Volunteer coaches fill perhaps the most essential role in youth rec sports leagues (other than the kids, of course). Though you may get a few individuals who don’t have kids or grandkids in the league, most of the coaches are also parents of current players. This can be tricky for two reasons:
- Though some parents do bring coaching experience to the league, others are relative newbies. This shouldn’t be a discouragement, but beginning coaches, whether they are novices to the sport or to managing a team (or both), will encounter a learning curve—how they handle that curve often determines whether they return to coach again the next season.
- Parent coaching with your own child can be especially difficult. Parents’ patience with their kids is often naturally thin, but that can be magnified during practice and games. Also, there could be pressure that coaches are favoring their children too much—giving them too much playing time, overlooking mistakes that might have been pointed out to other players, and so on. (On the flip side, some coaches become too critical with their kids or go out of their way to not show favoritism. It’s a tricky balance …)
Parent coaches may encounter one or both of these challenges. As league director, your job is to do everything possible to help these volunteers not only succeed, but also come back year after year, perhaps even after their kids have outgrown the program. Here are some ways you can help:
Provide Instructional Resources
New coaches (especially ones who don’t know the sport too well—you see this often in soccer) may struggle to develop practice plans, instead falling on full-team scrimmages instead of drills designed to improve much-needed skills. Give them an assist by conducting preseason coaching clinics and by adding online resources such as training manuals and instructional videos. The clinics offer live demonstrations of drills that they can practically use with their teams; the website content provides coaches additional valuable information after the season has started.
Honor Schedule Requests
Parent coaches may have more than one child playing in your league. They shouldn’t be forced to choose between coaching the team of one child and seeing the game of another. Moreover, this can become even more complex if the rare super volunteer is coaching more than one team. If a coach asks you to schedule so he or she doesn’t have to choose between kids, do your best to honor that request—it’s the least you can do in return for the important service the parent is providing. League management software can help with creating a schedule that avoids or at least minimizes these conflicts.
League Management Software: A Coach’s Best Friend
Parents who double as youth sports coaches have much on their plates, and of course, the parenting part of their lives is always going to take priority. League management software gives volunteers powerful communication and organization tools to make coaching simpler and save time that can then be devoted to their families. Coaches can go online to access rosters, see updated schedules and statistics, and send emails and texts. With these administrative functions out of the way, parents can focus their coaching energy where it’s needed most: toward the kids during practices and games.
Respond Quickly; Seek Opinions
Coaches, whether they are parents of players in your league or not, often have concerns and questions for you. Drag your heels or ignore those questions altogether and they might become disillusioned—and if they are parents, they might wonder why they’re putting so much effort into an organization that doesn’t seem to appreciate them. Give them the respect they deserve and respond to their questions, even if it’s a simple “Thanks for your email; I’ll address your concerns in the next couple days.” Similarly, seek out the opinions of your coaches in order to improve your league. They are on the front lines and see what happens at practices and games—not only as coaches, but also as parents, thus giving them a unique perspective. Use that perspective to strengthen your organization and show your coaches how valuable they really are.
What are the top concerns of your league’s parent/coaches?