15 Helpful Tips for Coaching Youth Sports
These are a few helpful tips just to give first time youth coaches an idea of what to expect. I am currently coaching a 5th and 6th grade football team. I continue to learn something every day that makes me a better coach, and in the long run helps me to coach the kids easier and more effectively. This is my first time ever coaching a sport, and I really didn’t know what to expect. I played in high school, and tried transitioning everything I learned in high school to youth football, and honestly there are things I got rid of and things I picked up so far. I’m hoping only to get better and help the team better. I really wish I had a list of tips to help me know what to expect and how to coach. I went in just winging it, I made mistakes, but I am getting better. Some of these may seem obvious, but hopefully they still help. I decided it would be a good idea to make a list to help newer coaches out, and maybe teach a thing or two to veteran coaches.
1. Patience: This is possibly the biggest key to being successful teaching any kid a sport, especially if it is completely new to them. Never assume that they know something, because chances are not all of them will. Sometimes you can get caught up in the moment and forget how young they really are. Be patient, they will come around eventually.
2. Persistence: You have to keep reminding them of what they are supposed to be doing. Keep asking their responsibilities in certain situations. Most sports are fast paced and have several things happening at once. If you keep reminding and asking, it will eventually become second nature and they will not have to think while on the field.
3. Keep it simple: You are teaching a sport to kids, don’t get all fancy with it. Remember how old they are. Work your way up slowly. Simplicity allows them to focus on their fundamentals and responsibilities, rather than having to think about what they have to do next. This will keep their confidence up and ultimately lead to winning.
4. This level is more about learning, but no one likes to lose: Learning is absolutely the number one priority, but you do play the game to win. The more games the kids win, the more they will realize that the system works and push them to work harder. Always remember to be patient though, the kids will continue to get better as the season moves on.
5. Focus mostly on fundamentals: As I said before, never assume that the kids know something. I have made this mistake a few times, and now every drill they run, I talk through the fundamentals being taught, and what they should be getting out of each drill. You can never teach too much fundamentals.
6. Build confidence: Always let them know when they have done something correctly. Confidence can go a long way and is very crucial at this age. You want the game to be fun for them so that they continue to play it throughout their life. The last thing you want is too much anger and frustration. Remember how young they are.
7. Always preach respect, sportsmanship and clean play: Bad attitudes, dirty play and disrespect have no room in sports, especially at this level. Class goes a long way not only for the image of your team, but the mentality as well. Dirty play definitely leads to injuries and much more. Jump on these things early, and it will stick with them throughout their career.
8. Work hard: Make sure the kids work hard every play, down, drill and lifting session. Sports are like anything else in life, you have to work hard to be successful, not only in winning games, but making progress as a team. You also have to work hard, coaches have to put time in inside and outside of practice, be prepared to make time after and before practice.
9. Preach discipline: You are not only teaching kids how to be successful in sports, but life in general. Never let them cut corners. Whether it is never sitting on the field, jogging from drill to drill, never jumping the snap or even never talking while the coaches are talking They may thank you some day for it.
10. In team sports, preach team play: You win as a team you lose as a team. It is as simple as that. If one person messes up the team messes up. If one person misses practice the whole team runs. This reinforces the fact that everyone on the team matters and has a role. Your leaders will really shine when you do this, because they will begin to motivate the rest of the team to be disciplined and help you motivate everyone to be successful.
11. Gameplan: Just because this is youth football does not mean winning doesn’t matter. Put time inside and outside of practice, try to figure out what defense the other teams run. Focus on the depth charts, is everyone in the best possible position to be successful? Develop practice schedules for the team, kids like to know whats planned out.
12. Use chalkboards and marker boards: Chalkboards and marker boards can be your best friends. Visuals help anyone learn. The kids can learn and retain a lot more if they have something they can see and study. Another idea would be making copies of play sheets from week to week to show them what has changed. This gives them more of an opportunity to study outside of practice.
13. Never forget that you are a role model: You are always being watched by somebody, whether it is players, players’ parents, other coaches or whatever. Always set a good example for these kids, because they definitely will look up to you. Just like players, never do anything to shine a negative light on yourself or players, but that should be common sense!
14. Be proud of every single player: Let’s be honest not everyone is born with athletic builds, mindsets or knowledge. Being proud of every player and showing and telling them you are will create a good coach to athlete relationship. They will definitely be more happy to play for you and you will walk away always feeling lucky to be able to coach them.
15. And finally….always have fun: In the end sports are a game. They were always meant to be fun for everyone, coaches and players alike. Every now and then instead of yelling and punishing them, remind them the number one goal is to have fun and get better. That’s something a coach should never forget!