Youth sports league directors often face a struggle year after year, just before the season begins. They have plenty of players registered but not enough coaches for the teams all those players will fill. If you have encountered this dilemma, likely you put out an email asking for help, called former coaches, practically begged parents to volunteer, or maybe even turned to high schoolers to give coaching a try.
A coaching shortage, especially a year after when you seemingly had enough volunteers, might be caused by nothing more than some of the coaches feeling they just don’t have enough time, or because their children switched sports. However, sometimes it’s because youth league coaches feel as if they have failed. Whether the failure is perceived or real, it often discourages otherwise willing volunteers from returning. Here are five reasons youth league coaches fail—and what can be done to help them:
1. They lack coaching resources
First-time coaches—especially those coaching a sport they are not familiar with (such as soccer)—may understandably feel like they don’t know what they are doing. With younger players, the challenge is simply to get the kids running in the right direction, but at older levels, being overmatched and losing badly can be morale-sapping. This can demoralize coaches into quitting. Providing resources such as coaching clinics, training plans, how-to videos, and mentors helps volunteers feel confident and stay positive for their teams, win or lose.
2. They are disorganized
Coaching requires a time commitment, and many volunteers don’t quite realize what they have gotten themselves into until it’s too late. Practices are disorganized, communication with parents is sparse, and game days are chaos. Strong league management software can help with the communication, but coaches must strive to be as organized as possible. Does that mean having a detailed plan for every minute from day one until the end of the season? No. Does that mean showing up for practices and games on time and taking a few extra minutes to send emails to parents when necessary? Absolutely.
3. They aren’t getting enough help from parents
A commitment to coaching is important for volunteers, but they can’t do it alone. Parents not only should support their kids’ coaches in terms of encouragement and respect, but also should offer to help in whatever way possible, whether it’s organizing a snack schedule, field prep, putting equipment away, or just reminding their kids to listen during practice. Without this support, coaches often wonder whether their own commitment is worth it.
4. They aren’t getting enough help from the league
Coaches are a valuable resource for any youth sports league, so when they feel they aren’t getting support from directors, schedulers, field coordinators, and other league organizers, they will be more apt not to come back the next year. Nothing is more frustrating to a coach who has a serious concern and emails the league … and gets no response back, even a quick “Thank you, we will look into the problem.” Don’t ignore your coaches and risk the chance they feel like failures; treat them as the resource they are.
5. They are obsessed with ‘success’
Some coaches struggle with losing, but others fail because they struggle with not winning. This latter group obsesses over success, yells more than teaches, and takes every practice and game far too seriously. So when these coaches don’t win, they feel like failures or, worse, blame others for what they perceive as failure. There’s not much you can do with these coaches other than potentially not invite them back the next year (and usually, this sort of coach wants to return to atone for the previous “failure”). If you are lucky, they will adjust their attitudes and turn into the type of coach that inspires their players and sees the value of participating over the value of winning.
Why do coaches in your youth league fail?