Coaching youth sports is a wonderful thing, that it is an opportunity to directly influence and teach valuable life success skills and principles. The greatest coaches understand the delicateness in the role, the honor of being a man or woman with worthy enough character to be in position to lead young eager minds.
Coaching is a role many take for granted, nor have any place or right to be doing. There are many a coaches out there whose maturity, professionalism and character are seriously lacking, or blatantly opposite of what it is to be a real coach.
School districts now impose zero tolerance policies for bullying and harassment, yet they fail to impose and require coaches to be men and women whose character precedes their presence in sports. Too many schools care only about the money and winning and ignore the pettiness and unprofessionalism of their coaches, and in turn fail their student athletes considerably.
It is one thing to lose one’s cool in a heated moment, to quickly regain composure, admit your failure, apologize and utilize the moment as an example to teach important lessons to young athletes. But never, should a coach have such poor mannerisms and self-control that they curse left and right not in front of but directly to their athletes, along with screaming at (not cheering) and berating their players. And to make things worse, to have this scenario happen repeatedly, in every practice and game, while the other coaches (let alone parents and other school figures) stand by the side and allow it to happen and continue.
There is no excuse for such poor language and behavior from a full grown adult, whose title literally means teacher and setting the example of character to be expected from athletes. Being a coach is an honor, it a recognition of the role you have in the lives of young athletes, sometimes the coach is the only solid adult figure in a child’s life. It is a role to be taken seriously, and being the best role model you can be should be create an overwhelming need to be the best coach you can be.
If parents or spectators lose their cool and exhibit immaturity, it should be used as a teachable moment to athletes. If a coach behaves in such a way, they ought to be held accountable and also deliberately used as a clear cut example of what will not be allowed to happen again.
Obviously there is a failure somewhere in the line of professionalism, be it in the school districts, the athletic commissions, referees, the hiring process for coaches when we see (let alone experience) a coach being anything but leadership worthy. And when it does occur, it should coincide with direct consequences including suspensions and even firing from the position.
If athletes have to show remorse and change in behavior in order to continue practicing and participate in games, so should coaches.
Parents, particularly those who know these ‘bad’ coaches, shouldn’t dismiss it as “He drives them hard and expects the best” or “That’s just how she is.” It’s inexcusable. Sportsmanship is part of belonging to the sport and is required by all. Especially from the team’s leaders.
There are a multitude of healthy, supportive ways to get your message across to your team that do not involve demoralizing athletes, embarrassing them, screaming at them, cursing left and right, using threats, and basically being a jack ass. The kids know how bad the coaches are, but if they mention it to any adult (who as a mature and responsible adult should have already addressed the situation and continue to address it until the horrible coaching behavior is fixed), the young athlete’s concerns are dismissed or redirected and not given accurate value and weight. The kids want to keep playing their sport – because they love playing that sport and they know what the benefits of being an athlete are.
Part of learning and becoming a champion (and/or professional athlete) is acknowledging and demonstrating exceptional character, decision making skills, and setting the example for others to follow. Those who fail to learn this, may achieve greatness – briefly, but will fall flat on their face soon enough for failing to learn and value the basics of what it takes to become and remain successful.
If you want your child to become a mature, responsible, successful adult, whether they decide to continue in sports or not, requires you the parent, the school district/athletic club, and especially the coach to own up to what it means to be a great coach.
Take pride in being a man/woman of honorable character and being given the opportunity to be a leader for young athletes.
A great coach:
- Teaches the skills of the sport, from beginner to advanced, and respects each athlete’s prior experiences and skill level.
- Takes time to treat each athlete equally, ensuring each athlete has solid opportunity to learn and improve upon their skills, abilities, character etc.
- Understands the importance and kind of influence they have upon their athletes.
- Values sportsmanship over winning and money.
- Is not afraid to stand tall and strong nor waiver to ‘bad’ parents, school districts/leaders who fail to recognize the importance of setting a good example and being a coach that is mature and professional.
- Expects the best from everyone starting with themselves, then the school/club, then the parents and then the athletes. The adults should be mature and professional already and work as a team in leading and teaching the team of athletes.
- Teaches more than just the sport, incorporates life lessons into every practice and game. Focuses on building healthy minds, bodies, and incorporates success basics.
- Is such a person that the athlete will happily remember and reflect upon the values, lessons, character of their coach decades down the road. One of the ‘to be remembered as one of the most influential people in my life’ kinds of people.
- Expects the best from athletes, raises the bar, and teaches by example how to rise to that higher level of performance. Does so in a mature, professional manner.
- Sets a personal example of what it means to be athletic, that is, the coach is physically fit and athletic.
- Follows the rules of the sport/game, and promotes the rules of the game.
- Understands the concept of teaching safety and wellness. That the foundation the coach uses in this is likely to become a ‘set rule’ for young athletes that they will follow for a long time. Ex: Playing a game while injured or practicing while injured, instead of promoting and teaching rehabilitation exercises. Especially for star players.
To be a coach is to set the example, it is an honor – to be able to directly impact and influence the mind’s and lives of young athletes. To teach the components for success and assist in building honorable, legendary character.
Please share this post with your athletes. They deserve to know they deserve the best and nothing less.
Who is that special coach in your life, whose voice and words of encouragement still make you nod in appreciation and respect? The man or woman who knew what it meant to be a real coach, a true leader? Share this with them – give them a thanks!
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