03/08/2016

Having been involved in youth coaching for many years, I have seen some trends develop that concern me. This article will discuss those trends, which I call The Five Trends In Youth Coaching I Would Change.

1.Winning

The first trend that I would change is the way youth coaching places too much emphasis on winning. 

A win does not always indicate better and a loss does not always indicate worse.  The performance of a young athlete should be based on effort, which is something that they can control.  Sometimes the only thing we equate to success is a win, but we should instead be focusing on progress, development, and improvement. 

Your evaluation of an athlete’s performance should only involve the things in that performance that he or she can control.

2. Labels

The next coaching trend that I would change is the way kids are labeled at an early age.

These labels, usually words like “talented” or the reverse, “unathletic” can change the way a child views himself or herself and close the door on a sport where they may excel if given the opportunity.

When I hear the word “talent” I always wonder, “What does that mean?” There is so much to talent beyond just the physical skill of an athlete. Talent should have other components including motivation, coachability, discipline and desire.  Many youth coaches label kids way too early based strictly on size and maturity. 

I have often said that I would take a kid with heart and hustle over a kid with talent any day.

3. Removing Athletes Because of a Mistake

The third youth coaching trend that I would change is the tendency of coaches to take an athlete off the playing field when they make a mistake.

Removing a young athlete immediately after an error simply shines a spotlight on the athlete, creating an emotional attachment to the error. In doing this, the coach has really hindered the athlete because making mistakes has now been discouraged. 

Mistakes are learning opportunities that involve taking risks. An athlete who is afraid to fail will stop taking risks and therefore stop progressing. Coaches should encourage kids to push their limits and in the process have the freedom to make a few mistakes.

4. Yelling

Yelling is not coaching and it is the fourth thing that I would change. 

Let me be the first to say that I do raise my voice from time to time.  However, in the heat of the game, it is not the volume that is detrimental but the actual words that are used.  When coaching an athlete, always keep your speech instructional and helpful. Instead of yelling “REBOUND!” or “QUIT THREE PUTTING!” try phrases like “Go after the ball,” or “Stay steady when you putt.”

Keep asking yourself if the words you are using are instructional in nature and can help the athlete improve.

5. All Star Teams

Finally, I have a hard time understanding the objective of All Star teams. 

As a highly competitive person by nature, I enjoying winning as much as the next person.   Early in my coaching experience I was impressed with the success of several youth All Star baseball and basketball teams.  However, after looking at the makeup of these teams (the tallest, fastest, most developed 10 year olds in the area), and watching their long-term development, I am less impressed. 

On these teams, there are always more wins than losses, and the fact is there should be.  In the long term, the athletes on an All Star team tend to miss the essential lesson of working through disappointment in addition to the real value of being challenged. 

Many times, it is the difficulty of playing teams that are more skilled that motivates the athlete to do better.

Conclusion

These pitfalls of coaching are ones I myself have fallen into from time to time. But our responsibility as coaches and parents requires us to be aware of these and avoid them because of the negative impact they can have on both the game played and emotional development of our young athletes.

We need to keep in mind that we are key players in the development of our young people, and our behavior, words and choices should reflect that.