Coaching Youth Sports

So I have just made a big leap from 0 to 200 mph. My kids’ soccer teams were in need of a new coach because there’s a shortage of volunteers in the program. They sent out a message to all parents asking if anyone would be willing to step up, and I, thinking a team needed a coach, said I might be interested.

Well as it turns out two teams were without any coaches and I somehow talked myself into volunteering to coach two teams simultaneously this coming season. I then proceeded to trick my older brother into being my assistant coach for both teams as well.

So here I go not just jumping, but leaping tandem into a whole new arena (coaching) that neither of us have done before. We both a have a lot of experience with the sport and are pretty gung hoe about it in general, but I am a little frightened I’m going to mess up and do a bad job.

It’s U9 and U8 rec soccer, so there is really not pressure to perform (outside of the parents who take it too seriously, I’m sure I’ll encounter). I just want to do good by the kids and help them learn.

So does anyone have experience with youth sports with some wisdom to impart on me as I take this leap? Pitfalls I should avoid? Counterintuitive strategies you’ve found that benefit the kids?

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Wow! I’ve never coached a sport. Good luck!

Debbie and I did take a quantum leap into something else though, the kid department. We had 1 daughter of our own, then we adopted 3 boys and a girl within a short time period, like 1-2 years, IIRC.

The one thing they all had in common was, they all played soccer, some ended up at a very high level. One daughter was goalie for her State Championship team. She allowed 3 goals the entire year, including scrimmages, tournaments, playoffs, and the championship. Only 3!!! She was amazing.

My advice? Become buddies with the best soccer coach you can, and soak up the knowledge. We picked up on some good parenting skills from some of the coaches our kids had.

We went to every game for every kid. You need to find those kind of parents on your teams, and lean on them, heavily. They can take it. Divy up the workload.

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That’s awesome, SS. I am one of those parents who gets bored standing around, and get a bit perturbed when my kid is standing around waiting for an instructor/coach to tell them what to do…so I end up roped into helping. Never did much organized sports with the boys, but we did Cub scouts and skiing lessons. The ski school was awesome for the kids, and I of course got roped into helping on the first year…then became a part time instructor in the following years. Cub scouts, they needed a den leader, so yeah, I stepped up, then further to become the pack treasurer.

I am not the best teacher in the world, but will work with any kid who wants to learn, and enjoy watching them get good. Teaching a kid who doesn’t want to be there…but whose mommy/daddy want him there…sucks. You have to expend more time than it’s worth cajoling that kid to come along with the group, and way too much time explaining to the parents why the kid is not progressing. I was lucky in the ski school that I had layers of management above me that I could pass the parents off to. Some parents were better in finding ways to help me keep the kid engaged, others just wanted me to baby sit the kid so they could go ski (or sit in the pub, dunno). But, I learned to always be proactive in talking to the parents about why little Johnny/Janey won’t pay attention, etc., because they sometimes had insights that helped. Or would agree that the class wasn’t a good fit for him/her.

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One last cautionary tale…a painful experience for me. I got really frustrated in my last year as a ski instructor, and decided to bail, because I was missing out on spending time skiing with my sons (spending too much time being instructor and not enough being Dad). The result, though, was that we skiied less as a family, because there wasn’t a “need” to go skiing - the boys were no longer taking lessons. And I had become less enthused about skiing because it had become work, not fun. Looking back, I should have stopped being teacher earlier, before the routine became a grind.

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@Latexman Thanks for that advice. I have a bad habit of not asking for help when it is a good idea, so I’m going to try to keep that in mind about looking for helpful parents.

@btrueblood Thanks. In talking to the director of the club, it sounds like I’ll have a good amount of support if I’m having trouble. We’ll see if that was just them selling it to me or not, but I am optimistic.

I hope that soccer doesn’t become a workload for me. I always loved it, and so does my brother. I haven’t played in any serious capacity in some years now, but my brother still plays in a men’s rec league and I’ve got a lot of confidence him and I could be a great one two punch as a coaching team.

I think working with your brother on this is an excellent opportunity for both of you. That’s awesome.

I left my home town when I got my ChE degree, and only get back for visits. I’ve missed out on what you and your brother have.

At this age, children are great observers of adult behavior so be mindful of when/how you express your frustration and joy. Also, you’ll need someway to establish that you aren’t going to play favorites with your own kids on the team.

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Oh believe me, my kids are far from my favorites! I kid, I kid :clown_face:.

I’m honestly more concerned about being a little too hard on my own kids, but I think I can find that balance once I get going.

I told them over the weekend that when we’re at practice or games, I’m not Dad and their uncle isn’t Uncle anymore. We’re both Coach from when we get on the field until we get off the field. I doubt either the kids or the both of us will be able to keep that up, but hey, maybe it’ll work :hand_with_index_finger_and_thumb_crossed:.

Favoritism will likely be a concern for the overly competitive parents. I helped a co-worker with some of his games when his assistant coach wasn’t available and I was more than a little disappointed with some of the snideness that young children’s sports can breed. I’d swear half of all bullies are made by screaming parents at sports events - but I digress.

I think it’s better to stay engaged in a dialogue with your kids about how they feel about you being the coach than trying to have the persona split, and it will help clue you into whether or not you’re being harder on your kids than others. But as with all things, you won’t know until you try and practice makes perfect.

Don’t forget to cut yourself some slack too, being Superdad is hard work!

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I haven’t seen anything about why.
My attitude:

#1. Have fun.
#2. Learn team work.
Winning is much more important to the parents than to the kids.
I have seen quite a few examples but you have to look hard, and sometimes overhear the kids talking amongst themselves.
One example:
One year my sons team was very badly tiered,
As I remember they were about 9 or 10 years old.
They didn’t win a game all year.
The “A” team had a team bus.
The “B” team were driven to games by their parents.
One weekend the “A” team had a home game and they loaned the bus to the “B” team.
The “B” team lost again and the parents were depressed again.
BUT
A few days later I overheard a small group of players talking about the game.
“Hey. Wasn’t that a great game last Sunday?”
“It was awsome.”
“The best game we ever had.”
“THAT BUS RIDE WAS FANTASTIC.”

That season the kids and the coaches were depressed and demoralized.
But.
The coaches never let the kids see how upset they were.
They kept the kids having fun all season.
No kids dropped off the team.
Drop-offs are the first sigh of not having fun.

One thing that has the potential to be a lifetime lesson is teamwork.
It’s not too early to stress teamwork, and at that age teamwork may win more games than fancy plays.
At that age coaching will have little effect on later performance at the college or semi pro playing.
My suggestion is to watch for and recognize teamwork plays.
Make teamwork as important if not more important than scoring.
At that age our leagues had a rule:
Players were not allowed to score more than 2 or three goals. (It varied)
Once a player scored his quota of goals he had to pass and let someone else score.
This taught passing and pass receiving and teamwork.

After about ten years of watching three children playing team sports, I came to realize that the social aspect is much more important to the kids than winning or losing.

My son was fortunate to have a coach who taught teamwork.
Everyone played their shifts, regardless of ability.
When my son started playing hockey he couldn’t skate.
He could stand on skates and thought that he could skate but realistically he couldn’t.
As I remember there were two practices during the week and then a league game on the weekend.
William was on the ice for his full shifts.
Treating all players equally is a good start to teaching team work.
Five or six years later, the team made it to the provincial finals.
One of eight teams in their tier going for the provincial title.
They lost to teams that they should have beaten.
I asked my son what went wrong;
“We forgot our teamwork and we lost.”
I am sure that those boys will remember the importance of teamwork for the rest of their lives.

Now Will is active in High School Rodeo.
That is a weekend of hanging out and socializing with friends.
The socializing is interrupted for an hour or so each day when Will rides a horse and spends 10 or 20 seconds chasing a steer across an arena trying to rope it.
Then back to socializing.
(Will and his partner missed their catch on Saturday, but won third place in team roping on Sunday.)

Forget winning.
Have fun and emphasize teamwork and winning will take care of itself.

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Wise words. Thank you WaRoss for sharing your experiences.

I myself spent time on “B” teams, as it were, when I was younger. It was demoralizing at times, but since we were in it together, we kept going and we managed to have fun despite blowout losses. I know for a fact that I can take losses in stride as a player and a parent, so hopefully that translates to coaching as well.

Our 1st practice went pretty well under the circumstances of 2 new coaches and a bunch of random kids meeting for the first time.

The admin stuff is already getting on my nerves though.

Congratulations! Maybe you can find a volunteer for the admin work x)

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Find a parent that cares and is in admin work. My wife did it for all five kids teams as they were growing up. She was an Executive Secretary by training.

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Let the other parents know that you need a team manager.
Chances are excellent that there will be a parent who wants to be more involved with their child’s sport but does not have the experience to coach.

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