Let’s be honest, unless you are a head coach for the NFL or a winning Division 1 college basketball coach coaching doesn’t really bring in the big bucks or the glory. Most youth sports coaches are sports moms and dads who have volunteered because the league needed them. Some of them may have played in college in their younger days, but chances are few even went that far in their own athletic careers. And even if they were great athletes in their own day being great at a sport doesn’t mean you are great at coaching said sport. It’s a big jump from knowing how to do a particular skill really well, such as dribbling, shooting, passing, or pitching, and knowing how to teach that skill to a 6-year-old.
However, the coaches our kids get at the 6, 7, and 8-year-old level dramatically influence their opinion of youth sports overall and could be a big reason why some kids keep playing, and why even more kids quit youth sports by 13. Almost everyone is bound to have a bad coach sooner or later; maybe they don’t really understand the game, maybe they only care about their own player, maybe they just volunteered because they had too—whatever the reason youth sports has its fair share of bad coaches.
Hopefully, as a player continues through their athletic career the level of coaching improves. After all, running a U-16 travel softball team is a huge responsibility and requires and enormous commitment so chances are a coach in charge of that program really knows their stuff and is deeply invested in the development of the players. However, if a young softball player has bad coach after bad coach how likely is it that she’ll make it to that U-16 level?
Football coach Mart Lukk says;
There are too many poor ‘coaches’ at the lower, younger levels of all of our sports – and these ‘coaches’ do FAR more damage than good to the physical, psychological and emotional well being of the kids who are stuck with them. Look at the numbers of student-athletes we lose – who give up playing sports for any number of reasons – between the ages of six and fourteen… it’s absolutely shocking and appalling. In my opinion, far more needs to be done to organize and operate our youth sports experiences on a more reasonable, rational level.
What can youth sports leagues do to draw better coaches to the younger levels? Obviously enthusiasm and excitement are critical when coaching young players, so maybe they don’t need to the most experienced coaches but they definitely need to want to be there and really care about the whole team! How can a youth sports program encourage parents to volunteer? Would it be worth tapping into the community and reach out the local high school or college for student athletes that have extra time and might want to coach?