Coaching Youth Athletes
The Joys and the Pains
By: Tyler Zavadsky Twitter: @TylerZonESPN
Is any one out there as big of a fan of Garth Brooks as I am? Yes, no, maybe so? Well regardless of the fact that you may or may not like one of the greatest country stars to ever grace the radio, one of Mr. Brooks’ songs reminds me a lot of coaching youth sports.
“Rodeo” is the song in particular I am thinking of off the album Ropin’ the Wind that was recorded in 1991. In the song’s chorus there are a couple of lines that go as follows: “... It’s the ropes and the reins, And the joys and the pains, And they call the thing rodeo...”
Now while I fully grasp the fact that this song is about a women missing her man who goes off to compete in the rodeo entirely too often, I feel that this song speaks to many youth coaches out there.
Just like in rodeo, coaching youth sports and interacting with youth athletes can certainly have endless joys that are coupled with the occasional pain.
Whether you have kids now that are currently involved with youth sports, or you yourself were involved in youth sports, everyone has encountered and dealt with the highs and lows of youth athletics.
There are undoubtably an endless amount of “joys” in working with youth athletes that every coach can attest to, but I have singled out a few of the aspects of coaching that I have personally enjoyed the most over the years.
The word “Coach”
Sounds easy enough to understand but also conspicuously vague, but to hear a young boy or girl call out “Hey coach!” literally brings joy every time I hear it. The word is simple enough, but “coach” brings up so many emotions and meanings tied to the aspects associated with trust and respect. Every time an athlete calls out that moniker, it shows an immeasurable amount of faith and confidence that any given young athlete has in you to help guide and teach them to be better day in and day out.
The actual act of coaching and every task that goes along with it is a joy. From scheduling drills at practices to putting together the lineup and then finally carrying out the game plan, being a coach is exceptionally rewarding. Teaching the athletes and coaching them up on things they must improve on is one of the main tasks you must work on day after day. Some days may be tough, others are unquestionably rewarding. A quick story...
I have been coaching a middle school baseball team in Whitewater since April. Just like any other sport, you start off with teaching the basics the first couple of weeks. Some kids excel right away, others struggle to grasp even the fundamentals. What was truly rewarding to see after the first couple of weeks was what are players were doing with each other, and that was coaching each other up. As a coach you can talk and demonstrate until you are blue in the face the fundamentals of any game, but you never really know if the players fully grasp the concepts. But when you see one player begin to teach another player the concepts you have just previously talked about and aid in their teammates development, that is when you know you have succeeded. When a player has the confidence in a skill that you have just coached him on to then turn around and coach it himself, you have done your job.
I mean hey, it should be every coaches goal to turn every individual into a coach themselves out their on the field... It’s frankly easier that way as well.
Simply interacting with the kids
If you ask any coach worth a lick, he/she will tell you that their players are essentially an extension of their family. Heck, some coaches actually spend more time with their athletes than the athletes spend with their own families. You need to assume that role of parent or guardian if you will during the time you are with the team. Be a strong impact on their lives. Be a mentor and a teacher, but more importantly, be a friend. Sometimes thats all some kids need in life. From kindergarden to Friday night senior year, you have to be there for your athletes every step of the way. Young people trust their friends more than anyone and if you as a coach can be that type of influence in their life, you must embrace it.
Being an authoritarian coach can only get you so far. Sometimes you need to joke with the fella’s about the group of girls that came to watch the game. Or maybe how you can’t believe teachers have the audacity to still assign homework over spring break. Whatever it is, sometimes just being there is a joy enough.
With every joy that comes with coaching, there are still a few pains that are associated with being a coach.
Won’t delve to deeply into this one. Everyone knows what this is all about and if you don’t, maybe you are that parent. All I can say is if little Johnny or Suzy is so darn good and should be playing every second of the game, where is your child's contract and endorsement deal...?
Group noise and the pack-mentality
No matter the age, all it takes for a practice to be ruined is one kid to sneeze. Well, not literally sneeze but hopefully you understand. For example: Practice is going great, everyone has been on task, all the drills are going great and then you get together for team activities. This too is going well until one player starts to make a few too many mistakes. He/she begins to not care any more, starts to give up and then hardly participates. Before you know it you have half the team lollygagging around causing a ruckus and the other half wanting to continue. Well then wouldn’t you know it six minutes later everyone is picking daisies and you might as well just pack up and head off to MacDons to eat your stress away...
Weather and Makeups
We live in Wisconsin and Illinois. One day its a beautiful June afternoon and then tomorrow it is 42 degrees and there is a pending blizzard warning for the overnight hours. Weather is #1 on the list of off the field pains coaches deal with. Between finding a date that works for most of the players on both teams and one that works into your schedule can drive a coach insane. Can’t we just construct a dome over both of the states and call it a day? Sheesh.
No matter the sport, age level, or the organization you are coaching for, there are so many more joys to coaching youth athletics than one can ever begin to articulate. So go out there, volunteer your time and change a young athletes life. I guarantee it will also change your own.
By: Tyler Zavadsky Twitter: @TylerZonESPN
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