A coach is in a position of power with their team, but as the saying goes “with great power comes great responsibility.” A coach is responsible for the safety, well-being, and athletic development of their players and that is a not something to be taken lightly. Most coaches are well respected by their athletes and sports parents, but respect is still something you have to earn. It doesn’t get handed out with a clipboard and whistle.
Here are 3 ways sports parents can earn the respect of their players:
Be as fair as possible.
At the heart of every child’s game, regardless of how crazy the rules may be, is that it’s “fair.” Playing fair is one of the best ways a coach can earn the respect of their players. First and foremost, be sure you aren’t giving your own child any special privileges. If they aren’t the best hitter don’t put them at the top of the order, plain and simple. On the flip side, don’t unfairly penalize your child and be extra rough on them so people can’t accuse you of playing favorites. Treat your own child like any other player on the team.
Secondly, try to make sure you aren’t giving your star players 99% of the possible playing time, leaving nothing but scraps for everyone else. Sure, everyone likes to win but if the same 3 or 4 kids are always sitting on the bench everyone will start to notice. While it’s hard to ensure equal playing time for every player, the younger your team is the more important it is to give everyone a shot. As they get older and the teams get more competitive the situation might change, but when they are just starting out every player deserves a chance.
One of the best ways to ensure fairness is to outline your rules and policies at the beginning of the season so everyone knows what is expected of them. If they miss a practice what happens? If a parent gets out of line what happens? A code of conduct gives everyone rules to operate within, and it also holds you accountable to your own rules!
Keep things fun at practice.
Most kids play youth sports because they want to be with their friends and have fun! Especially at a young age, keeping things fun is probably the best way to earn the respect and adoration of your players. Yes, you are there to teach them the basic skills of their given sport, but let’s be honest, most 7 year olds don’t love doing drills for an hour. The most loved coaches are usually the ones that find ways to keep the kids happy and engaged WHILE teaching them skills, rather than the ones who treat practice like they are running drills for the NFL. Teaching kids to love a sport, rather than dread drills, is what keeps players coming back season after season. Don’t you want to be the coach that instills a lifelong love of sports into the next generation?!
Praise players when they earn it.
We’re not suggesting you artificially inflate your players’ egos, but when an athlete does something right let them know you saw it! Well-deserved praise from a coach that doesn’t hand out compliments like candy can make any athlete’s day. Kids want to know that you are proud of them and that you recognize their hard work. One of the best ways to earn respect is to give respect, so when your team does a great job don’t be afraid to tell them. And a great job doesn’t always mean your team won. Sometimes the best praise and compliments come when your team played their hearts out and still lost. The Little League coach gave one of the sweetest and more heartfelt speeches we’ve ever heard, so maybe take a few pointers from him.