You’ve probably gotten that e-mail, too.
You’ve signed up your child for a sport and then it comes: “Our program runs on volunteers and your child’s team needs a coach. Please consider coaching your child’s team!”
Ugh. The guilt. The reasoning.
I don’t know that much about this sport. I didn’t even play it in high school. I’m not competitive enough. I’ve got too many other things going on.
Somehow, you still find yourself replying that you can be an assistant coach, which likely means you are now the head coach because you were the first or only person to respond.
Congratulations! You are now volunteering in your community to make it a better place for kids! Or at least that’s what you tell yourself.
In all honesty, coaching your child’s team can be a pretty sweet gig and make great memories with your kids.
Here’s how to make it easier on yourself as the coach:
1. Coach the kids, not the sport.
To me, this is the most important tip for coaching. Coach because you love kids first and the sport second. I think a coach’s main goal should be to help each player grow in strength and skills, no matter where that player begins. This starts with setting the expectation that the team works together, encourages one another, and works hard for the success of the team. Having a coach who is more invested in the person a child is becoming than the player they are becoming means everyone wins. At the end of the season and for the rest of their lives, honestly, kindness, diligence, perseverance, and sportsmanship will matter more than how many wins the team achieved.
2. Set a Practice Routine
Planning practices are often the reason people don’t want to coach. YouTube can definitely be your friend when planning practices. It’s a great way to learn different skills, drills, and games to teach your players, helping them both improve and have fun.
Planning practices are much easier when you set a routine. Beginning with a quick 5-minute check can help build a sense of belonging in the team. Call each child by name to ensure that everyone learns names. You can ask them to share a favorite or high or low from the day. This gives you a quick check-in on how each child is doing socially and emotionally. You’ll easily notice if a child seems off and make a mental note to give the child some extra positive attention. Maybe your encouragement and patience are exactly what they need that day.
You can decide what routine works best for your team and sport. I’ve used something like this:
- 5 Minute Check-In
- Water Break
- Wrap up with a fun game that involves some of the skills.
Put your hands in the middle and end with some words of encouragement and finally yelling the team name together because kids love to yell! End practice on a high note and everyone goes home feeling great.
3. Communicate with Parents
First of all, beg parents for an assistant coach! It helps so much to have another adult or teen to demonstrate skills or run drills with. You can also have your assistant coach run the warm-up and stretching so you can get things set for drills.
Set up a calendar with practices, games, and even a snack rotation if applicable. This is really helpful to busy parents who may have more than one child in a sport at a time. Set up an email or text thread so parents can contact each other for help with rides or questions relating to the team.
Lastly, set practice and game day expectations right away. Do they need to tell you if their child will miss practice? Miss a game? Should they be practicing at home? If so, how? What are they required to bring for practices and games? Letting parents know what you expect from the beginning makes it easier on everyone.
In my two experiences as a volunteer coach for elementary-aged kids, I’ve been inspired by their eagerness to work hard and learn new things. The fun and excitement they bring to the practices and games can be a breath of fresh air when I’ve been stuck in a rut of boring adult life.
Coaching my child’s team has reminded me of how much fun it is to be a kid and how amazing our young people really are.
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