Sometimes we never fully realize the power a coach has on the trajectory of lives. Youth coaches play a tremendously vital role in the growth and development of our young people. This week I am going to share a story to help illustrate the importance of youth coaching.
It was the fall of 1993 and perhaps one of the most agonizing moments for an 11 year-old boy. Up until this point in his life he played basketball, baseball, and soccer. Soccer had now run its course and he was officially burnt out on the sport. The boy told his parents that it was no longer fun and that he didn’t want to play anymore. The boy’s father brought up the idea of playing football. His son was intrigued, but scared nonetheless. He was scared because he had only played backyard football with family and friends, never on an organized tackle football team. What further made this situation intimidating was the fact that not one of this boy’s friends were going to be playing football. So, he told his parents that he did not want to play football and was going to take the fall off.
The boy’s parents did not like this idea because they didn’t want their son sitting around doing nothing. They wanted him to be active and try new things. When it came time for the start of football season his parents convinced him to give football a shot. On Tuesday night in August, the first team practice, the 11 year-old boy cried and did everything he could to not go to football. After an hour or so of pleading with her son, the mother somehow got him into the car and up to football practice. The boy was very uneasy and agreed to only go for one night and that if he didn’t like it, he would not have to go back. Well, something magical happened that night. The terrified 11 year-old boy had a great time and loved every minute of it. All thanks to two youth football coaches: Don Pierce and Jim Earnest.
The boy fell in love with football and had a great first season. He went to school and told his friends about his football team and how much he loved it. The next fall, many of his friends would join him on the team. The rest is history.
Confession: That 11 year-old boy was me.
The reason I came to love football was completely the result of experience I had and the positive environment Coach Pierce and Coach Earnest created. Youth coaches have tremendous influence on the lives of the young athletes they coach. Sadly, many do not fully appreciate this and let their insecurities and ego’s get in the way. Coach Pierce and Coach Earnest did not. They went out of their way to teach us the game, how to play safely, and most importantly how to have fun doing so. I have no idea how my life would have turned out had I not played football. I met so many friends and developed many great friendships by playing the game. Many of the experiences I had while playing football have influenced my decision to teach and coach. This all came back to me as my senior year football team was honored on our 15th anniversary last weekend. I saw Coach Earnest before the game and spoke to him briefly, and on the way home I wondered to myself, “How different would your life be had you not had Coach Earnest and tremendous experience in youth football that you had?” When I got home that night I text my dad to get Coach Earnest’s number. I gave him a call the other day just to tell him thank you. I told him I appreciated everything he did as a coach and for the experience he provided me and my teammates. It was nice to hear how appreciative he was for the phone call and to briefly reminisce on the fun times shared.
If you ever had a coach who had the impact Coach Earnest had on me, I challenge you to do the same. Pick up the phone, call them, and thank them.
Here are three quick points to master for a youth coach.
- Create a positive environment- As a youth coach it is imperative that you establish a warm, welcoming, and friendly environment. At the same time, you must not be overwhelming. Make sure kids feel invited and welcomed, but stay away from being too loud and cramping personal space. The really great youth coaches have just the right mix of enthusiasm and personality without being overbearing.
- Have Fun-This is most important. Once kids feel welcome, make it a point to incorporate fun methods of teaching the game. As a coach you want the kids to look forward to practice. You want them to want to be there, not crying at home to avoid going.
- Teach and encourage-Youth athletes are going to struggle with certain skills and concepts at first, so it’s imperative that you encourage them as much as possible. Coaches should focus on teaching the fundamentals and being the most positive person at practice. Those who do are the most successful and well liked youth coaches.
Sound Off: Did you have a youth coach who helped you have a great experience? What did they do to make it positive? If you unfortunately had someone on the opposite end of spectrum, why was this the case?
As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!