Coaching Youth Sports: Reminding Parents It’s Fun

Spring is finally in the air. No more being stuck inside because of nasty, cold weather. Instead, we’ll be running around puddles and dodging umbrellas. I’ll take that trade-off. With the warmer weather comes Little League, soccer, track, tennis, and other spring sports. Parents will be dusting off their beach chairs, filling up water bottles, and packing snack bags.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Brandenburg

This season will be my fourth coaching my son’s soccer team. Coaching him has been one of the highlights of parenting for me. But with coaching comes a lot of stress, anxiety, and weariness – mostly because of other parents. My team currently has a great set of parents whom I love and care about almost as much as their kids. It took us a while, though, to get to that point. Coming into this season I’m more comfortable than I’ve ever been, because the parents trust me and I know them.

Being a coach is a difficult job. Parents are entrusting us with their most precious gift in the entire world. Every game and practice I remind myself of that. I have to do my part to help your children develop; but the parent-coach relationship is a two-way street.  I’ve listed some things below for you to remember so you can do your part:

  • Coaches are only human. I try and remind my team of this constantly. I am only human and I will make mistakes in judgment, planning, and organization. Most of the time I’ll get it right, but mistakes happen. Also, most of us are volunteers and have packed coaching into an already busy day.  Go easy on us.
  • The coach sees the whole picture. Oftentimes, parents are focusing mainly (or solely) on their child, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. But the coach is looking at the whole team – who is in and out of positions, who’s tired, who’s hurt, who’s in a mismatch, who’s doing great, who needs extra encouragement – and trying to balance playing time and many other things. We see your children and every other child on the field.
  • I have no problem with parents telling me their dislikes. I encourage them to come and talk to me. Because if they don’t, their kids will. Kids always tell me during practice what their parents say. Parents are part of the team and talking to your kids without talking to me first can create disunity and dysfunction on the team.
  • When talking to your kids, don’t say things like, “You’re the best player on the team,” or “Nobody can do ______ like you.” Even if it is true. And chances are, your kid is not the best at whatever it is you’re telling them. They might be really good at it, but probably not the best and telling them they are will not help at all. Saying things like, “you’re great at___,” is fine. Time and again during practice, I’ve heard a kid say, “My dad says I am the best player on the team,” or “my parents say I’m the strongest person on the team.” The problem is, other kids hear this and have no problem explaining to said kid why they are not the best – usually in a not so nice way. These comments make your kid seem cocky and no-one wants to hear someone boasting about themselves. Would you?  Encouraging your children is essential to sports, but don’t put them on the top of the pedestal if you want them to be part of the team.
  • Go easy on the coach’s kid. For some reason, the coach’s kid is the second most scrutinized player on the field. And I get it that. The main reason I got into coaching was for my son. I would not be the coach if it wasn’t for him. His playing time and position is monitored by many parents and I used to be overly-sensitive to that. I ended up being harder on him than I was on any other kid, even to the detriment of the team. Then, one day, a parent that used to play pro-soccer walked over to me and said, “Stop pulling him out so much. The team needs him.” With that parent on my side, I tossed aside the other sensitivities. Another thing to keep in mind?  The coach’s kid is at every practice and every game. Whether they are sick or not, they’re there. Coach’s kids are the first players to arrive and the last to leave. They’ve put their time in and earned their playing time.
  • Always remember that the most important thing is for your children to have fun. Yes, winning is great and adds to the fun, but it isn’t the most important thing.  If they aren’t having fun, they won’t learn any of those great lessons sports instills and they’ll resent being forced to go to practice and games.
  • Kids aren’t the only ones that should be having fun; parents should too.  Over the years, I’ve seen parents almost to come blows with other parents. I’ve heard parents swearing or yelling at their kids, other kids, refs, and coaches. If you are not having fun at the games, then you’re only making it harder on your children. Have fun and enjoy the moment. Don’t let your frustration ruin their time.

“Just play, have fun, enjoy the game.”

                                                                                                                Michael Jordan


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