Jeff Farris
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.
  2. Talk with other coaches.
  3. Get feedback from parents.
  4. Get feedback from players.
  5. Attend training sessions.
  6. Watch other youth games.
  7. Videotape practices.
  8. Ask a parent to help with non-coaching tasks.
  9. Organize and plan ahead.
  10. Have fun.
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
Jeff Farris
Courage: A state of mind that enables one to face fear with confidence and resolution.

Whenever an airline pilot saves a plane load of passengers or a firefighter rescues a child from a burning building, people talk about the courage these people showed during the emergency. But, what is often overlooked is the training and practice that went into preparing for those emergencies. Both pilots and firefighters spend a tremendous amount of time in training and drills to prepare for challenging situations. When these situations arise, this training lets them stay focused on solving the crisis.

While sports do not involve life or death decisions, players are still called upon in many situations to display courage in the face of their own challenging situations. These situations can include:

  • An opposing team gets ahead with time running out.

  • A series of bad calls, which makes it difficult to score.

  • Playing against a team or another player who is known to be much better.

  • Playing when special guests or family members are watching.

  • Playing in a televised or well-attended game.

Like pilots and firefighters, players can show courage in challenging situations by preparing and then relying on this preparation to provide confidence. Fortunately, most players won't be called upon in life and death situations. But, that doesn't mean that players can't show courage when faced with their own challenges.
Jeff Farris
There is plenty of research that shows kids quit playing sports when they stop having fun. But what about coaches? Not all coaches have the option of quitting when coaching stops being fun. A commitment to coach a child's team or a commitment to others to stick it out for the season can leave a coach in an endurance contest to season end. When this occurs, coaches should rethink their focus and consider coaching for their own enjoyment.

In youth sports, coaches have a difficult time controlling wins. Different players have varying commitments to hard work and consistent play is based on other factors in their lives. For coaches trying to put together a winning season or to please demanding parents, these challenges can quickly unravel a season. By returning to the fundamentals of youth coaching, coaches can take control of their situation and increase their level of enjoyment. These fundamentals are:

  • Enjoy teaching - Watch for and enjoy the progress of individual players or the team.

  • Enjoy learning - There are plenty of books and videos that give coaches insights. Experimenting with different approaches and drills can make things more interesting for everyone.

  • Enjoy being a role model - Get to know the players better and try to build relationships that will last past the season.

  • Enjoy working with others - Opposing coaches can be more than competitors, they can also be mentors and friends who are dealing with the same issues.

  • Enjoy friends - Coaching often exposes everyone to new people and opportunities for new friendships.

Coaching at the youth level should be enjoyable. When it isn't, coaches should make sure they are driving their own efforts toward these fundamentals. Not only will coaches have more fun, but it also increases the likelihood that the team will have more fun too.
Jeff Farris
During a game, the winning team gets to cheer more and, based on this single observation, seems to have more fun. But parents should consider the following questions before thinking that fun is only for winning teams.
  • A team wins a game and afterwards a coach stands up and congratulates players on their hard work and accomplishments. When a team loses, what should a coach do?

  • A team wins a game and afterwards parents congratulate their children on their efforts. When a team loses, what should parents do?

  • A team wins a game and everyone goes out afterwards and celebrates player accomplishments. When a team loses, what should everyone do?

  • A team has a winning season and afterwards the entire team gets together to remember memorable moments. When a team has a losing season, what should the team do?
The answer to all the above is "the same thing." Every game has a "scoring" outcome and every game has a "fun" outcome. As parents on winning teams often know, these two things are not related. The coaches and players may control the scoring outcome, but parents do control the fun outcome.
Jeff Farris
Going for a win is the focus of most games. Yet, in one of the more confusing aspects of sports, the more players think about winning the more likely they are to lose. For players to be successful, they have to stay focused on the immediate situation. Any thoughts of how something may affect a win are thoughts that are not available for making a play.

Games test players' ability to stay in the present. A bad call, a quick score or an increasing gap in scoring all provide things to think about that have nothing to do with making the next play. The more players think about the past or the future, the less time they have to think about the present.

A quick way for players to stay focused is to remember that the current time in any game is always "now". Whether a team is ahead, behind or tied, players should play smart and with intensity. When players start thinking about anything outside the "now", they open themselves up to mistakes. Good things and bad things happen in every game. However, until the game is over, time spent celebrating, grieving or complaining is just time that would be better spent thinking about "now".
Jeff Farris
Coaches of recreational, select and travel teams can all be statistically certain of one thing - they are not coaching any future professional players. With that possibility out of the way, coaches can then ask, Will the lessons I teach make sense when my players go on to be lawyers, bankers, accountants, police officers and other people who make up my community?

Coaches should try to determine the impact of their lessons on the adult professions that kids are more likely to have. For example:

Do I Want to See this Behavior: In this Profession?
Gets by with penalty not seen by others. Accountant
Yells at officials until calls start going the desired way. Lawyer
Physically intimidates other team with plays not caught by officials. Police Officer
Plays selfishly, doesn't use teammates but sometimes scores. Doctor
Steps aside to watch other players compete in tough games. Fireman
Takes credit for win even if own effort was substandard. CEO
Blames everyone when things go wrong. Politician
Doesn't prepare, but hopes team carries the day. Soldier
Screams to show disapproval. Parent

Youth games are not adult competitions and the goals are quite different. Each time coaches fail to ensure that competitions are played fairly with larger goals than winning at stake, they teach lessons that can have unintended consequences in their players' adult lives. If coaches want to live in a great community in the future, they will lay the groundwork with every young person they influence today.
Jeff Farris
Children can become better players with exercise away from sports. Jogging, push-ups and sit-ups will improve performance at games. However, exercise for kids is no more enjoyable than for adults. Thus if parents want their child to exercise more, they need to find ways to make it fun until kids can appreciate the value of exercise for themselves. Some suggestions include:

  • Parent Participation - Having someone to exercise with is better than exercising alone.

  • Games and Competitions - Playing a family game of soccer in the backyard or park can be more fun than jogging and can still accomplish the same result.

  • Performance Charting - Keep track of the time or repetitions to give kids a sense of accomplishment.

Exercise benefits come only with time and exercise efforts are always easier to start than to continue. If parents can't stay with it, it is unlikely that kids will either. Setting up a regular schedule that is enjoyed by everyone is the only way that exercise can have a positive impact on kids.
Jeff Farris
Players don't just get better. They get better at many small things that add up to an overall better player. For example, passing requires getting better at things like vision, timing, balance, speed and decision making. If players improve in all of these areas, then they become better passers.

For players, it is important to understand how very basic things contribute to their performance in a game. From this understanding, players can start working backward to identify and correct the details that lead to overall improvement. Coaches often ask players to do drills or exercises that may seem irrelevant but may be one of the many details players need for improvement.

John Wooden, a former NCAA college coach who won 10 championships in 12 years, put it best in his book "When you see a successful individual, a champion, a 'winner,' you can be sure that you are looking at an individual who pays great attention to the perfection of minor details."
Jeff Farris
Over time, coaches build their list of standard phrases they use to talk with players. These phrases become verbal shortcuts that players come to understand mean more than the words themselves. Most phrases deal with game or practice situations, but some concern attitude - either the player's or the coach's. One of the best of these is "Hi! Glad to see you." Ideally, players would be motivated from within to play their best in practices and games. However, coaches often need to help players tap into inner strength. This help doesn't have to wait for game or practice time. It can start from the first contact a coach has with a player. While a simple "hello" will suffice, a more enthusiastic greeting gives players a boost even before they start. Making players feel welcome and wanted gives them a break from other childhood pressures. These feelings also give them encouragement to be there and try their best. Sometimes the most effective coaching techniques are also the simplest.
Jeff Farris
Statistically, the odds of a child playing sports at the high school level are good. A study by the National Federation of State High School Associations reports that over 50% of all kids participate in some form of high school athletics. The following table shows the odds for playing a particular sport.

Sport High School
Participation Rate
All Sports 55%
Football 12%
Baseball 6%
Basketball 7%
Soccer 4%
Hockey .5%

If parents want to give their child an edge for future high school participation, they should start working as soon as possible to accomplish these tasks:
  • Help kids develop a love of the game. Make sure they have fun and look forward to practices and games.

  • Encourage multiple sports to build a well-rounded athlete. Don't specialize in any one sport too early.

  • Take breaks from playing. Some kids starting high school athletics have been playing organized sports longer than some professional athletes' careers and they are already burned out.

  • Support team-oriented play. At the high school level, teams can't win without everyone working together.

  • Demonstrate a healthy life style by providing a good role model and participating in physical activities.

  • Put school first. Athletic participation is often tied to success in the classroom. Emphasizing school success at younger ages gives kids the best foundation to develop throughout high school.
Kids don't start reaching their potential until they start developing their adult bodies during puberty. Parents who push too hard with too much activity, training or stress, risk burning their child out before they even know what their child's true potential is. If parents want to see their child have the opportunity to participate in high school athletics, they need to emphasize the mental aspects of sports participation until such time as nature and coaches can do the rest.