Coaching youth sports can be a very rewarding activity. You are present to observe your team growing and learning, facing challenges, and experiencing success. But being a coach brings with it a huge responsibility. As a coach you are also a teacher and a role model for your athletes. You are ultimately responsible for making sure each one of your team members has the most positive experience possible.
By the nature of the work you do, you have the opportunity to make a tremendous impression on the lives of the youth under your direction. In fact, research has shown that coaches impact the motivation, enthusiasm, enjoyment, and self-concept of youth sports participants. What is even more critical to realize is that these factors also influence long-term involvement in sports (1). Chances are you have heard stories of a coach who, through his or her influence, has had a tremendous impact in the life of a youth headed in the wrong direction, or maybe you even have your own experiences of being there for a child in a precarious situation who needs advice. I know I remember each and every one of my coaches starting with my first day at soccer practice in elementary school through my last track practice in college. Most of the memories are good ones, but there are also memories of a coach or two who had good intentions but just had no business coaching. You have a decision to make. Are you going to be the coach who leaves your team members with fond memories for years to come, or will you be the coach about whom your former team members say, he or she had no business coaching?
There is a huge challenge surrounding coaching in youth sports today. Most recreational youth sports organizations rely predominantly on volunteer coaches who have very little training for what it is they are doing. The need for coaches is so great that youth sports organizations can ill afford to chase away interested coaches by making them sit through intensive coaching sessions, which these busy volunteers probably feel they do not have the time for. In addition, in my experience the required “training” most coaches must attend is a far from adequate. There may be the required sexual abuse workshop and the one time, two-to-three hour “training” session, but these do not adequately prepare coaches for dealing with complex issues such as making practice developmentally appropriate. These sessions focus more on dealing with parents than on developmental differences among children and how to deal with them. The sessions I have been involved in did not teach the coach how to structure a practice to best meet the needs of the participants. And these sessions did very little to address the “winning is everything” mentality held by too many adults that has no place in youth sports. Motivational climate was not discussed. Neither was any information given on how to help children re-define success and failure, so that they are capable of seeing the small successes they make every day in practice instead of just looking at their win-loss record to know if they have succeeded at sports.
With the tremendous popularity of youth sports and the millions of youth participating in them, it is imperative that we have a youth sports system that looks after best interests of the young participants. Unfortunately, the general opinion on coaches seems to be that “anyone can coach” (1). This is far from the truth. Youth sports coaches must be competent and knowledgeable about child development, motor development, biomechanics, sport psychology, coaching techniques, training and conditioning methods, nutrition, injury prevention, first aid, and legal risk management. Youth sports organizations have a responsibility to their paying public to ensure that the volunteer coaches they employ are knowledgeable and capable when it comes to dealing with children. However, too many barriers exist which seem to be preventing organizations from requiring more formal training for their coaches (1).
But it is not just the organization’s responsibility to ensure that a coach is adequately trained. As a coach, you should desire to be the best possible coach you can be and seek out opportunities to educate yourself. There are many resources aside from the pre-season “training” session offered by your organization that exist to help give coaches the knowledge they need to be competent in their profession. Many organizations even offer courses via the internet which you can complete on your own time. Check out the resources below on this site and other. But don’t just stop here. You can work for change in the arena of youth sports by demanding that the organizations employing volunteer coaches provide adequate training.
Coaching Articles on This Site:
Coaching Articles on Other Sites:
Coach Training Resources
(I make no claim as to the efficacy of these programs. I have simply attempted to assemble a list of useful resources for you to use at your discretion)
ASEP offers the following online courses for coaches: Coaching Principles, Coaching Youth Baseball, Coaching Youth Basketball, Coaching Youth Football, Coaching Youth Soccer, Coaching Youth Softball, Coaching Youth Tennis, Coaching Youth Volleyball, Coaching Youth Wrestling, Sport First Aid
KSN is a website for coaches and parents. The KSN offers coach training programs, articles, and support to volunteer coaches.
Locations of regional clinics
You can purchase the official Little League training program here.
Offers on-site presentations as well as a free online course
NASPE offers resource material, workshops and the yearly National Coaching Educators’ conference for coaches.
Other Coaching Resources
This website offers an electronic newsletter with great information and articles for parents, coaches and athletes. It is run by the Health and Physical Education department of Virginia Tech.
Offers on-site and online training programs
This website gives information on team management as well as what a practice session should look like for U6 and U8 teams. It also gives sample lesson plans.
(1) Wiersma, L. D. & Sherman, C. P. (2005). Volunteer youth sport coaches’ perspectives of coaching education/certification and parental codes of conduct. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 76, 324-338.