,
“A lack of clarity could put the brakes on any journey to success.”
Unfortunately, if you have spent any amount of time involved with an organization that operates in confusion, then you know this to be true.
In fact, it is quite easy for a youth sports program to end up functioning in a bit of chaos.
This should come as no surprise since sports participation is made up of a lot of moving parts and there are 3 separate parties involved – coaches, athletes, and parents.
There are some areas in particular that seem to need clarifying, early on in the season, or confusion can quickly enter in. They are:
It greatly benefits the whole program when efforts are made up front to create an environment of clarity. Here are some things to consider as you look for ways to improve the sport experience for all parties involved.
Have you ever met a parent who seemed to think he was the sport’s official? How about an athlete who took on the role of team celebrity? Or a coach that didn’t realize there are boundaries to his authority?
None of those people were operating in their appropriate roles and it quickly becomes obvious to everyone.
Role confusion will derail the efforts of the entire team because each of their functions is complementary and needed for favorable outcomes.
Here – in a word – is the main role for each group with the opposite that all too often happens:
1. Coaches are to be teachers – not generals.
2. Athletes are learners – not circus performers.
3. Parents are supporters – not agents.
As Coach and leader for the team, it is your responsibility to educate your parents and athletes of their role on the team. This can take place at the beginning of every season in a meeting that aims to educate and equip in a positive and proactive environment.
It also goes without saying, that as the coach you need to remember your own role of teacher and not allow behaviors to slip in that make you seem more like a general.
Why exactly do we participate in sports? What is the purpose?
These are important questions for everyone to consider and particularly valuable to look at from the standpoint of the athlete.
First and foremost, it should be fun.
For some, that might seem like an obvious reason. However, teams will always encounter the mindset that it is all about winning or only seen as successful when every practice and competition is hardcore and serious.
It is important to remember that this is not an athlete’s JOB. Laughing, enjoying friendships, and healthy fun should be a major part of the experience.
Secondly, the development of the whole person is a greater ambition than just focusing on technique improvement.
Sports are an ideal platform for a child to grow and mature as a person, not just an athlete. It is here that they can practice:
● Kindness toward others
● Good attitudes in the face of challenge
● A willingness to work at something
● Respect for authority
● Facing disappointment with courage
A third, noble purpose is learning, that performance trumps trophies every time.
It is expected that young athletes will desire to take home that large trophy.
It is the duty of coaches and parents to give the message that efforts and performance are what they can take pride in and that plaques and trophies are secondary.
When everyone agrees on these valuable purposes, the far-reaching life-lessons can be learned.
To assume that everyone comes to sport with the same expectations would be like believing that everyone on your street buys the same kind of socks.
It is highly unlikely.
One area in particular, where expectations can vary, is in the understanding of motivation.
Here are three key points about motivation that are often misunderstood.
● Motivation is the pursuit of a personal unmet need. Therefore it looks different for each athlete and cannot be judged as good or bad.
● Motivation comes from within and cannot be forced by a coach or parent. The athlete has to take ownership.
● Motivation may change with each season and need to be seen in the context of life.
Framing expectations within these tenets of motivation help bring clarity for athletes, parents, and coaches.
Final Take Home
Clarity on roles, purpose, and expectations will not happen by accident. It needs to be a high priority for every sports program.
As coaches, you lead the team and set the tone by your own example.
Provide the knowledge and tools to equip your athletes and parents and open the doors to a successful and enriching experience for everyone involved.