Coaching Youth Sports..... Many of you have requested advice on coaching youth sports (especially hockey, this was a great article I found really interesting)
So You Want to Coach Youth Sport?: Seven Critical Questions
By Arron Stewart
If you’re reading this you have developed some interest in undertaking a coaching role in youth sport. Without wishing to discourage potential coaches, it is vitally important that you understand the magnitude of the commitment you are making when you agree to coach a youth team or athlete. Coaching is one of the most gratifying and rewarding endeavors you will ever undertake, but at the same time, life as a coach can be demanding. Indeed, coaching can involve considerable amounts of time and effort, and can also require a variety of other personal sacrifices. When considering coaching sport at the youth level, seven critical questions should be in the forefront of your mind:
Am I truly passionate about the sport I intend on coaching?
Common sense tells us that people who are passionate about what they do typically do a better a job. Coaching is no different. The best coaches are those who genuinely get excited by the sport they coach, find the mentoring aspects of the role enjoyable and feel a sense of pride in passing on their wisdom to the next generation of players. If you’re not passionate about the sport you intend on coaching, chances are your players won’t be passionate about your coaching.
Do I really have enough time and energy to be a committed coach?
As stated, coaching is a commitment. The prospective coach must understand that it will consume some of what might otherwise be their leisure time. Furthermore, as a coach, you must also be willing to put in a consistent effort, even when you don’t really feel like it, and even if it sometimes clashes with your home or social life. Despite your best intentions, if you don’t have the time or can’t muster the energy, you will likely do more harm than good.
Do I posses the skills, knowledge and experience to effectively coach this sport?
Every sport involves a different variety of skill-sets, rules, equipment, training methods and more. Some sports are relatively unique, but even those that share strong similarities inevitably feature many points of difference. Being an effective coach requires a keen understanding of these elements, ideally one that has been gained through personal experience. This is not to say that you must have played, or indeed excelled, in the sport in question, but rather that it is crucial you are operating from a solid understanding of the sport and its fundamentals. If you do not feel you have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to effectively coach a sport, you should certainly rethink your involvement.
Do I posses the skills, knowledge and experience to coach at this level?
Youth are involved in a variety of levels of sporting competition, from social and informal matches to high-pressure elite competition. Not only must a coach posses the skills, knowledge and experience required to effectively coach a sport, but also, a realistic appreciation of what level(s) of sporting competition they are qualified to coach at. Incompetent coaches are quickly exposed and vilified in high-level sport, the potential outcomes of such a scenario are usually damaging and discouraging for everyone. It is vitally important therefore, that coaches do not take-on assignments that are beyond their capabilities. If you do not feel you have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to coach at a given grade of competitive sport, you should aim instead for a coaching role better suited to your level of competence and/or take proactive steps towards upgrading your coaching capabilities.
Am I getting into coaching for the right reasons?
There are just as many motivations for taking up coaching as there are coaches. Still, while every coach is different, everyone gets involved for a reason. Typically, these reasons are admirable and morally justifiable, but not always. Some common motivations for getting involved in the coaching of youth sport include: the desire to give something back to a particular sport or the sporting community in general, a genuine interest in working with children and helping them achieve their goals and ambitions, a vested interest in preserving, promoting or enhancing the status of a sport, a belief that children should be active and participate in sports and, very often, a family legacy of involvement. Some examples of unacceptable motivations include: desires of personal glory, fame or wealth, revenge, popularity, living vicariously through others and the desire to have power or control over others. When considering coaching, you must question yourself as to the true nature of your motives. If you find these to be wanting, the sport is probably better off without your involvement.
Do I relate well to young people?
Every human being is different. Some of us relate better to our elders, some of us to those that are younger than ourselves. One thing is for certain, if you intend on getting involved in the coaching of youth sport, you’d better be able to deal with their whims and ways. There is no denying that this can be quite difficult for some people, indeed there are individuals whom find it almost impossible to understand what goes in the adolescent mind, let alone how to communicate and interact meaningfully with youth. If you do not enjoy being around young people, or you can’t/won’t communicate with them on their level, it is highly unlikely that you’ll be happy or effective in a youth coaching role.
Is there anyone that will support and/or advise me in my coaching?
Even the best coaches need help. Support networks are vital for all coaches, and particularly so when given the fact that many youth coaches are relatively inexperienced and lacking in formal training. The good news is that there are a variety of organizations, both public and private, that are able to give you advice, assist you with your own training and development as a coach, provide access to resources, and more. This assistance must often be sought-out however, and if you are unwilling to accept help, or lack the capacity to seek out and consult these bodies, your coaching journey may well be fraught with difficulties and disappointments that will inevitably reduce your effectiveness and limit your enjoyment.
If you can honestly answer “YES” to all of the above questions, you’re well on your way to becoming an effective, caring and committed youth coach. Get out there, and get involved!
If you answer “YES” to most of the questions and “NO” to some, you should think again about getting involved in youth coaching. Perhaps you could wait until you find yourself in a position to answer all of the questions in the affirmative.
If your responses are mostly “NO”, it is unrealistic for you to take on a coaching role at this time. But don’t be discouraged, there are a variety of other ways you could contribute to youth sport.
Arron Stewart Is 26 years old, lives in Hamilton, New Zealand, and attends the University of Waikato as a graduate student in Sport & Leisure with an additional focus on Sociology and Human Resource Management. Arron has over a decade of coaching experience in youth and senior sport. A website has been established featuring more information and selected articles of his work: http://www.geocities.com/arron_stew_79