Jeff Farris
It is a good thing most businesses do not take their method of passing on expertise from one worker to the next from youth coaches. For many coaches, this method involves starting green, figuring things out under fire and then taking that knowledge with them when they leave. Just like players, coaches are developed through education that is tested and refined in actual situations. Unfortunately, there are no practices for coaches where they can master their skills before actually applying them. This lack of practice forces coaches to take responsibility for their own education and improvement. Here are 10 suggestions.
  1. Search the bookstore and the Internet. With 2.5 million volunteer coaches, there is a wide variety of books and topics at a sport-specific level.
  2. Talk with other coaches. Coaches with a few more years of experience can be invaluable for new ideas concerning both players and parents.
  3. Get feedback from parents. While parents may not be sport knowledgeable, they often have interesting perspectives on child motivation and interests.
  4. Get feedback from players. Listening to things from a player's perspective may be quite different from the adult perspective. Relaxed time before and after practices can be a great time to gain player perspectives.
  5. Attend training sessions. Many groups routinely conduct training sessions that address coaching improvement.
  6. Watch other youth games. Observing other teams, especially at the next age level, can give coaches insights into the needs players will have as they continue playing.
  7. Videotape practices. Reviewing team practices can help coaches better see the effects of specific drills or player skills and attitudes. Coaches can also watch to make sure practice time was organized effectively.
  8. Ask a parent to help with non-coaching tasks. Any additional time that can be obtained to use for planning practices or games will always be useful.
  9. Organize and plan ahead. Naming drills, putting drills on index cards and then taking fifteen minutes before a practice to organize the flow of these drills helps coaches get the most from players in limited practice time.
  10. Have fun. Fun is contagious and motivates coaches and players to perform better.
While coaches often start with sports knowledge, transferring this knowledge into the heads of young players may pose a new set of challenges. Coaches may sometimes feel that their problems are unique. However, with over 2.5 million volunteer youth coaches and over 30 million kids in youth sports, every coaching frustration is repeated many times over. This experience base is available to any coach who actively seeks it out.
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