Coaching a youth sports team is not an easy job. The time commitment for the volunteer role usually is on top of the coach’s day job. Some parents will have “opinions” on how you should be running the team. As much as you say you don’t care about winning and losing, not taking a loss personally or going a little overboard in trying to coach a victory can be tricky. And simply trying to get a dozen primary-schoolers to pay attention during practice is always a challenge.
An array of coaching tools—including ones featured in online league management software—is available for volunteers who are trying to do good by their teams. However, some coaches are hesitant to use these resources. Perhaps they fear turning to coaching tools means they aren’t good coaches themselves—that they must admit they need help. Perhaps they are afraid of the perceived extra time involved. Perhaps they have been coaching their way for years and are reluctant to change. These concerns may be valid but ignore what is the top priority of youth sports: creating an environment in which kids learn the game and have fun. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid to use coaching tools with your team:
Every Coach Has Room for Improvement
No coach is perfect, from the first-time volunteer guiding preschool soccer players to a professional football coach who decides to pass (and get intercepted) instead of run from the goal line with the championship on the line. There is always room for improvement—learning new ways to run practice, installing understandable offenses and defenses, shuffling lineups to see which one works best, and so on. Leagues can help foster this improvement by offering videos and other online resources (such as practice plans) on their websites that coaches can easily access. Remember, a worthy goal for youth rec players is to improve their skills over the course of the season. Coaches should not only facilitate that goal, but also apply it to themselves.
A Complement for Your Decisions
Coaches should trust what their eyes see during practices and games, but occasionally, that doesn’t tell the whole story on how a team is doing. For older players, some basic statistics—which can be easily compiled with online league management software—can help you with coaching decisions. For example, stats can show who is getting on base more often, to which you can better set a lineup card, or who is better shooting free throws, to which you can know who should be in the game in the closing minutes when your opponent is fouling like crazy. Although winning shouldn’t be the ultimate goal, if stats can give you a nudge toward better results without denying players opportunities, then coaches shouldn’t be afraid to let the numbers complement their decisions.
Communication Is Key
Many coaches struggle with communicating news with their team’s parents—it’s extra work on what already can be a time-consuming role. Or, they might be afraid they are seen as pushy if they are sending frequent updates. Subsequently, these coaches don’t take advantage of the communication tools available on league management software. Most parents would prefer more information than less—just a simple text message saying practice is canceled can be more effective than an email saying the same thing (and as you well know, not seeing an email in an inbox happens all too often). Take advantage of your league’s communication tools, and use them often to keep everyone, including yourself, well informed.
Building a Community
Some coaches are afraid to ask parents for help, possibly thinking such a request means they don’t have a handle on coaching. The reality is, many parents are happy to help. Asking someone to assemble the snack schedule, keep the kids in the dugout while you are coaching third base, or even to help with practice shouldn’t be perceived as a sign of weakness, but rather, a sign of strength—your team is more than a team, but a community, even a family. Team webpages can help with this sense of family by inviting photo and video uploads, as well as to share news, sign up for snack, organize playdates outside of the team, and so on.
What has been your experience using coaching tools?