Last time we talked about being a coach and how to not only survive that “first season”, but creating coaching relationships that have an impact. The starting point is clarifying why kids play sports and join teams.
I’m sure there are all kinds of more profound and well researched answers. This is one parent/coach perspective based on my experiences as a soccer coach and the undersized, slightly unmotivated little leaguer above. Kids play sports for any combination reasons:
As the new coach, you will have players with all types of reasons they’ve stepped out of the backseat of the car and started walking towards you for all the answers. Again, embrace the chance to provide whatever you know at this point. It’s likely more than they know and will start you off on the right foot. Answer something and welcome the player into the team area and thank the parent for dropping them off. They don’t need to hang out and participate. It’s the players movie and the coach is directing the story. The parents are the movie studio, or financial backers.
Keep parents updated in the big “picture” as you make the film.
None of these players are there to be punished or bored, but they all have some differences in what will make it interesting and fun. You will not succeed in making them all happy at every practice and game. This is part of learning how groups work and how their individual roles and efforts contribute to the outcome. Expect that you’ll drive home from some games and practices bothered by someone who is bummed out. Make it your challenge to turn it around for them next time in some way.
Your goal as a coach in each practice session or game should be to guide the team as a unit and have meaningful interactions with each player. Note, I didn’t say parents. The interactions you have with a player is meaningful whether they are 5 or 17 years old, especially if they’ve been working with you for a longer period of time.
What you teach at 5 will help them learn whether the game is something they will pursue throughout their childhood and into high school. What you teach them at 17 will help them understand that people with the right intentions are those that you should put your trust in vs. those with superficial motives.
Where do the parents fit in? They are critical to helping their child learn all these lessons and grow. Part of that development is showing their child that they are still involved/interested but have confidence in their coach to contribute in some other ways. Everyone plays their role and communicates in the right forums.
It’s all about fun regardless of their age with a deeper purpose embedded.
Did you receive that dreaded, “Your Daughter’s team needs a coach” email? I did, and cringed. Almost ten years later, it was one of the best invitations I’ve ever received.
A dozen or so girls or boys at “U8” are a bit of an intimidating group as a parent standing there with a clipboard of names and no idea what to do when a player asks, “coach, what are we doing first?”. As a coach, you have a different opportunity. Many or all of them are there in cleats and shin guards for the first time and they are ready to play a game. They aren’t there to smash rocks and count blades of grass, although some will try. This is supposed to be fun! The first player that addresses you as “Coach” will help you understand the role you have with them. Show them the game is fun and challenging. Not all of these kids will love it. There will be a few that just dread coming to practice and games. You’ll see their parent standing in the doorway of a car’s rear seats negotiating with them to get out. It doesn’t matter to you as the coach. Find something in the team, game, or even the shape of the blades of grass, that helps that player get something from being there with you. They will remember something about you coaching them.
Why is this the best invitation I’ve received? The coaching relationships built with many of the players over 2-9 years are priceless. They put something of themselves into the game, take risks on your lead, and build a bit of “who they are” on their experiences. This isn’t trivial, but it also shouldn’t be intimidating for a coach. It’s one of the great privileges of being a Parent Coach. On top of it, "the coach" turns out to get a "thank you" from his daughter, 7 years into the timeline.
How do you get to this point? Check the next post. Until then, consider being a coach. One season is completely survivable and may turn out to be one of the great things you do with your child and their friends for years to come.
"As a coach, board member and new SYSA VP, I've likely seen and heard a lot of what you may be wondering how to manage as a parent or player. Great kids with supportive parents make it all a "once in a lifetime" experience.