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Congratulations! You did it! Or maybe you’re about to do it, or thinking about it. Whatever the case, coaching youth sports is on your mind. That might excite, terrify, worry or inspire you. Or all of the above.
I discovered youth coaching many years ago and over the decades have learned a lot. I want to make it as easy as possible for you to become the best coach you can be. You are doing something amazing! It may not seem like it now, but the work you are doing with young people will change the world. Whether that is for good or bad is largely up to you. But I can promise you this: You will have an impact on your team. On the players, the parents, the officials—everyone. You are the coach!
I’ll start by offering you three suggestions that will help you quickly lay a foundation you can build on as you grow into the role of coach.
Get Help—But Not Just Any Help
You cannot do this alone. You cannot reach your potential nor can you help the players reach theirs if you do this alone. Plus, it’s just too much work! You need other volunteers to come alongside. But be warned: The wrong volunteers are worse than doing it alone. You have to be picky and intentional. I suggest three criteria for selecting your staff:
- Are they willing to follow you as a leader?
- Are your values aligned?
- Are they committed?
Sit down with prospective assistants, team parents, etc. and ask these questions. Treat it as a job interview because that’s what it is. And if any of those three are a “no” then do not compromise for the sake of convenience! It’s not worth it.
Get Educated and Organized
By “education” I don’t mean you need a degree. You can do alright on your own, but you need to start right now (I mean, after reading this blog post, because reading it counts toward getting educated).
There is a ton of information out there. Develop your leadership philosophy as well as your strategic skills. Pick one book about developing your philosophy as a coach (I like “InsideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives” by Joe Erhmann), and one book that is specific to the strategy of the sport you are coaching. That’s a great start for education. Then come back here to read more blog posts about coaching!
Get organized. Start building your plan right away. Decide what elements will be in each practice, how much time you’ll allocate, define your strategy, how you will teach it, roles for you and your staff and what other roles need to be filled. Write it down and review it with your staff for input and improvement.
I remember my first year of coaching. I was so intimidated by everything that I really didn’t want to talk to the parents. I was afraid they’d figure out how clueless I was. Or that they’d try to manipulate me into giving their young athlete an advantage, or that they’d judge me for something. A bunch of irrational fears! Once I started communicating with them, most of that went away. I discovered that they were really thankful I was coaching, and glad I was communicating with them. So write that welcome-to-the-team email, have lunch with the other coaches, share your ideas and start talking to as many players as you can.
There you go. Three good first steps to get you started. I will keep writing more and encourage you to come back to get more ideas to help you become the best coach you can be. Because that’s what the kids need—it’s what they deserve. And importantly, it’s what you deserve. Don’t settle for anything less than the best you can be!
Bill Stark is a former coach, current official and founder of Coach Assist, an organization dedicated to helping coaches be the best they can be. He enjoys inspiring coaches to greatness while equipping them to do the same for others. A husband and father of four amazing kids, he somehow always finds time to talk to coaches about their hopes, dreams and needs. Engage with him on Twitter @YourCoachAssist, at www.coachassist.org or via email [email protected]