Love of the Game: Can You Coach It?

By October 2, 2015 No Comments

As coaches we all want players who have a love for the game. We want players who show up every day with energy, excitement, and passion for the game. But as Mick Jagger would say, “You can’t always get what you want.” So my question is, can love of the game be taught? I think so and here’s why and how.

Some are born with or develop an inclination towards sports more than others. However, I am believer that anyone can learn anything. The danger is assumption. We can’t assume young athletes will grow to love the game simply through participation. Here are five ways to coach your players to love the game.

  1. Make it fun. First and foremost is the level of enjoyment players experience. No matter what it is we do, we must enjoy it. If coaches make it a priority to have fun, kids will develop a love for the sport. Now, this includes more than team pizza parties and handing out awards. This should include daily competitions. Coaches should make it a priority to create fun drills that teach the game while promoting competitiveness. Practice is the best part of each day and players should look forward to it, so why not make it fun?

2. Show the value. It’s not simply enough to know what’s being done, but kids want to know why they’re doing it. As coaches, we should make it a priority to teach our athletes why the game makes them better people. Knowing this why will increase the buy-in and desire for the athlete. Through daily instruction, athletes can see their tangible gains on the playing field. If coaches provide real life examples of how athletics help down the road, athletes are more likely to develop a greater appreciation for the sport. A great idea is to discuss noteworthy leaders who have benefited from participating in athletics. Coaches should also share personal experiences and stories of how sport has impacted and benefited their lives.

3. No wasted time. When kids stand around they get bored. Let’s face it, this generation is like ten-second Tom from 50 First Dates. We are constantly fighting for our kids attention. As coaches we need to make sure all kids are involved and participating. We have to coach all kids, not just the best ones. Practices should be well-organized and time spent standing around should be at an absolute minimum. If players are active throughout practice they will further develop self-confidence and love of the game.

4. They are more than a player. Something I tell my players all the time is, “Who you are as a person is far more important than who you are as an athlete.” Coaches absolutely have to convey to players that they are important. Not just because they can shoot or throw a ball, but because they are unique individual who has value. When athletes feel valued, they have a true sense of self-identity. This fosters confidence, and in turn a real appreciation for the game which brought self-identity and confidence. As coaches, we must praise efforts, not results. We must develop meaningful relationships while getting to know our players personally.

5. Be an encourager. Would you love the game and want to play for a coach who constantly criticized your every action? Of course not. Coaches need to lift up rather than tear down. We should focus on praising athletes and filling buckets. Coaches should also be role models, and aim to add substance to their players’ lives. Think back to your favorite coach growing up. What qualities did they possess? When asked which sport they enjoyed the most, athletes will respond with the one they had the best player-coach relationship in. Rather than pressuring athletes to perform for results, we should focus more on teaching the game of life.

Playing sports can be a transformational experience. And they should be. By following and implementing these five steps, the “Love of the Game” will come naturally.

What do you do teach love of the game? We’d love to hear your ideas.

As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!


Coach Elmendorf is available to speak to your team, group, or organization. Message him for details.